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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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InvisibleSandwi

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May 16th, 1384:
"Oops."
A flask of the worst biological weapon known to mankind dropped into the Mediterranean, and a time-traveler named Alexander Phokas worried that he had deleted his future from existence. At least it wasn't open.

"Don't worry about it. This isn't our reality, and I'm sure the vial of death won't shatter," said the time-traveler's companion, whose name was George.

"Okay, fine, maybe it won't matter. But I've already wrecked one reality, and I hope I haven't destroyed another," Alexander responded.

"What do you care? If that thing ends up releasing bubonic plague on the world, it's their problem, not ours."

Since none of the other passengers on the cog understood a word of English (even Middle English), this went ignored. Besides, it was a warm night out, and the sky was black except where it was dotted with stars.


"Nostalgia Freaks" tells the story of the nigh-on-immortal, if fairly ineffectual Alexander Phokas, and his attempts (or lack thereof) to steer the development of humanity in WAMMO's "Dark Continent" scenario.

First time readers:
  • WAMMO is a mod that combines Miscmods with EU3Plus (formerly AzeriEU3). It's not complete yet, but what's available is pretty cool. Essentially it adds a decent amount of content to the game, if not as much as one of the really big mods like MEIOU. It also makes things harder and perhaps more realistic.
  • My overall gameplay goal is to reclaim as much of the former Roman Empire as possible, starting with the Byzantine half and possibly working my way westwards as possible. However, I occasionally make roleplay-oriented in-game decisions. To be fair, I pick up the Byzantine Empire tag rather quickly.
  • My overall writing goal here is to remain mostly in a narrative/humorous approach, in that I try to balance the bizarre anachronisms with a good dose of what's actually happening in-game and in-universe. Gameplay notes and other administrative text within updates proper will be in italics. I'm making the assumption that the reader is at least slightly familiar with EU3, if not necessarily WAMMO. If an update doesn't have a timestamp, it's an entirely narrative/state of the world update.
  • I am going to shoot for Monday updates at the minimum; I may be able to update more frequently, especially early on before my college semester gets demanding. As of March 2013, this has mostly turned out quite well.
  • The science fiction elements in this AAR get more prominent with time, and really take off in the accurately named 15th gameplay episode. To say more would spoil the experience.
  • I'll add more points to this list if relevant things come up.

Table of Contents

Cretan Episodes
Episode 1: The First Intervention (1399-1407) Currently this post. I should eventually ask a mod to split the Episode 1 post off from the explanatory things above it.
Episode 2: Alexander the Pretty Good (1407-1422)

Byzantine Episodes
Episode 3: The Failed Intervention (1422-1430)
Episode 4: Worse Than Troy (1430-1443)
Episode 5: Carving A Turkey (In Which Troy Is Actually Assaulted And Captured) (1443-1453)
Episode 5.5: Alternatives to the Fall of Constantinople
Episode 6: Power Politics (1453-1466)
Episode 7: The Gulf of Venice Resolution (1466-1473)
Episode 8: Rise of the Basileous Brothers (1473-1485)
Episode 9: Mortal Acts of Roman Nations (1485-1492)
Episode 9.5: A Kingdom Of Statistics
Episode 10: The Imereti Imbroglio and the King in Kiev (1492-1505)
Episode 11: The Generation Gap (1505-1518)
Episode 11.5: Maygari Culture Shock
Episode 12: Thálassa Mas (1518-1531)
Episode 13: The Planet Shrinks (1531-1548)
Episode 14: Byzantium's Annoying Neighbors (1548-1558)
Episode 14.5: Globalism
Episode 15: The Most Shocking Episode Of The AAR (1558-1560)
Episode 16: The Era of Desperate Flailing (1560-1575)
Episode 16.5: How to Destroy Byzantium Without Really Trying, Part I
Episode 17: Greeks Gone Wild (1575-1591)
Episode 18: How to Destroy Byzantium Without Really Trying, Part II (1591-1593)

Argentinian Episodes
Episode 18.5: The Role of Nostalgia Freaks in International Politics
Episode 19: I Don't Think We're In Constantinople Anymore, Toto (1593-1607)
Episode 20: Platinean Pragmatism (1607-1615)
Finale, Part 1: George Nejem's Lack of Ambition
Finale, Part 2: Destroying the World to Save It
Finale, Part 3: Everybody Loses It

Read my analysis of this AAR (primarily my writing process) here.



Episode 1: The First Intervention

October 11th, 1399:
Europe had been scoured clean by a disease that had somehow, implausibly run out of steam the moment it hit the geographical boundaries of the region - even before then, perhaps, as there was still plenty of human life in the Caucasus and other areas west of the Urals. Best not to dwell on it.

Meanwhile, on Crete, a mild mannered Cretan named Theodoros Phokas (who had just happened to be in the right place at the right time) had decided it was time for his little archipelago nation to become slightly larger. Considering that most of the people who would oppose him were dead, or at least heathens, now had seemed about a good time. Unlike most ambitious people in the world, he happened to be a king... of sorts; he'd been lucky and seized power from the Venetians once they started dying. He hadn't told anyone about his desire for more land, but he'd eventually have to.

eu31t.jpg

For the record, here is Crete at the beginning of Dark Continent. It's a bit precarious, but it could be a lot worse:
+ Island nation; therefore, judicious use of naval power may result in the wooden wall effect.
eu34m.jpg

+ Crete gets the "Surviving Lineage" modifier, which opens up an event chain allowing it to become much more powerful than it would otherwise.
+ Crete is within range of the Middle East, Greece, Italy. In other words, money... although Europe is generally rich.
eu32u.jpg

* The national ideas Crete starts with (probably sourced from EU3plus) are a bit weird, but it doesn't really matter, since you can choose new ones immediately. However, you lose the nice "Traditional Ideas" modifier if you do so, which gives you cheaper stability costs and a small amount of cultural tradition.
eu33r.jpg

- The ruler we start with is pretty terrible.
- Crete is an Orthodox minor in a sea of relatively powerful Islamic nations, but none of the small Christian minors that you can usually form webs of alliances with. The Ottomans begin at war with the Timurids and some minor Turkish beys, but North Africa intends to kill you. Also, they start with higher technology levels - all 5s to your 3s (which is nothing new, of course). At least none of them start with cores on you, or anything else that promotes AI aggression.
- Questionable sliders, although WAMMO's "more complicated method" of nation birth in Dark Continent will make this a moot point after a while.

As you can see, Europe is mostly empty. To make things a bit more interesting, Dark Continent adds in several new nations - these generally represent Islamic settlers from various parts of the world trying to make their claim on Europe, although they have the option to switch to new, more "out there" religions.


October 12th, 1399:
Alexander Phokas could trace his ancestry back approximately 1300 years. This was one of the advantages of being part of a time-traveling, nigh-on-immortal civilization. On the other hand, it seemed at least in this universe that he'd managed to prevent his own birth. Obviously, time did not subscribe to single-universe/paradox based models, otherwise merely traveling too deep into the past (Any more than 25-50 years, even) would result in spontaneous existence failure. On the other hand, it turned out that Theodoros Phokas was still alive. One of the side effects of being Cretan, perhaps?

"You're the 4th time traveler I've had in here today," Theodoros told him in front of the court when Alexander stumbled in, trying to explain his situation. "What do you guys want?"

Four travelers in one reality meant interesting things were about to occur. Alexander was having trouble responding.

I play with random lucky nations, usually. I've uncovered three of them so far - Scotland, the Ottomans, and the Golden Horde.

"The first came in a gigantic metal bird. The second challenged me to an extremely odd variant of chess. The third wanted to tell me about a group of individuals who call themselves 'Septic Flesh'. What are you going to do?"

Alexander had to think fast to appease his who-knows-exactly-how-many-times-removed grandfather.

"Well, I... uh... represent a corporation called 'Nostalgia Freaks" that helps people relieve their childhood memories and desires," he ended up stammering. It was a blatant lie, and something that didn't really have a proper equivalent in the local dialects of Greece.

"Yeah, and I'm the Basileus of Crete-" At this point, one of Theodoros' advisors had to inform him that he was, in fact, the ruler of the local islands. This brought some degree of pleasure to his face.

"Right. Have you ever wished the world was as good as you remembered it being in your childhood?"

"I know that a few hundred years ago, the Romans still held sway. Then some crusaders sacked Constantinople and things went downhill."

"So are you a Greek or a Roman?"

"Let's see... born on Crete, never left. I think I'm a Greek."

"Wrong answer."

"Are you implying you're going to help me rebuild the Roman Empire?"

"Well, I don't have anything better to do, so I might as well..."

It looked to be an entertaining way to spend a few hundred years, at least by Alexander's reckoning.

eu35.jpg


Alexander immediately wanted to have the citizens of Crete construct new settlements on the mainland, but they were too busy being frightened of plagues to leave the island. On the other hand, they had no real objection to people visiting or staying on Crete. The army was expanded slightly, and a variety of administrative tasks awaited everyone, such as the accumulation of money. Theodoros seemed to understand; he made a speech about improving local infrastructure.

eu36p.jpg

Speeches are pretty self explanatory. However, if you become a republic with term limits, each option also triggers a random themed event - often with negative consequences.

eu37d.jpg

Merchants attempted trade without much success, and marriage requests were sent out to the few bastions of Christendom. Religious debate continued, and Alexander had to keep his futuristic views private as Theodoros claimed that Crete had survived only by the piety of its citizens.

eu38.jpg

A few months later, he tossed out his kingly title for that of a metropolitan.

"Are you sure you want to give so much power to religious interests?" Alexander asked him in 1401.

"Don't worry. I represent all religious interests for the moment," Theodoros responded. "Besides, these robes are pretty comfortable."

eu310nr.jpg

I chose to go for a Theocracy partially for the sliders, and partially because it decreases the amount of time it takes for me to get the "Reclaiming the Lost Continent" modifier that's unique to this scenario. This ensures a steady supply of colonists - one thing about WAMMO is that generally, you don't get any until you make 'Colonial plans'; they generally require either a high level of naval technology or access to Siberia. I delayed my slider movements and national idea choices until I was sure of what sort of government I would go for. First slider movement is +1 Quality in June 1401; I choose my national ideas at the same time. I am intending to wage a great deal of wars, so Unam Sanctum/Grand Army/National Bank should increase my war capacity in all three major realms - targets, soldiers, funding, etc.



eu39b.jpg

Needless to say, the former king did not like Alexander very much; it was a wonder his presence in the court was tolerated for as long as it was. When some Cretans decided they wanted to take back Greece, Alexander was coerced to go along with them as they made their way to Athens. In preparation for what was expected to be a decent amount of trade, Cyprus was made a staple port.

eu311.jpg

Alexander figured Theodoros wasn't very smart, as the local merchants had little to no luck trading with the Islamic countries around them. Without access to the government, though, he had no idea whose idea it was.

eu312q.jpg

Some time in November 1402, Alexander saw a meteor blazing a path through the night sky. It didn't appear to be heading in his direction; probably one of the other "time travelers" botching a futuristic artillery attack on the others. Naturally, the settlement in Athens thought something even worse was about to happen.

eu313.jpg

As you can see, someone really, really liked "Comet Sighted". In June 1403, the next event in the nation forming sequence occurs. I take the middle option since I want the Byzantine Influx modifier and other options screw up my sliders. Going further left than +3 on the innovative/narrowminded makes it hard to keep Unam Sanctum without stability hits. Otherwise, I don't want to be too narrowminded due to the technology speed issues.

eu314e.jpg

One of the Islamic settlements converted through their own event sequences to Orthodox Christianity. Enter Ruma, who spawns in Rome (shockingly) and therefore stands to inherit Italy's many universities and rich processes. Some of this came under Byzantine control in the 6th century, so I will probably eventually try to conquer some land from them. But for now, I want them as an ally.

Despite not having reliable access to the government, Alexander eventually picked up that Crete was not alone in reclaiming Europe for humanity. The Papal State decided to get into the reclamation racket as well, sending their colonists to Epirus. Immediately opposing them by declaring war or something seemed unlikely to work. Things got worse - the Ottoman Turks quickly seized the papal colony. Meanwhile, the religious unity of Europe continued to fragment. Scotland turned to Orthodox Christianity, Norway and Iceland to Asatru (the Viking religion, introduced in Miscmods). Catalunya (Which spawns automatically in northeast Iberia in Dark Continent) went Jewish, and Faransa (Take a wild guess) adopted the Zoroastrian faith. All of the new ones are in MiscMods; WAMMO only seems to add Oriental Orthodoxy, which is generally restricted to Ethiopia, except in the "Peace of God" scenario, where it also shows up in Armenia and on the Deccan coast.

Things got stranger. At some point, two provinces in the bey of Candar came under the control of Greek patriots, who decided to throw their lot in with Crete. I now have access to Giresun and Trebizon, but they seem hard to defend. With this in mind, when another event (Establishing Colonies) comes up, I decide to take the second option, slightly improving my troops, but potentially leaving Corinthia vulnerable to Papal/Ottoman/etc. colonization.

eu315b.jpg


Alexander obviously noticed his life had devolved into low level building in Athens. Why he didn't just pack up and leave for the future he could not quite account for. It must have been the insanity that the local area was beginning to devolve into. He wasn't expecting any less, given the plague incident - Crete was now also allied with Muscovy in the north and had provinces on the Black Sea. He, on the other hand, occasionally laid bricks.

eu316h.jpg

Which wasn't to say he favored non-intervention. One day, a few scraggly men who claimed to be Turkish entered the borders of the colony at Athens. They were slaughtered. Alexander had to remind himself that only a few decades ago, much of Greece and the Balkans were falling under Ottoman control. They'd tried to re-establish their presence in traditionally Greek Epirus, but had been kicked out by Georgians, of all people. Apparently they were getting tired of the Caucasus.

eu317h.jpg

By late 1407, the prevailing mood had shifted - apparently people now wanted in on the colonization game, if only to beat the Georgians at their own game. Alexander felt like helping the Cretans rebuild, but he was no longer willing to get his hands into the gritty bits of it. Metropolitan Theodoros was rather disconcerted when a face from the past showed up at his court again.

"What gives? I thought I had you exiled or something," he shouted. On the other hand, he didn't immediately order Alexander's arrest or execution, so that was something.

"No, man. I'm from the future. Now do you want me to actually help you or not?" responded Alexander. He'd taken one of the many small ships being constructed in the current island core of the country, despite the fact that he was unlikely to benefit from the interest of the metropolitan.

"Are you still going on about that?" Theodoros shrugged. "I suppose you could help around the court if you really want. For instance, I have this nice cassock and mitre set that I need picked up from the local dyer's shop in time for my next mass. If you get that for me, I'll let you hang around."

It was a start.

Currently I have played up to 1422; stopping when my first ruler died. I was able to take advantage of opportunities and develop significantly faster than otherwise expected. In short, I'm now Byzantium. If this installment seems a bit sparse, it's because most of it was spent waiting for the Dark Continent events to trigger. This is where narrative of any sort comes most in handy.
 
Last edited:

InvisibleSandwi

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Are all those events and decisions what WAMMO adds? I'd never seen them in normal Miscmods nor DAO-Miscmods, I'll have to try this mod out.

Due to the 'compilation' nature of the mod, I'm generally unsure of what WAMMO itself adds, unless it was in Miscmods proper. As you mentioned, Dark Continent in the original Miscmods did not give you the decision sequences of the "more complicated method" when you played as a surviving European nation or one of the new players. Waiting 10 or so years to be able to reclaim was "fun", to say the least. Other immediately relevant changes: The use of full-blown DAO means more provinces in the Balkans to reclaim, especially in the area of Bulgaria.


Episode 2: Alexander the Pretty Good

On one hand, working at the court of Metropolitan Theodoros Phokas meant freedom from the elements, even if those rarely went beyond the mild Mediterranean climate. On the other hand, it meant you had to put up with Phokas, or that he had to put up with you, depending on a variety of factors.

"Why do you trust this traveler who shares your last name? I'm pretty sure he's the spawn of Satan sent here to mislead you," one of Phokas' lower level advisors asked him.

"Maybe, but he does do a good load of laundry. I've got to look my best, don't you think?"

It really shows that Phokas is 3/4/4, does it not? My immediate plans for this session were to colonize the richer Greek provinces to generally boost my nation, and possibly get a center of trade up.

eu31d.jpg


At this point, the Cretans really began to infest the Greek coastline, but they showed a marked presence for the Aegean sea over the Ionian. Alexander Phokas figured it was warmer. After washing a few loads of laundry, he got lucky in that he was able to convince the Metropolitan to expand the army to compensate. Expenses rose more than Alexander's futuristic washing practices could compensate for.

eu32w.jpg

I start getting Advanced Native System decisions about now. According to WAMMO's release notes, this is indigenous to EU3+; it allows you to interact with natives even after your colonies convert to cities through events. My general choices for now are whatever increases my economic might, even if the natives get angry.

If laundry was even more banal than bricklaying, at least Metropolitan Phokas's opinion of his distant descendant slowly rose to grudging acceptance, but relations still were occasionally tense. When Muscovy called Crete to help prevent the sultanate of Astrakhan from taking over Georgia, Alexander was sent to participate, even if only as an "advisor".

"If you're really from the future, then you should know how to defeat Tatars on the battlefield," the Metropolitan said in an attempt to justify his actions. Alexander wished he hadn't used so much soap.

eu33.jpg

Alexander asked the commander of Crete's small fleet to blockade Astrakhan's access to the Black Sea, and not much else, at the beginning. Later involvement was greater, as Cretan troops tried to look helpful in the battles of the Caucasus. Eventually, Astrakhan negotiated a white peace, since Alexander had no interest in goading the steppe hordes any more than was strictly necessary.

eu34w.jpg

Another issue the Phokas frequently clashed over was religion. Alexander was fairly neutral on theological issues, but when the Metropolitan began complaining that the powerful Timurids to the East weren't Christian, all he could do was roll his eyes and try to stay out of it. Georgia continued trying to colonize Greece. This could not be allowed to pass, but there weren't many opportunities to strike. At least they were Orthodox brethren and therefore not likely to receive a stream of insults from Theodoros.

eu35h.jpg

One day, Metropolitan Phokas decided to rename Greece's Black Sea holdings to sound more "Greek".

"I thought we were supposed to be Romans," Alexander complained.

"Not while Constantinople remains in the hands of the infidel. By the way, we must prepare for war with the Turks; they are distracted and desperately trying to consolidate," said the Metropolitan.

Alexander had heard rumors of a war with the bey of Karaman, but had dismissed them. Either way, several nations apparently had a bone to pick with the Ottomans; Tunisia had declared war for some unknown reason. I didn't know at the time, but I looked at the war in EU3 Stats. Turns out the Ottomans tried to conquer Konya, and the entire Maghreb bloc decided to interfere. Speaking from the "far future", the events that cause Greek/Anatolian provinces seem to only trigger when culture shifts occur.

"Not now. We wouldn't be able to win such a war," he eventually said, after poring over intelligence about the relative sizes of both nations' armies and navies.

"Oh? I sent out the declaration yesterday."
eu36i.jpg

I decided that while not necessarily a good idea, opportunistic war with the Ottomans definitely fits the character of my ruler.

September 7th, 1412 would go down as an interesting day in Cretan history, to say the least. The tribes of Hedjaz and Najd deep in the Islamic heartland proclaimed their intent to support the Ottomans, and followed through on this obligation by sending absolutely no troops or ships to assist the Ottomans.

eu37dc.jpg

Cretan troops did not initially attempt an invasion of Anatolia proper, but they did immediately siege and blockade Thrace. This took a while. About a year in, even the Metropolitan began to regret it, because of the superior abilities of the Ottoman land army, who managed to defeat the Cretan armies and push them back through several provinces. It was only by hiring thousands of mercenaries and very severely endangering the integrity of the treasury that the Cretans managed to beat back the Turkish troops.

eu38l.jpg

Even in late 1414, when Thrace had fallen, the Ottomans refused to give it up. Clearly, (by then nearly complete) occupation of their country by the friends of Karaman did not phase them. Then the Knights of Malta called a crusade against them before they could recover, and finally in December 1415, the Ottomans were willing to give up the jewel of Istanbul (which would probably soon be renamed back to Constantinople).

eu39r.jpg

1416 began with mass celebration. Even the normally withdrawn Alexander Phokas took some wine.

eu310h.jpg

In 1417, Alexander was poring over the maps of the resurgent Cretan kingdom. The Metropolitan finally considered him a friend after the surprising success of the Ottoman campaign, although he was still rarely willing to allow Alexander any autonomy outside of laundry in peacetime.

"How come you don't age?" he asked near the beginning of the year.

"What? Of course I age," responded Alexander like it was the stupidest question ever.

"Are you sure? You look exactly the same as you did 18 years ago. I, on the other hand, have wrinkled and greyed."

"Oh, that. People in the future don't die of old age... or most diseases, for that matter."

"So you're immortal?"

"I wish. But I think I'm going to outlive you, at the very least."

"Right... Also, the Thracians are rebelling. What gives?"

Alexander had to think on this.

"Most of the ethnic Greeks in the city appear to have died during the plagues. Then the Ottomans resettled it with their own people."

eu311.jpg

"I guess we have to be accommodating."

In May 1417, Georgians suddenly declared war, perhaps thinking that the trouble Crete had keeping Istanbul under control would make them weak. There was significant debate in the Metropolitan's court as to whether this was a good idea on their part, but it didn't change the fact they wanted Greece for themselves... or at least the lands on the Black Sea. A few months later, the Papal State intervened, although this was generally laughed off due to their weakness.

eu312.jpg

February 1418: The dreaded "Time of Troubles" event plunges the nation into instability for no apparent reason (not counting the in-game triggers). Needless to say, this causes problems. It takes a great deal of wrangling and flailing in various theaters, and a great deal of rebel suppression, but I eventually manage to take Achaea from the Georgians in a peace settlement. This fulfills all my requirements for re-establishing the Eastern Roman Empire; when I enact the decision, it gives us a bunch of cores in Anatolia. It doesn't seem to add a few of the provinces added by DAO, but I can always use a Holy War if I need to.

Despite significant military successes, it suddenly seemed like greater Crete was encased in fire and under attack from all sides. Every other day, at least, someone reported a rebellion or demanded some sort of bizarre concession from the government; often at the same time. Alexander and the metropolitan initially put it down to exhaustion from the last war, but even after the conquest of Achaea, it continued. Needless to say, it was probably a very bad time to reform the government.

"What have we done to deserve their wrath?" Theodoros asked in the middle of a particularly nasty siege, from the relative safety of his new palace in Constantinople.

"I think we forgot to feed the ones who abandoned their farms to take arms against us," snarled Alexander.

"Why would we do that? It'd just give them the quick energy they need to storm our fortresses."

eu313.jpg

Alexander recommended that in order to reduce the social unrest the war had caused, certain small freedoms should be given to the commoners. This may have dissuaded a token amount of rebels. Trebizond was released as a semi-autonomous vassal, because it had drawn too much Georgian aggression during the war and was otherwise difficult to defend.

eu314g.jpg

The new state of Byzantium had quite a ways to go, but it was recovering rather well from its nonexistent period. Metropolitan Phokas was at least happy to see his kingdom grow massively in size and influence; it definitely increased the opulence of the robes he wore. This process of growth and reclamation was obviously not limited to Byzantium, but it was generally seen as impressive that the country managed to outpace many of the others in Europe. Needless to say, I don't think the AI is colonizing aggressively enough. Faransa and Djata Kurafa (the golden-yellow in the British Isles) are beginning to carve out decent countries, but central Europe is still mostly a wasteland. They'll probably accelerate colonization after a while, and more land should be full by 1450.

In 1422, Ruma called the resurgent Eastern Roman Empire to war against the Knights of Malta. It was generally believed that the ally should be kept close, in case they ended up establishing a significant power base. I felt that it was worth risking a longer Time of Troubles for this. The Knights also clearly did not want to fight this war, as they almost immediately sued for peace; which was accepted anyways. When Ruma complained, Metropolitan Phokas claimed that the Knights of Malta had instantaneously conceded, even though the troubles at home made it impractical for him to fight a war. Metropolitan Phokas continued making concessions to local autonomy by slightly decentralizing the country throughout 1422. Alexander didn't think it was very efficient, but he had to mentally remind himself that nobody in this era had artificial intelligence to plan for them. There were still frequent revolts.

eu315j.jpg


On October 11, 1422, though, Phokas suddenly died. Alexander put it down to a massive heart attack, but everyone else claimed God had rewarded Theodoros by suddenly taking him to heaven. It took a few days of deliberation, but he was eventually replaced by one "Thomas of Adrianopole". Apparently, in some parts of Europe, the concept of a surname had not penetrated very deeply. Alexander immediately attempted to ingratiate himself with the new guy, since he seemed to be a little more competent than the last. It wouldn't be very hard anyways; most Greeks he spoke with approved of their control of Constantinople, and Alexander's role in its conquest. On the other hand, Thomas had brought in his own people - a elderly Catalonian theologian named Andreu de Gurrea, and a younger statesman named Elipidos Botaneiates. They were probably very backwards people, typical of the time. Alexander immediately made a mental note to frame them for some petty crime.

eu316.jpg


Still, for not being very good at his job, the elder Phokas sure left a nice legacy. Alexander Phokas, of course, met with the new metropolitan as soon as he could, incanted his salespitch...

"Your eminence, I represent a corporation called 'Nostalgia Freaks' that specializes in making childhood wishes come true, or better. Is there any wish you want me to help you obtain?"

...and hoped that the new guy would have some use for him.

Note: These first two chapters were part of one play session, split up in 1407 because it seemed like a logical breakpoint. Overall, things went better than expected, mostly because the Ottomans never started colonizing, and I was able to backstab them when they were preoccupied with another war. My next targets for expansion will probably be in the Balkans, at least until I can start hammering Anatolia; how soon that is depends mostly on what sort of alliances have appeared.
 
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TheWolfe

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Good job on taking Constantinople!

This looks to be a great aar and I'm looking forward to more.
 

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This mods Run in HTT?
 

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This mods Run in HTT?
WAMMO only runs in Divine Wind with some degree of beta patching. I currently am using the August beta patch with the latest version of WAMMO; the November version would probably work fine too. I know the original MiscMods had versions that were compatible with HTTT, although I'm not sure if AzeriEU3/EU3Plus did as well.

Episode 3: The Failed Intervention
"What."

And thus were Alexander's hopes of power and glory dashed like ships running aground on the ever lengthening shorelines of Byzantium.

"You never wanted anything as a child?" he asked the incredulous Thomas of Adrianople.

"Nope. I was perfect from the beginning," responded Thomas, despite not having a perfect 9/9/9 ruler score.

"To be honest, I find that especially hard to believe."

"Perhaps. It's as possible as you being a traveler from the distant future where the Roman Empire withered and died."

"I see." Alexander's voice cracked a bit as he tried to handle the situation. "Well, either way, I'm technically one of your military commandants."

"About that..."

Fifteen minutes later, Alexander Phokas was entirely irrelevant to the new government of Byzantium, having been stripped of his official titles. Now he was essentially alone and surrounded by unfriendly Turks, in addition to Greek elites.

A few notes on the rest of the world in Dark Continent (in 1399) before we continue:
- India starts unified, partially. Several moderately large cultural union states - the Mughals, Karnataka, Bengal, and so forth fight it out, although they often collapse under their own weight pretty quickly and start spitting out little minors.
- China is disunified. The three major successor states (Xia, Qin, Wu) take much of Ming's territory; the Manchus and Koreans are more powerful, and the Mongols basically replace the Oirats as the big nasty horde. Ming China is reduced to a few provinces around Beijing.
- Natives in the Americas are far more prevalent than they are in vanilla. Miscmods added quite a few to North America. In WAMMO, they are not only present even in the historical campaign, but a great deal of new Mexican and South American states show up.
- Africa is much similar, although for the most part, genuinely new nations are not introduced. Instead, the provinces are filled with everyone's favorites, like Ashanti, Segu, Oyo, Benin, etc.

In general, WAMMO makes significantly more changes to geopolitics than Miscmods' versions of the alt history scenarioes.



Luckily for Alexander, or for that matter anyone in the state, Thomas of Adrianople intended to outperform his successor and had the talent to do it. On the other hand, he was so given to "hiring his own people" that Alexander could not even fall back on doing the new Metropolitan's laundry for political power. Thus began a long period of soul searching.

eu31w.jpg

The first thing Thomas did was redesign policies for mercenaries in the Eastern Roman Empire. Apparently, he was also able to achieve an understanding with some of the Turkish elements in Byzantium, rendering them even more docile and willing to cooperate with the country.

eu32o.jpg


I guess foreign cores count for cultural tolerance/acceptance.

eu33.jpg

Alexander figured that intolerance of the Turks was the direct cause of recent strife; it seemed to evaporate once the government accepted their presence. That was until one day in 1423 when Alexander heard wailing coming from the most Islamified part of Constantinople.

"What's going on here?" he asked a passing woman when he'd entered the area.

"We were studying the Qu'ran, when soldiers burst in and arrested our teacher!" shouted the woman.


eu34c.jpg

In short, Thomas wasn't a racist, but he certainly discriminated on creeds. A similar law was quickly passed preventing similar for the Christian Bible. As Byzantium was not exactly a free state, the whispers calling the metropolitan a lust-crazed bibliophile remained whispers. Alexander wasn't sure that was better than robes.

Gotta convert Constantinople some time, otherwise I lose a lot of tax money. "Ottoman Tolerance" (a generic version of the Ottoman option) is not coming to the Empire, and the Advancement of True Religion Act has about the same effect it does in vanilla. Note: during its age of relative prosperity in the 1st millennium, the Eastern Roman Empire was mildly tolerant of non-Christians; more so than Western Europe, but significantly less so than the Islamic world.

eu35.jpg

While Byzantium grew, Georgia began to collapse, as the khanates that had initially fueled its aggression attempted to take back their lands. This was met with much more enthusiasm than one would expect. Epirus, strangely enough, came under the dominion of a nobleman claiming to be from the long-lost Italian duchy of Urbino as the result of a peace treaty.

eu36x.jpg

"More Romans popping up everywhere," Alexander remarked to the relatively cosmopolitan people of Constantinople he was forging ties with, one robe at a time. The government decided to claim "Urbino" for their own; naturally, the Crimean Khanate rushed to protect the Christians, followed by the bey of Candar. Stranger things had happened. One especially cold day during the war, Alexander met a beggar who asked him for a shiny coin with which he could buy food. Alexander, feeling generous, gave him two.

"What's your name?" Phokas asked when the beggar's eyes filled with delight.

"I am Elipidos, of the formerly noble house of Botaneiates-"

"What? You do realize that identity theft is a crime, right?" Alexander figured the beggar had heard the name of an official being spoken and decided to take it as his own - admittedly, it was a rather awesome name.

"No, seriously! I got kicked out of the government for not believing the exact same things about Christ that Thomas did, apparently."

eu37t.jpg

"Huh. Well, at least he gave you a reason. When I got kicked out, I got nothing."

Two exiles stared into each other for an awkward moment.

"Want to get back at him?" Alexander asked after a while.

"Are you proposing we go after the Metropolitan himself?" responded Elipidos.

"Damn straight!" exclaimed Alexander, causing the former statesman to flinch at his casual blasphemy. Still, both men felt they had gained useful allies that day, and they almost had... but Elipidos keeled over and died a few days later of an unidentified disease, so Phokas was back to square one.

eu38m.jpg

Epirus put up no resistance of value during the war and was quickly annexed. The Crimean Khanate was forced to pay a token cash prize for their actions.

eu39.jpg

Byzantium continued to take steps to "help" its allies In November 1425, Muscovy asked for help cleaning up its borders. Since Novgorod was land-locked and most of Eastern Europe still vacant, this promised to be a petty annoyance, and the court hoped it resolved quickly. Then, they noticed that the Ottomans were getting stuck in a war... again.

eu310xp.jpg

"All of Asia Minor shall be ours!" Metropolitan Thomas proclaimed in a rather pompous speech shortly before declaring war on them. This time, however, the sultanate was able to bring in a potentially dangerous war ally in the form of Morocco...

eu311.jpg

Alexander, as usual, gravitated towards the war. On the other hand, he had no choice but to work as a foot soldier this time. Not very glamorous, but it had to be done. Thomas I, of course, declared himself general of the armies.

"Why's he got to be such a glory hog?" Phokas asked one of his soldier companions as they drilled in preparation for a march into the Ottoman lands.

"Iuno, maybe he wishes he'd been born in time for the Latin crusades," responded the other soldier. Anthony filed that hypothesis away for further reference.

Needless to say, for several months it looked like the Ottomans were going to beat back Byzantium. Thomas had shown surprising skill as a general, but it didn't help much; the Ottomans still blasted his army all the way back to Kavala. Eventually, after some consolidation, he won a significant victory at Adrianople.
eu312ih.jpg


Alexander kind of enjoyed the risks of fighting the Turks. He'd picked up a few futuristic martial arts that allowed him to win most individual fights (unless someone went below the belt), but a Turkish army could still easily defeat a Greek one at this point, so there was always the chance he would be captured or killed. However, after Adrianople, the Ottoman war machine simply ran out of steam and ceased to exist.
eu313y.jpg


Morocco had never sent any troops to the theater; apparently they felt Ruma to be a better target for their efforts. Once Ruma dropped out, so did they. The Ottomans' other allies weren't any better.
eu314f.jpg

In April of 1428, Byzantium eked out a very favorable treaty, further establishing Byzantium as the local bully of the region. Needless to say, the Ottomans still owed the eastern Romans a great deal of milk money.

eu315g.jpg

Thomas I had earned a lot of military respect, to the point that even Alexander grudgingly respected him. He proclaimed he was going to re-establish the old administrative system of themes...


eu316.jpg

eu317.jpg

...and that he intended to cement mercantile as well as military control over the Bosphorous. Meanwhile, Alexander was improving his own notoriety merely by being a time traveler with serious life extension. Despite his acceptance of Thomas of Adrianople's competence, he still wanted to stir up trouble for the fellow. He merely had to inform his fan group that where he came from, citizens had more individual rights in order to get them going. They decided they wanted some of these liberties, but Thomas denied them, leading to one of the nastiest revolts in recent memory.

eu318.jpg

Not even that could deter the Byzantines from massive growth, anyways. Thomas's next decision was to make rebellious Constantinople into a center of trade, although it would take the sluggish merchant class some time to react.


eu319i.jpg

1430 dawned even brighter for Byzantium, but other nations were beginning to make their presence felt. The Islamic kingdoms were, instead of banding together against Christendom, scrabbling to take over the decaying kingdom of the Ottomans, at least where they were not merely trying to claim Europe for their own. Despite the complete collapse of their demesne, Ottoman culture still held some appeal, as some parts of the decaying Timurid Khanate declared themselves Ottomans as that state collapsed.

My fears that the reclaims would be slower than expected weren't justified. With the exception of Jochi, the big new powers are doing quite nicely. Also, Sardinia seems to have eaten Catalunya and decided it wants the entirety of the Mediterranean. If they spread too far, they probably won't do too well.

I have, however, run into an annoying bug. WAMMO gives the option of using a more complicated overextension system that scales how large you can make your empire and how much it takes to be overextended with a variety of factors, instead of just core province percentages and your ruler's administrative skill. In Dark Continent, you can no longer settle more provinces if you become overextended; however, the new system is used to determine overextension in this case, even if you turn it off (which I did). By the next update, I should have figured out how to fix this; if it's not in the next WAMMO update, I'll post my findings.
 
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InvisibleSandwi

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Remember the reclaim/administrative capacity bug I found in the last episode? One way to fix it - in the mod's directory, go to the file triggered_modifiers.txt in the common directory, and change the trigger for the event "black_death_colonialism" to this:

Code:
trigger = {
	or = {
		has_global_flag = no_admin_counter 
		check_variable = { which = "administrative_capacity" value = 0.0 }
	} 
}
This disables the administrative capacity check if you turn off the new overextension system in favor of the original.


Without further delay, an epic struggle...
Episode 4: Worse Than Troy


Alexander Phokas, if anything, was media savvy. He had noticed the last few decades in which he'd watched television that the typical path of immortals without much political clout was to become a bartender and dispense pithy wisdom to suitably heroic looking figures. On the other hand, Constantinople remained mostly Islamic, so sales of alcohol would be limited...

Coffee would have to substitute. Dolarasteron opened for business in an unassuming building in one of the more heavily Islamified corners of Constantinople, taking advantage of new Greek trade and the bean smuggling of the occasional Byzantine sympathizer in the Islamic world.

eu31c.jpg

Metropolitan Thomas was on a war high after tearing into the Ottomans, so it was in an altered state of mind that he called for a crusade against more Turkish beys. The target of choice was Karaman, and the preparations entailed growing military strength. The formal declaration of war came on March 17th. Now, however, it seemed that the Islamic world was beginning to pick up on Greek ambition.

eu32ba.jpg

"It seems your country has been putting on a little weight recently," said a Mamlukian diplomat who sent forth his country's declaration of war. Metropolitan Thomas (being the tolerant fellow he was) had him impaled.

eu33d.jpg

This was probably a bad idea, since the Mamluks, in light of Ottoman decline, were the premiere power in the region and not above putting tens of thousands of troops into the theater. They piled into Konya in numbers that no one in living memory could remember. If Agincourt had occurred in this reality, it might've come close. I hoped this would come back to bite them later in terms of manpower loss.

Alexander Phokas had decided to sit this war out - he'd sprung for the coffeehouse, and it was making a small but noticeable profit. Business surged after the Greek armies managed to seize a Mamluk colony in Dobrogea and the average citizen stopped fearing for his life. Between the growth in trade and the resurgence of its population, it seemed a great deal of foreign money was beginning to flow into Constantinople, and Alexander often joked to his patrons that he could hear the city belching in satiation at night.

His patrons were not so easily amused.

If I remember correctly, Dobrogea was initially the sole attempt by the Ottomans to colonize, but they lost it in their own war with the Mamluks. I'll have to check the province history.

eu34n.jpg

It was not so much a war as a stalemate in the beginning; then Tunisia and Tripoli decided they wanted to play in March of 1432. It looked bad then. However, one area where Byzantium was doing relatively well was in its wars at sea - they managed to capture many of the enemies' ships. This was apparently so impressive to the Islamic population of Constantinople that many of them renounced Allah and converted to Christianity throughout the year.

eu35v.jpg

eu36j.jpg

Needless to say, Phokas was beginning to wish he'd invested in wine.

eu37.jpg

Obviously, the navy was going to play a slightly greater role in Byzantine planning from now on. Essentially, the second part of the war devolved into Byzantium's enemies begging them for money, probably so they could rebuild their wrecked or stolen fleets. This second stage wasn't very long, and they soon began dropping out. Ironically, the war had been going on for four years, and yet not a single land battle had been engaged in the bey of Karaman.
eu38a.jpg

It's not the world record, but that is a LOT of captured ships.

Alexander noticed that the population of Constantinople was increasing rather rapidly, filling up with Islamic and Orthodox discontents from Africa. Generally, if they were willing to convert, they were accepted as Byzantine citizens fairly quickly. One day, he served lattes to a pair of Turks who were, in their own words, "just passing through".

"Where are you headed?" he asked, rather innocuously.

"Scandinavia," responded one; his companion nodded in agreement.

"Isn't that a bit cold for your taste?"

"We'll manage. Rule under Swedes can't be any worse than rule under Byzantium," the second one said.

"That just raises further questions."

"Don't you know anything? Skandistan is offering citizenship to anyone who will settle there. Apparently it's an incredibly rich land of forests and hills with bountiful farms and fisheries."

"Well, I guess it isn't that odd. Hundreds of years ago, the Roman Empire had an elite regiment of Vikings."
eu316o.jpg

A few years later, Tunisia declared war on Skandistan and seized some colonies. I don't think they'll be able to keep them, but we'll see...

eu39n.jpg

Byzantium's results went to show that one could potentially win a great deal of wars just by being feisty - once most of the Mamluks' allies had dropped out, Byzantium began a comprehensive blockade of Egypt's ports. The Mamluks confusingly kept up their massive army presence in Karaman; unless this was dealt with, the war could not end in Byzantine favor.

eu310w.jpg

By then, the effects of the war were even beginning to show up in Byzantium, as Metropolitan Thomas had to get rid of a tax in order to ensure order.

Mamlukian war exhaustion continued to climb, and still they did not collapse, or even try to invade Byzantine holdings in Asia Minor. Needless to say, their obstinate nature could potentially destroy them, but in some ways it was admirable. Outside of a few incidents, however, Byzantine expansion continued, as colonists resettled much of Bulgaria and Romania during this period.

In June 1437, longstanding metropolitan crony Andreu de Gurrea died in his sleep, causing Alexander a small degree of pleasure.

Metropolitan Thomas eventually had a daring idea - attack the Mameluke capital itself. A force was sent to besiege Cairo at the beginning of 1438. He wasn't expecting it to succeed, but it did convince the Mamelukes to flee from Karaman and try to defend their own country. The first attack failed horribly, as the Mamelukes were able to overrun the Byzantines army in the desert, and return to Karaman in time to prevent a siege. In 1439, Eretna declared war on Byzantium's vassal of Trebizond, bringing in Astrakhan and Najd as war allies. Muscovy called for help against the Golden Horde, but they were given a form letter claiming Byzantium was in no position to wage three wars at a time. The war against Eretna did not last very long and ended with a white peace.

eu311v.jpg

Further raids on the Mamluks were attempted, and eventually after years of serious wrangling and flailing, the Mamluks finally decided storing the entirety of their army in Konya was a bad idea and began suppressing the local rebels. Byzantium was able to occupy the bey of Karaman for long enough to annex it.

eu313.jpg

12 years down the drain, but Byzantium had weathered the stress of war fairly well, primarily due to the Mamluks' bizarre decision not to actually use their army to invade. The Mamluks were forced to cough up their treasury. This prompted more Islamic refugees in Constantinople.

Alexander had gotten into the habit of frequently visiting the docks of Constantinople; where a few ships were built every year, and many more retrofitted or repaired. The ships were beginning to look rather nice now, as workers settled into the routines.

eu314.jpg

"Missed a spot," he occasionally shouted at some hapless man charged with scrubbing kelp, barnacles, and other organic waste off the ships. Needless to say, things had become slightly insane in Byzantium. The navy, which at the beginning of the war numbered perhaps 30-40 ships, had ballooned in size to 100, which put a rather large strain on the economy. Most of these had been captured, and after the war a great deal of them were scuttled. The Mamluks had been dealt a rather massive blow, and risked the fragmentation of their admittedly still very large and powerful country in the upcoming years. The Byzantines, meanwhile, continued their triumphant ascent. Not even a decade of war could stop them now.

eu315.jpg


Similarly to EU3plus, WAMMO has a set of triggered modifiers based on the perceived "power" of your nation. The strongest gain what you see in the image, while the weakest lose diplomats and suffer prestige decay, although their provinces do receive a small national trade income boost.

One thing I noticed during this war was that I was far more successful in capturing enemy ships than usual; you can see some of the luckier battles in the screenshots above. Generally I'm lucky if I can capture 2-3 ships in a battle; I believe this is due to me generally not using a great deal of light ships and galleys in my fleets.

I usually try to avoid especially long, drawn out wars, but the bizarre behavior of the Mamluk army, combined with the destruction of their navy... needless to say, WAMMO allows war exhaustion to climb up to an insane 29.00, and the Mamluks were slamming into that near the end of the war. Hopefully it weakened them in preparation for further conquests in the area.
 
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Sure is quiet here in this thread. Here are my plans for future updates:
  • This weekend, I will be preoccupied with moving back into my dorm due to the end of winter vacation.
  • I plan to have one installment of pure story ready for after I'm set up, at the minimum.
  • Once I get back to college, it'll take at least a week or two before my workload approaches anything "significant", so the speed of updates should approach that of the initial burst.

Episode 5: Carving A Turkey (In Which Troy Is Actually Conquered)

"Alexander, how long have you been here?" asked a surprisingly familiar voice in February 1443. Alexander Phokas decided to feign ignorance.

"I started this business establishment a few years ago," he responded.

"Oh, okay. Just wondered. You brew a nice pot of coffee!"

Alexander mentally slapped himself and resolved to look at the sources of 'familiar voices'. Sure enough, this person sounded like an old friend, but they looked entirely different. Unless George had gotten a makeover in the last 50 years... and then the fact he'd been immersed for so long in an alternate reality slammed into him so hard that he winced as if he'd actually been punched.

Running a coffeehouse made it hard to concentrate on anything else, despite being particularly mundane. Outside him, the world was changing, but not necessarily in ways he preferred. Only a few months had passed since the epic conquest of Karaman had concluded, but Metropolitan Thomas was calling for renewed conquest in Anatolia. Alexander was beginning to regret that he'd allowed the first metropolitan to form an authoritarian government, but considering that Theodoros had been family, and technically a king in his own right, he didn't think there was much he would've willingly done about it.

On the other hand, it was never too late to go back into the future, bring back high tech weapons, and establish himself as an eternal god-king. If he did that, though, his friends might've decided he was an obsessive weirdo.


eu31z.jpg

eu32y.jpg

January 1444 promised to be another one of those "interesting days" in Byzantine history, as Thomas declared war on the Ottomans and the bey of Candar at the same time. This forced them into separate wars, allowing me to gain the benefits of a Casus Belli against both. I figured it was okay since the Ottomans had guaranteed Candar, but Candar had not reciprocated by seeking an alliance. Still perhaps somewhat gamey. This caused a great deal of fear throughout the country, and Thomas was accused of corruption. He ignored it, and people responded by doing their jobs in a half-assed fashion for a while.

eu33b.jpg

In the end, however, the people of Byzantium presented a greater threat to their state at the moment than anyone outside it; not many people were willing to defend either the Ottomans or Candar. Candar was absorbed within months. The Ottomans took longer, but they had been lobotomized a long time ago. The Ottomans' allies were also unwilling to seriously oppose Byzantium. Granada peaced out after the beginnings of a blockade; Astrakhan and the Mughals accepted a white peace soon after.

eu34k.jpg

The state made further administrative changes during this period, mostly working to better support a navy.

eu35.jpg

In 1446, Byzantium reclaimed a massive amount of its Anatolian territory, albeit at expense to its international standing. Either way, it was the only Christian nation winning wars against Islam at the moment - Muscovy had lot some territory to the Golden Horde, while Astrakhan and Georgia were arguing violently about the merits of various striped patterns.
eu36y.jpg

Needless to say, anti-Georgian sentiment remained strong in Byzantium, prompting a war in May. The Papal State "intervened"... by sitting and sulking on its islands because they couldn't run the Byzantine blockade. It was another short war, to say the least, done by 1447 with minor territorial gains. Without convenient enemies, Metropolitan Thomas then declared war on Islam within Byzantium's boundaries by starting a massive evangelical campaign in Anatolia.

eu37.jpg

The teal colored provinces have missionaries working in them. One of the former provinces of Candar converted within days.
That was the last straw for what was likely to become a persecuted majority. Thomas of Adrianople was assassinated on January 10th, 1448 by a group of men who stabbed him in most of his vital organs. Instead of asking why they had done it, the guards of what was now a bloody corpse simply cut them into ribbons. The new Metropolitan also took the name Thomas, causing problems for historians until they remembered that they could append a number onto the end of his name. Thomas II was a rather different fellow - he was a convert from Islam, and had spent his entire life in Constantinople. After joining the clergy, he shot through the political ranks, and was generally perceived as more liberal than his predecessor.

eu38v.jpg

One example: He let the "Advancement of Religion" act Thomas I had passed go unenforced in an attempt to placate the population. Either way, he seemed like he would be more interested in domestic affairs than foreign ones.

Alexander decided to take a different approach with this metropolitan, instead of immediately trying to pry into his personal life. A rumor was spreading that this metropolitan was more interested in good food and drink than the conversion of heathens. It might've had some substance to it - when a package of very expensive coffee beans reached Thomas II and was found (surprisingly enough) not to be poisoned, the new metropolitan's opinion of Alexander Phokas rose from complete and utter neutrality to appreciation. It was a start. A few weeks later, Alexander sent a letter informing the new Metropolitan of Nostalgia Freaks, and was later summoned to the court.

"You know, I've always wanted to visit Jerusalem, but since it's in the hands of the Mamluks, I dare not go, lest I be murdered like my predecessor," Thomas II told him after getting various niceties out of the way.

"What you need to do is continue the crusading tradition set forth by Thomas I. If we come into control of the city, you'd be able to visit whenever you like," responded Alexander.

"So how are you going to help?"

eu39k.jpg

"I've got connections in the shipbuilding industry. We won the last war with the Mamluks by outfighting them at sea. By the time you're ready to crusade, Byzantium will have the best navy in the world."

"Cool. I guess. I'm not very good with military affairs."

"Relax. I'm a time traveller." Alexander really needed to stop saying that.

In short, the meeting went well. One slight problem: Alexander didn't actually have any connections to Byzantium's shipbuilders. He'd have to do something about that. On the other hand, he'd managed to win Thomas II's trust with coffee. Perhaps shipbuilders would also be interested.

eu310.jpg

Meanwhile, Ruma decided it wanted control over Sicily, and declared war on the Knights of Malta, albeit not before asking for Byzantine assistance. It was something to do, although it didn't seem like Ruma needed any assistance. In Alexander's head, this was little more than an excuse to get shipbuilders to build larger, more heavily armed vessels.
eu311k.jpg

Either way, it was over just as soon as it had began, with Ruma gaining a small amount of Sicilian territory.

eu312w.jpg

Faransa, apparently frightened of what a rampant Ruma could do to them, declared a holy war against Orthodox Christianity. Since they were the sole Zoroastrian country in the region (and perhaps in the entire world), they had reason to fear for their safety. More than anything, THIS war was a chance for Byzantium to experiment with new naval ideas, such as the new methods of amphibious assault increasingly described as "Thomist".

The key idea of Thomist warfare was that a naval power could fight a land one by using blockades and hit and run land assaults on the coastline primarily aimed at looting and pillaging. It'd allowed Byzantium to win against the Mamluks; perhaps it could be used to good effect against Faransa.

On the other hand, Faransa was much further from home and harder to blockade than the Mamelukes ever would be. Needless to say, Byzantium would have to improve its ability to project force significantly before Thomist techniques could be used to eke concessions out of the Zoroastrians. A white peace was declared in the middle of 1450. Thomas II noted that the increased use of larger ships in the latter parts of the war made his navy look especially prestigious, and assumed Alexander had something to do with it. That wasn't quite true, although Dolarasteron was becoming regionally famous for the quality of its brews.

eu313.jpg

One effect of the resurgent Byzantine Empire (although 'patriarchate' might have been a better term given the religious dominance of the government) was the weakening of national identities - the Cretans, for instance, no longer considered themselves Cretan so much as generically Greek.

eu314k.jpg

In the hinterlands of the empire, near the borders with Magyaristan and the Golden Horde, heresies combining Islamic and Orthodox ideas were spreading. Byzantium was not, like the Hindus, willing to allow this, but the concepts remained popular. The latest batch of heretics called themselves "Cometists" and intensified their activities whenever a meteor passed through the sky. Alexander wondered why they didn't work at full intensity all the time for a while; eventually he put it down to them simply being stupid.
Comets are lame. Comet worshiping heretics kind of take the edge off. The only thing WAMMO adds to the "Comet Sighted" event, though, is the 5th option.

Thomas II, on the other hand, thought they made good forced recruits for the army; they were mixed in with known loyalists in an attempt to indoctrinate them with Byzantine ideals. This was not one of the Metropolitan's better ideas, but it was indicative of his continuous preparations for a crusade against the Mamluks. He wanted to formally declare it on the day of the Pentecost, but Alexander convinced him to move it slightly earlier.

"On April 6th, in my home reality, Constantinople was besieged by Muslims and eventually captured," he explained.

"What do I care? Constantinople is more secure than it has been in centuries?" complained Thomas.

"Okay, maybe you shouldn't care. But we don't need an extra month to prepare to attack the Mamluks. Giving that much time to respond is not a good idea."

eu315.jpg

April 6th it was, if only for military reasons. In the weeks leading up to it, Byzantine spies established relations with the kingdom of Ethiopia to the south of the Mamluks and signed a treaty asking them to join the crusade. Christianity of a sort helped push the deal through. The Mamluks had their allies in the form of the Golden Horde, Yemen, and Tunisia.

Needless to say, both sides hoped it would be done quicker than the last war.
 
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By now, most of my relocation shenanigans should be done. My plan is to avoid story-only updates, unless I feel the writing would run into structural problems by trying to incorporate it into a regular update. This one, therefore, is an exception.

Episode 5.5: Alternatives to the Fall of Constantinople

53 years of intervention in a world without Europe.

It was natural that the balance of power in such a universe would shift a bit towards the Islamic world. On the other hand, Alexander Phokas was, despite his increasing policy of non-intervention in recent years, the counterweight. Merely existing did a good deal to alter the universe. Who knew what concerted effort could work?

In his native time, Alexander Phokas had once, for reasons unknown to the people around him, shouted out a series of obscenities without apparent provocation. Their responses normalized onto the exclamation, "What the hell?".

"I'm changing the future," Alexander explained. Luckily for him, it was a good present, so people at least understood he had chaos theory on the mind. On the other hand, they questioned his motivations with a vigorous beating. That had not been one of his peak experiences.

Half of what made staying in Byzantium so tempting was, paradoxically, the fact he could return back to his native time whenever he felt like it without people even noticing his absence. Alexander had friends who had apparently spent tens of thousands of years in alternate pasts (one time a particularly spacey one had to go to the bathroom and admitting to being distracted by an eight hundred year jaunt), returning no worse for wear unless they tried to parse the ramifications of what they had done. Even considering that it could be attempted made his head spin.

This world, merely by being merely one possible world, was a bit easier to comprehend, especially since Alexander had decided not to import any futuristic technology except the relay by which he could travel back to his own reality if which he pleased. On the other hand, this also meant it was much more petty, as Byzantium's crusades implied. Luckily, Byzantium was constantly expanding its military might and experimenting with new tactics (such as Thomist warfare), even if it had yet to catch up technologically to the Islamic world. Needless to say, it was doing much better than its "real-world counterpart" , and intended to reach even greater heights of glory. Alexander figured this wasn't the worst case scenario, since he'd picked up the Greek language pretty quickly, and attempting to ditch and set up shop in one of the country's Islamic neighbors would most likely result in hostilities and death for at least one of the parties involved.

Most of all, Alexander wondered where the other "time travelers" Theodoros had spoken of over 50 years ago were, and what they were doing... but not enough to actually investigate. He figured that would potentially give him problems in the future.



A look at the world in 1453 -
eu3mapbyz1453471.png


Scotland has been knocked out of the game. Djata Kurafa was too much for them and their very limited expansion; the fools didn't even try to colonize to the Grand Campaign boundaries of Scotland.

Rumi Portugal means that if things go well for Ruma, they'll be one of the first to colonize. In WAMMO, you can't pick up Quest for the New World until you have the "Colonial Plans" modifier. To get this, you need to make advances in naval tech, have at least one naval idea, and at least 4 ports. The major exception, of course, is that Russia and settled steppe hordes can go for it with different requirements (mostly production tech and access to Siberia). Granada and Morocco are also on course, and Djata Kurafa will most likely be a second tier colonist.

Morocco, in fact, is making its way into Africa, which has a few interesting developments. First of all, note the complete dominance of Ethiopia over Adal and Funj (who spawns to their west in Dark Continent). Secondly, Kanem Bornu is doing pretty well and may be able to preserve its independence against Mali (which has this habit of blobbing in WAMMO due to its relatively good government and access to gold). Sub-Saharan African nations got a "Renaissance" that improves their tech group around 1405 and allows them to piggyback to higher levels of technology if they discover higher tech group nations that have far outpaced them. Native American nations receive similar at a later date.

The Timurids collapsed pretty badly, and not in a "clean" fashion.

The tiny light green minor of Gwalior in India looks like a puppy! Note again that WAMMO uses SmallIndia to inform its subcontinental hilarity.

Otherwise, there really isn't much wackiness in the world - with the exception of the European reclaimers, many nations have boundaries similar to how they begin Dark Continent.

Currently, I have played until 1466. The nations around me have strengthened further, and easy opportunities for expansion are scarce.
 

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@Dovahkiing: Future "story only" updates would most likely concern the lucky nations, due to the narrative conceit of time travel. Incidentally, I have uncovered that al-Alemand is now lucky, although I believe this only became true after Scotland got destroyed. I'm not aware of any easy way to find them except frantically clicking all known nations, anyways.

Episode 6: Power Politics

In retrospect, Alexander figured that the Mamluks had been preparing for Byzantine aggression ever since the war over Karaman. Given the massive expansion of Byzantium that had only a few years ago resulted in a great flood into Turkey, it made sense that the rest of the world might attempt containment. The Mamluks, on the other hand, had not expanded beyond their holdings in Egypt and the Levant, so the average Eastern Roman citizen was sure that the second war would be more successful.

eu31h.jpg

Unlike the last war, there was a definite land boundary between Byzantium and the Mamluk sultanate, and the chance of important land combat existed. Chance turned to reality when Mamluks flooded into Konya and "won" a battle against a larger Byzantine force. While the local Byzantine regiments had been in disarray and were forced to retreat, they were able to inflict disproportionate casualties on their enemy.

Either way, if the Mamluks kept winning in this fashion, their defeat was assured.

eu32m.jpg

In the beginning, Thomas II sent a relatively small amount of troops to deal with the Mamluks. The Golden Horde presented a greater threat at this point, merely by virtue of being a gigantic horde with a wider frontline to play on. They also had better generals who attempted tactics that, from the horror stories Byzantine soldiers began telling, were probably from Phokas' time, or from an even more advanced future, if not enough of them to go around.

eu33h.jpg

The horde's contemporary generals attempted medieval steppe tactics, to limited success.

eu34z.jpg

Alexander's coffee earnings dried up as the Golden Horde and its Nogai vassals drifted perilously close to Constantinople. Many of his customers fled for the relative safety of the Peloponnese. However, as the Horde cut through Bulgaria, it became apparent that they weren't very fond of the Mamluks, and generally did not want to interfere with Greek business.

eu35q.jpg

They decided, for a one time tribute, leave Byzantium alone. This was graciously accepted by Byzantium, because it left them free to concentrate on the Mamluks. By late 1456, the front in the east had stabilized some distance into Mamluk lands. This represented a minor victory, but also a problem because none of the Byzantines were used to fighting in the desert. Many simply dropped dead from not drinking enough water, and a few went mad from the incessant heat. Alexander heard more tales of crazed Greeks, Turks, and Arabs fleeing to Scandinavia in search of a cooler climate and wondered if there was something to it.

eu36d.jpg

Probably didn't get a screenshot of it, but Tunisia is expanding its holdings in Denmark. Trippy, but the African and Asian nations often end up going for very weird colonization targets in Dark Continent.

As the war drew to its conclusion, the lack of total collapse from the Mamluks disturbed and angered the populace, who worried that Thomas II had brought them into a hopeless war. Alexander remembered that even in the last war, the Mamluks had proven surprisingly resistant to strain. If it were not for the bloodiness of the front and therefore the constant aching need for Byzantine troops, Byzantium may have attempted to land troops in Alexandria. In fact, it was Ruma that attempted amphibious landings, managing to hold the province of Tobruk for some time. I don't think I specifically took screenshots of this, but I should have.

eu37kc.jpg

Meanwhile, the metropolitan decided to grant more local autonomy to the provinces, in the hopes that it would placate them.

eu38.jpg

Instead, the Turkish parts of Byzantium revolted en masse. Needless to say, they were angered by how this did not in any way free them from Byzantine rule. As a result of this, Thomas II was forced to draw up a ceasefire with the Mamluks. He most certainly had not been able to push all the way to Judea, but he had made a decent start by pushing into Syria. Byzantium would still need some time to recharge before attempting this sort of attack again.
eu39k.jpg


In addition, a Greek colony in Transylvania (perhaps frightened of their precarious position) defected to the Golden Horde and started paying large amounts of tribute, probably because it cost them less than Greek taxes.

Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, intellectuals had, instead of developing new military tactics...
eu311s.jpg

...focused their efforts on information dissemination technology. When Thomas II received word of this, he immediately resolved to purchase some printing presses and use it to reduce the expenses of producing religious texts and reproductions of icons.

eu310ys.jpg

These expenses were not very high, of course, since Byzantium's literates were still limited in number, and a great theological debate was beginning to stir about whether printing a replica of an icon represented an adequate sort of mimesis.

eu312.jpg

One benefit of the printing press was that it made propaganda easier. Thomas II was able to convince the populace that Byzantium deserved to own a few provinces outside its boundaries.

"How do you figure a country 'deserves' to own a few provinces?" asked a surprisingly non-Alexandrian figure in Thomas's court upon hearing of this - one Stefanos Basileous, a fairly respectable general who had lead troops in the Levant with his admittedly less talented brother Phillippos.

"I don't. I just want to expand the empire," the metropolitan responded, to everyone's shock. "But don't tell anyone. We might look rather silly to our neighbors if we admitted we just wanted to grab their land." The Basileous brothers, regardless, were not opposed to campaigning against Islam.

eu313q.jpg

In 1460, Faransa decided to attack Ruma again, and Byzantium once again intervened. For poorly thought out reasons, the Knights of Malta decided to backstab Ruma, followed by Magyaristan. Needless to say, this represented a bit of a problem, as Magyaristan pulled in strong war allies, so Byzantium pulled out after Faransa did. Ruma eventually came begging for to re-establish the alliance (since they were, of course, the only other Orthodox Christian power of significance in the world), but in the short term, Byzantine non-intervention particularly hurt their feelings.

Byzantium needed Ruma as an ally, anyways. It seemed that every single Islamic nation in the region had, after the bullying of the Mamluks, formed into an impenetrable web of diplomacy, and the country was, as of yet, not capable of fending off the combined forces of this league. Hopefully, this would be a temporary state of affairs...

Ironically, if I were to attack one of the minors, I would draw a greater list of enemies than otherwise, due to the way AI nations ally and guarantee in EU3.

eu314.jpg

Considering the great deal of strength Byzantium had forged already, though, it wasn't really a bad time. The country was, in fact, becoming well known for achievements in all fields, although the Byzantine military was particularly filled with overachievers. Culinary advances weren't far behind - after Phokas' success as the proprietor of a coffeehouse, similar locations were beginning to pop up through the empire.

eu315.jpg

In February 1462, Thomas II reinstated the old "Advancement of Religion" act and upped the intensity of the evangelical campaign his predecessor had begun, confirming that whenever the engines of war ground to a halt, they could be turned upon the Islamic population of the country. In anticipation of increased wine consumption, he also passed a liquor tax.

We reached Land Tech 9 in October 1462, giving us much more effective infantry.

In November 1462, an opportunity finally arose, as the Mamluks went to war with a coalition of minor states lead by Morocco, proving their loyalty to those who would defend against the Eastern Romans. This included the bey of Dulkadir, who were sitting on territory Byzantium considered its own. Being the opportunistic nation it was, Byzantium decided to attack this miniature bey.

eu316r.jpg

A great deal of minor nations rushed to Dulkadir's aid, but most importantly, the Mamluks who had guaranteed them did not - after all, when the enemy of their enemy was the worst enemy of all, trying to attack them as well while fending off the Moroccan coalition was the enemy of sanity.

eu317s.jpg

It wasn't a very interesting war due to the weakness of the participants. The Ottomans, who somehow thought they could contribute to the war in an effective fashion, were reduced further in stature, and Dulkadir was annexed in September 1463. Hilariously, an Islamic theocracy claiming to be the true successor to Crete began to coalesce on the island of Rhodes after these treaties were dealt with. When the war ended, Islamic Crete immediately assumed a belligerent position against the empire that had given it autonomy. This was not their best idea, as Byzantium decided to rescind this independence before they could enter the diplomatic tangle. They too were quickly annexed.

If there was one thing Byzantium had learned from the last few years, it was the fact that it needed to become a land power amongst other land oriented powers. The informal drilling that all of Byzantium's military received was formalized and updated, especially to take advantage of the latest combined-arms doctrines.

eu318f.jpg


And then, Maygaristan began massing troops on the border... no declaration of war yet, but it was assured in the near future. Alexander urged the Metropolitan to strike preemptively.

"Why?" Thomas II asked. "They have powerful friends."

"Because we don't want them attacking us in the middle of the next crusade, obviously," responded Alexander, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world.

"Uh, right. I've been meaning to talk to you about that. Once the Muslims realized we'd started crusading against them, they've been generally quite unified in their opposition to us-"

"Which makes it all the more important that they be frightened into submission individually! Now, the Maygars own a great deal of rich provinces in the Balkans, but for now we should set up a defensible frontier reasonably far away from our current one..." Alexander trailed off, his head imagining a Byzantium rampantly expanding to eventually form a land border with Ruma.

"Calm down, Alexander. All I am saying is that we might benefit from not calling it a crusade."

This was not something Alexander expected.

"Explain," commanded Phokas, despite not having any real authority. Thomas II mentally forgave him, because he was a nice guy like that.

"Well, there's probably a persecuted Christian minority, especially in the borderlands. If we attack the Maygars, we should claim it is to give them religious freedom."

"Huh, when you put it that way, it sounds almost, from your vantage, futuristic."

"And of course we'll give the Islamic peoples the 'freedom' to convert to Christianity..." Much winking and finger quotes from what future historians would call an unjust war... if it occurred.


Spoilers for the next update:
  • An arms race with Maygaristan!
  • Byzantine intervention in foreign wars!
  • Byzantium's foreign policy begins to look questionable!
Needless to say, Byzantium is beginning to run into significant borders after chewing through Anatolia. I still intend to conquer the Mamluks.
 
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Before our scheduled programming, a brief announcement:

At this rate, this banner is probably in every single AAR published in the last two weeks or so, but I find that the AARlander has a great degree of interesting content, and I wouldn't want them to just stop writing now, would I? Hence, it is with full support that I added dozens of letters (and a few numbers to boot) to the length of this post.

Onwards, to Nostalgia Freaks!


Episode 7: The Gulf of Venice Resolution

"Byzantium has always been at war with Magyaristan," Alexander joked one day, to nobody's comprehension. To explain to the average Byzantine citizen would take years.

eu31eb.jpg

Magyaristan was the perfect example of what the Byzantines called a "land power". Their primary access to the local oceans was through the Adriatic, (although they also had a channel to the Baltic Sea) and the 'base' of their power extended mostly through Austria and Hungary. Naturally, this meant they could support a rather large army and probably subscribed to the hypothetical Greek magazine on war games.

eu32j.jpg

As a result, it can't have phased them much that Byzantium thought of their country as a target. After all, they realized how aggressively the Greeks were expanding, and they probably thought their military could handle it.

eu33b.jpg

Alexander recommended infiltration of the Magyari command structure - this was surprisingly successful for a few years (although the Byzantine spies in the command structure were gradually purged or recalled), and revealed some interesting facts - apparently, the Magyars, like the Greeks and Arabs, had come down with a nasty case of Scandinavian fever, and were trying to establish a presence in the area. This was causing tensions between them and the kingdom of Jochi, to say the least.

In 1468, one of Thomas II's stranger ideas came to bite Byzantium, as Djata Kurufa asked the Byzantines for assistance in fighting one of its own wars. Nobody at the time knew how much help Djata would want.

Thomas II was known for being relatively tolerant on religious matters compared to his successor. Since he lived in conservative Byzantium, this generally meant he framed all religious issues in terms of politics. Islamic nations around the patriarchate were viable war victims not because they were Islam, but because his subjects would support the wars, for instance. Obviously, he had nothing on Alexander Phokas, who had the perspective of a far future, and severe doubts about the existence of the supernatural. For a late medieval Byzantine clergyman, he was still rather progressive.

Now, Djata Kurufa was a nation of West African pagans who had generally had tolerable, if not particularly friendly relations with Byzantium. For instance, they had allowed the country to use their ports on the English Channel as naval bases during the wars with Faransa. As a result, Alexander had convinced Thomas II that they would serve as a useful counterweight to the rising Islamic powers of Europe. As a result, Thomas II told them the Eastern Roman Empire would support them in defensive wars.

"They'll probably be too proud to ask us for assistance," Alexander had said in his attempts to rationalize it. That had obviously become wrong, and Byzantium was now at war with Granada, who had tried to strike while Djata Kurafa campaigned in the Low Countries out of misplaced aggression.

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This also represented a chance to strengthen Rumi presence in Spain, so Byzantium asked them too to intervene, in the hopes that they would seize colonies from Granada. It quickly became apparent that Ruma was not in a position to easily defend its Spanish holdings (or attack those of the enemy), so a peace was quickly settled, leaving Djata safe from Granadan aggression, and Byzantium with a slightly larger navy.

War exhaustion gets pretty high in WAMMO, although how the Djatans got over 29 (the apparent cap) I'm not sure. Anyways, it's harder to keep war exhaustion from rising during wartime, but it decays significantly faster once you end your wars (the peace bonus is -0.20/month as opposed to -0.08/month in vanilla).

eu35y.jpg

The shipyards in Byzantium had atrophied over time; after the massive expansion of the navy in the middle of the century, the country simply grew its navy by capturing foreign ships. This had put some skilled shipwrights and other naval/merchant workers out of business. Unemployment was bad for Alexander Phokas, as the poor lacked the disposable income required to develop an addiction to coffee.

Magyaristan continued to build up its army, which was reaching an alarming size. In 1466, they had fielded approximately 45,000 active troops.

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That number was slightly larger now. In recent years, Byzantium's troops were more technologically sophisticated, but the Magyars were widely believed to have better organized and focused armies.

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As Byzantium had been strong to the point of stagnation on the seas since the conquest of Karaman, this meant they had to draw funds away from naval resources.

eu38.jpg

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Djata Kurafa asked for assistance a second time in 1470 against Iceland and Norway. This was another quick war that showcased the continued superiority of Byzantine seamanship. Just as quickly, Ruma decided to take more territory from the Knights of Malta, and called for (clearly unnecessary) Byzantine assistance, which was granted as usual, resulting in the sinking of a few more enemy s and little else.

"Why does Ruma ask the greatest nation in the world to help it boss around a weak state of heretics?" asked a paper nailed to the door of a cathedral in Constantinople. "Surely, they do not believe that such a disorganized nation would pose a threat?" Since few Greeks could read, it was ignored; since even fewer thought it could worsen relations between the two states (especially since Ruma had adopted Latin as its official language), it was allowed to rot on the door.

eu310j.jpg

Coincidentally, one of Byzantium's premiere statesmen started spouting some slightly unorthodox ideas soon after and was promptly impaled for it. Needless to say, this caused some discontent amongst the populace, and a knee jerk transition to further narrowminded thought. It was generally also accepted as a coincidence that he was one of the few advocates of peace between Byzantine and Magyaristan.

eu311b.jpg

Thomas II took the opportunity to, a few months later, declare war on the Magyars, as none of the remaining dissenters were very powerful. For reasons unknown, the Alemanis had offered Magyaristan an alliance, but did not bother to protect their neighbor. It was generally agreed that the Alemanis could theoretically ensure Magyari victory if they had.

One trend that the more intelligent members of the military noticed was that Magyaristan was more interested in conquering Rumi land than defending itself. Apparently, Rumi's armies weren't all they were cracked up to be in the country's official propaganda.
Another war that probably should have been recorded. Needless to say, when I go to war with one of Ruma's neighbors, they take the brunt of the enemy forces, generally in their mountainous northern holdings. You'd think they'd be a bit better at defending themselves with such terrain penalties to the attackers.

eu312i.jpg

In the end, Byzantines managed to defeat Magyar armies in the field by outnumbering them at key battles; they were able to push the Byzantine frontier a significant distance.

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To celebrate, Thomas II decided to formalize the measuring systems of the Byzantine Empire. Naturally, the Mamluks decided this meant the country was weak, and declared their own Crusade.
eu313b.jpg

So while this decision does exactly the same thing it does in vanilla (and has the same requirements), it's a little easier for a click-frenzied novice to find.



Alexander Phokas didn't notice for a while, as he was entertaining a very special visitor.

"So what were you doing in Scotland?" he inquired of his guest. Her name was Aedryn, she clearly wasn't Scottish, and she definitely didn't care about fitting in with the late 15th century Arabic/African/Asian stock of the continent, as for this "date", she'd chosen to dress in a sort of bright neon armored suit. Think Metroid, if you were six inches away from your TV's screen, with the brightness and saturation turned up to the maximum. Notably, no headgear.

"Nothing productive. Trashing the place, terrorizing the Scots, generally exacting disproportionate retribution for Celtic suffering on people who probably felt never even knew Celts existed. I think the Djatans worship me as some sort of sunlight death goddess now," said Aedryn.

"So you're not exactly into historical verisimilitude."

"Nah." In certain parts of this world, merely gazing upon Aedryn would probably spark feminist movements, or at least sexist ones. Byzantium was a rather discriminatory place, what with its conquest and persecution of Muslims, but the concept of the Virgin Mary kept it firmly out of either camp.

"Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I picked up a gun, and just started shooting."

"You'd get bored extremely quickly." Aedryn thought back to her "war" against the Scottish theocracy. Mostly, she just flew around and vaporized the occasional unlucky farm animal, or shouted obscenities at rich noblemen. When Djata Kurafa decided it wanted to conquer the petty kingdom, she'd intensified by vaporizing an entire Scottish brigade with one energy weapon. The highland charge didn't work very well against that sort of thing. She'd departed the British Isles soon afterwards in a rather flashy matter.

Alexander, not being privy to Aedryn's thoughts, wondered what would happen if he tried to influence Byzantium in other ways.

"You're going to play a song for me," said a hypothetical version of Metropolitan Thomas II, who wasn't yet impressed.

"A song from the future. Now, I'm from the 27th century, and you're from the 15th. I figure something from the intervening point of the beginning of the second millennium might be an interesting compromise," a corresponding hypothetical version of Alexander explained. He felt something from Greece would go over well...

[video=youtube;n4F_C1-SLIk]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4F_C1-SLIk[/video]
"..."

...Four minutes later, the shocked mind of hypothetical Thomas II croaked for Alexander's immediate death on the grounds of demonic powers. Somewhat strange, given his relative tolerance and acceptance of Phokas before. All possibilities resulted in either Alexander dying quickly, escaping to his native time, or becoming the next Metropolitan. Perhaps, he'd stick to recordings of Byzantine liturgical music if he ever wanted to awe the court.

Back in the present, he broke the silence between him and Aedryn.

"The less I do to change things, the more interesting the world around me gets," he said.

"I'm sure. Look, it's clear you're more interested in this universe than yours, so why don't you call again when you want to do something substantial?" Aedryn pressed an electric blue disc into Phokas' hand - causing it to mentally transmit its operating instructions into his brain. It appeared that Aedryn had given Phokas the ability to contact her at will regardless of time or alternate universes.

Perhaps it was a good sign that Aedryn was expressing interest in a hypothetical future version of him; hopefully the version of her that appeared to him next time wouldn't have aged too much. At that moment, an envoy from Thomas II decided to inform Alexander of impending Mamluk aggression.

"Sir, the Mamluks have-" the envoy began, before noticing the anachronistic appearance of Aedryn.

"Get away from that devil woman!" he finished, because the lights were too much for him to handle. At this point, Aedryn pulled out a gun and prepared to fire.

"**** off and die, pasthead!" she shouted in English, further confounding her visitor. Alexander was barely able to restrain her from instantly murdering the metropolitan's envoy; it would be rather hard to explain his death.

"Don't kill him! I'm on good terms with this person," said Alexander, barely keeping his voice from turning into his own shouts. Aedryn reluctantly lowered her weapon and glared at him. Apparently he wasn't supposed to keep her from enacting her will.

"I should go now," she muttered, before disappearing in a flash of light, leaving behind a short video advertisement, which winked out of existence a few seconds later.

"Wake up, man! You'll be fine," Alexander continued once the advertisement had finished, waving his hands in front of the envoy's face. He waited for the poor guy to snap out of his near catatonic state.

"Now, what was it about the Mamluks?"

In another place that worked by the normal laws of time and space, Aedryn looked at the corresponding red disc that informed her of Alexander's interest. There was a notification that Phokas would trigger the device in 1478. Needless to say, she might need a few years before going back. Not that Alexander would notice, of course; she immediately resolved to appear behind him and announce her presence through the magic of groping.

Future updates, beyond my self-imposed minimum of Mondays, will probably be on Wednesdays and Fridays, since on the other two weekdays, I have the majority of my classes.
 
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InvisibleSandwi

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I get the feeling Byzantium is close to reaching critical mass. If it weren't for big scary Maygaristan, at the very least, it would already be there. Anyways...

Episode 8: Rise of the Basileous Brothers

"War? With us? Over the mistreatment of the Syrians? No way!" Alexander exclaimed.

The Mamluks retained the martial strength and state organization to justify and carry out war operations. Further territories would have to be taken. Still, they had chosen an aggravating time to strike, and brought in plenty of cronies, including the still frightening Golden Horde.

eu31o.jpg

The government managed to send a message to Ethiopia asking for assistance from its network of Byzantine sympathizers; the Ethiopians proclaimed they would attempt to blockade the Mamluks on the Red Sea and invade from the South.

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Meanwhile, the army hoped for a knockout punch at Alexandria or similar. While Byzantium tried to strike at the heart of the Mamluks, Ruma sought to do similar in the seaside holdings of the Golden Horde.

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It took over a year, but eventually Cairo was occupied. Humiliating for the Mamluks, to say the least, and it seems to have severely disrupted their command structure...

eu34b.jpg

...which can't have been very strong in the first place, since they had done a poor job of defending the capital.

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Alexander, in short, thought Byzantium to be exceptionally lucky... it took the enemy a few months to realize that, in fact, the occupation of Cairo was a bad thing. In the end, the Mamluks were bought off, because Byzantium hadn't gotten the chance to recover from the strain of the war against Maygaristan and needed that more than anything. Even then, Byzantium was looking for further avenues of expansion. The state was always seeking to extend its holdings, but due to diplomatic concerns, the Balkans and Levant were not viable targets for quite a while.

eu36j.jpg

An idea began to ferment in the court - expand into Persia. Admittedly, a few petty Islamic states were in the way, but that wasn't much to worry about.

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Ruma continued to provide intervention in wars; Djata asked for assistance against Faransa, and received some, in theory. The Byzantine navy was best described as 'scrappy' and 'confrontational', and the chance to sink enemy ships for any reason was always appreciated. On the other hand... in 1476, an anthropomorphic personification of Scotland shouted "I'm back, baby!" in a version of Nostalgia Freaks that had patronized the works of Svip. Meanwhile, in this version, when Thomas II noted that Scotland had arisen again as a dependency of Faransa, he got to scheming. Scotland had retained its Orthodox faith despite Djata occupation, perhaps due to that nation's apparent tolerance. Needless to say, the idea of a powerful Orthodox Christian nation in Northern Europe appealed to Byzantium...

eu38j.jpg

Thomas II offered a treaty to Faransa in which Scotland would be given much of their traditional territory at the expense of Djata. Faransa, surprisingly accepted this. Suddenly, every single person in the realm (except the Orthodox Christians) was screaming in rage at Faransa for their gall in so extensively redrawing the borders of different states. Scotland wasn't as happy as they would expect; their metropolitan complained that it would be difficult to administrate the new lands, especially with the success of Djatan missionaries converting the survivors of the Black Plague to their indigenous religions. A significant amount of Byzantine income in coming years went towards pleasing them, or at least into lining the clergy's pockets.

WAMMO's significantly increased infamy costs and lowered limits (especially for the AI, in an attempt to prevent ahistoric expansion) make it viable to, when offering truces, give an AI a big chunk of territory, sending it into dishonorable scum mode for decades. Perhaps it's somewhat gamey, but countries have become infamous in real life. After this, Faransa began to spiral into low stability and prestige, although they have held together better than some nations, probably because they were alone and friendless in the world before this happened.

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If the Metropolitan's foreign policy was increasingly bizarre, he remained a skilled administrator.

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By late 1478, Byzantine persophilia had reached a point where one of the petty states to the east was doomed. The Jalayirids were volunteered by their limited size as victims, and support for their conquest was high... except in the mind of Thomas II.

"Are you insane? Even if we defeat them and capture their lands, we'll be horrifically overextended! We should at least consolidate our hold over Anatolia first-" were his last words, before a sword grew out of his chest.

Alexander noted the fatal impalement of the metropolitan with some consternation, since they had been on good terms. On the other hand, Thomas II had become increasingly unpopular in recent years; perhaps people had caught onto the fact Djata Kurafa wasn't Christian, wasn't willing to be Christian, and ruled over Christians, although they were relatively more tolerant of them than Byzantium would be of pagans. The consolidation of Scotland helped marginally, but his approval ratings remained low.

More likely, it was the Basileous brothers' constant, unsuppressed criticism of the government that turned Byzantium against him. Stefanos and Phillippos had retired from the army years ago, only to turn up as high ranking officials in the Metropolitan's court, joining a third brother (Andreas) to form a powerful political faction. Thomas II had run his court in a relatively egalitarian fashion, often allowing his advisors to speak against him. When the country ran well, this was fine, but when growth stalled, people tended to pay more attention to the subordinates.

eu311.jpg

Phokas, of course, had done an acceptable job of forging ties with the Basileous family (Most of them liked him, if only slightly), but he wasn't expecting them to actually dispose of the Metropolitan in this fashion. Stefanos and Phillippos claimed incompetence in administrative and foreign affairs, respectively, and installed the third brother (Andreas) as Metropolitan. It helped that Andreas was also a clergyman, and a fairly proficient one at that.

Thomas II literally died the day after I declared war! It's happened a few times. Anyways, the new guy could've made for some interesting storytelling... if he hadn't died so fast.



When Alexander tried to think about what had just happened in the Byzantine government, it triggered one of those rare moments where (if only for a brief moment) he felt the overwhelming need to destroy everything he had worked for (or at least witnessed). Unfortunately, he was in the middle of brewing a latte for a rich, corpulent Ukrainian nobleman. The cup it was in shattered.

"Timon, could you see to Vladislav here? My nerves are shot, and I think I need to go to bed early," Alexander requested of a particularly senior employee; Timon silently obeyed.

"Let me guess, he's been sampling too much of his wares," joked Vladislav as Alexander travelled to his room.

"I would not know, sir," Timon responded. Small talk was not one of his strong points.

"You really can't get a proper cup of the black stuff once you get beyond Bulgaria. If your government wants to ensure a healthy flow of trade between Constantinople and Lviv, they should export some coffee beans. We'd buy them, and probably at inflated prices, too!"

Alexander Phokas lost track of Vladislav and his boisterous disposition about then. On the other hand, if he really wanted to hear about coffee cultivation at this hour, he probably wouldn't have left for his quarters. What he wanted at this point was simply to relax and get all things Byzantine out of his mind. He laid down on his bed, and considered simply going to sleep, when he remembered the blue disc he'd received a few years ago, and squeezed it in his right hand.

Nothing happened for four seconds.

"Oh, come on! I had plans for a grand introduction!" shouted a familiar voice, before the body of Aedryn that hopefully accompanied it properly phased into existence at Alexander's bedside.

"Think nothing of it," Phokas responded. "I kind of had a rough day what with the political intrigue and the controversies and swords dripping entrails as fashion accessories-" At this point, Aedryn silenced him by taking his right hand in her left hand, and using the other to remove the discus and place it on a convenient table.

"So you thought of me. What'll it be? Ten thousand dead? Fifteen thousand? Shall I release nerve gas in the bazaars, or topple the basilicas with an earthquake?"

"Actually, I heard Constantinople has about twenty thousand inhabitants these years, although that's counting the tourists and envoys from other countries. They're not all bad," explained Phokas in an attempt to prevent Scot-level terrorism. At this, Aedryn laughed for a good fifteen seconds.

"Surely I'm better than them," she giggled.

"I'm sure." At which point Alexander returned the grip, and both of them tried to make my writing take a turn for the frankly sexual. Then I realized that they had no control over my actions and omitted much of what happened that night in order to focus more on the growth of an empire.

Regardless, they woke up that morning full of vigor... and in Alexander's case, a need to freshen up in the bathroom with the finest in Byzantine shaving equipment. Aedryn, being the privacy-loving soul she was, watched from the doorway.

"You can visit whenever, if that's what you wanted to ask," Alexander told her, since apparently his tolerance for invasions of privacy was fairly high.

"I'll try to keep my visits in chronological order," claimed Aedryn. Given the type of reality Alexander and Aedryn called home, this was definitely a statement of affection.

"If you like me so much, Aedryn, why don't you tell me your surname?"

"Like you'd benefit. But I'm willing to make an exception... once." She hesitated for a moment. "Aedryn of the noble house of Gravenor at your service. Would that pass muster with the metropolitan?"

"Hell if I know-"

Unfortunately, a low ranking official in the Byzantine government chose to interrupt them again.

"Do not blaspheme against God, Phokas!" Alexander peered out of his door. Someone low ranking and forgettable, if particularly zealous about his Orthodoxy.

"You misheard me, man. We were discussing the impending demise of the Jalayirids." The official seemed to accept this and wandered off.

"Jalayirids? What kind of name for a people is that? I'd better check my encyclopedia." Aedryn's eyes went out of focus for a moment as she pulled up a good quantity of data.

"Oh, like I really care. I'll leave you to your work," she finally said when she returned to proper cognizance. Then she disappeared.


eu312.jpg

While Andreas normally would have shuffled the court a bit, that would have to wait until after the war. New states, loyal to the interests of the Islamic "world", had arisen from the wreckage of the Timurids, and they would have to be dealt with if the Jalayirids were to be destroyed, or at least usurped. Oddly, the new Metropolitan insisted on joining his soldiers in Mesopotamia; he and his brothers agreed that the troops would become more loyal if they had faith in Andreas as a military leader.

eu313.jpg

In short, naval battles in the west, and land war in the east. Luckily, nobody was as strong as the Mamluks, or the Golden Horde, and the Jalayirids began to lose very quickly. The Mamluks, in fact, began their own intervention, that ended in them gaining small concessions from the collapsing Jalayirid khanate.

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Byzantium, of course, went for more. The Jalayirids were forced to cede most of their territory and treasury. On the other hand, most of this territory was of limited value. Most of it would be retained, but the especially poor province of Mosul was donated to the burgeoning nation of Iraq.
eu315u.jpg


Andreas I had performed well during the war, but on the way back to Constantinople, he died of pneumonia, perhaps in an attempt to imitate Alexander the Great in some small way. The Basileous brothers brought in one of their cronies, who took the name Ioannes VII.
eu316.jpg


Ioannes started off his reign with a "peaceful" expansion of the army, and further courting of Scotland, but generally was not seen as very autonomous leader. Stefanos and Phillippos were now pulling the strings; Phokas admired their ability to resist corruption and refrain from murdering each other.

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Ruma, meanwhile, engaged in a brief, friendly chat with the Knights of Malta, whom, after asking Byzantium to explain some things they didn't quite understand decided to give the Rumi nation a small token of appreciation.

Metropolitan Ioannes was a rare exception to the Persophiles of recent years, having voiced support for the destruction of the remaining Turkish bey of Eretna, and further expansion of Byzantium's land power. On the other hand, he bore a particular loathing of the Georgians, on the grounds that one of them had committed a crime against his person in the deep past.

eu318j.jpg

His solution, of course, was to personally lead a mission of vengeance against them...

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...war was declared very quickly, especially since Georgia had been diplomatically isolated since its war with Astrakhan. It was forcibly vassalized in late 1484, and their leader was soon replaced with a governor favorable to Byzantine interests.

Only then, in 1485, did the new Metropolitan's attention turn to Eretna.

The Ottomans are pretty easy to forget about, considering that they've been reduced to an OPM. I should check what countries are guaranteeing their independence soon, and the character of Ioannes should really pay more attention when calling Eretna the "only remaining Turkish bey". Anyways, Anatolia comes under heavy fire in the next episode, and politics are generally going to get more... byzantine. Considering that I have to be somewhat innovative to secularize a theocracy before access to Absolute Monarchy government, it might be a while before Byzantium can properly call itself an empire.
 
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Delayed slightly, perhaps, due to forum upgrades! I hope that doesn't happen too often.

Episode 9: Mortal Acts of Roman Nations

"Our father in heaven, hallowed be thy name. We have been waiting for you... anticipating you, even. We shall not lose faith in all that is heaven, and heaven is such a small place. Amen." Alexander Phokas closed the book of common prayer, and the mass dissipated.

"Have you ever thought of settling down and finding a wife?" Stefanos Basileous asked him some time later. Alexander generally didn't help out at religious functions unless someone called in sick, but people seemed to think he did a good job of being a lay minister.

"My duty is to Byzantium first, and to myself second," said Alexander, dodging the question.

"One can be faithful to both, if they marry the right person."

"Look, Stefanos. I've been in Byzantium for almost a century. Anyone I try to form significant attachments with here is going to be gone in a flash. They might not have to wait very long to see me in the kingdom of God, but I would."

"I see. What about being a clergyman? You did pretty well at mass today."

Stefanos wasn't ever going to really understand Alexander Phokas. The only solution was to claim willingness to consider it, lest he lose favor with the government.

Meanwhile, Eretna's days were measured, or so Ioannes VII thought.

"Ioannes is a dumb name. What does it mean?" asked Alexander rather undiplomatically as the Metropolitan worked on the formal declaration of war.

"Don't ask stupid questions," Ioannes responded rather curtly. Alexander wasn't even willing to try the "Nostalgia Freaks" pitch on him - it could result in nasty, albeit delayed sanctions, since Ioannes was known to be prone to fits of rage. Perhaps it was a good thing most of these were aimed at Islamic states.

Eretna received this declaration on January 7th, and immediately went screaming for help.

"Analysis: Eretna cannot be feasibly protected and will be annexed by Byzantium," said a surprisingly digital, quantized voice in the Magyari capital of Sopron. "Solution: Attack out of spite."

eu31f.jpg

Similar solutions were reached throughout the Arab world in a fleshier, more organic fashion.

eu32qv.jpg

Recent Byzantine advances in military technology were beginning to make themselves felt in a big way, as new infantry tactics managed good results against Magyari cavalry. One could argue that the conquest of Eretna was a proxy for war between Byzantium and Magyaristan, except for one slight problem:

eu33u.jpg

Eretna itself was annexed halfway through the year. That was what happened when countries in the late medieval era tried to interfere in each others' affairs. A full peace came soon after, although Byzantium did manage, during the fighting, to seize the Magyar colony in Ruthenia.

eu34k.jpg

At this point, Alexander Phokas noticed that the Basileous family wasn't the only one that had risen to prominence in the last, fretful years of Thomas II's tenure as Metropolitan. The Palaiologos whom, in another reality were known for presiding over the final decline of the Byzantine Empire (as well as a brief flowering of culture). Here, they were gradually taking over the military, as the Basileous clan moved into administration.

eu35ku.jpg

Interesting fact - An "Orestes Palaiologos" shows up as an actual admiral commanding my navy some time later. I'm not sure, but it could be the same guy... assuming his lifespan works out.

As it turned out, Ioannes VII was rather short lived. Apparently, one day he committed a faux pas against one of the Basileous family members. Alexander wasn't sure, but the fact that Ioannes was last seen falling from a high balcony in an open ballroom (i.e he'd caught a case of fatal plummet) was rather strong evidence that people had stopped liking him.

Aedryn was visiting him almost daily now. Most of Alexander Phokas' nights ended with her whispering oaths against primitive peoples in his ear. If they were time-native Greeks, this might've ended in some sort of marriage, and Aedryn's body count would probably have petered out around three or four people she particularly hated. Either way, she was quick to point out the whole "alternate reality" shtick whenever Alexander suggested against casual murder, and one day, a polished skull showed up in Alexander's study.

*If anyone asks, it's a memento mori,* Phokas thought to himself, not wanting to know who'd died in order to furnish the bones.

The palace was beginning to gain a bad reputation with the quick deaths of the recent metropolitans, so a proposition was made to build a newer, grander complex to house the head of government; one that would double as a church.

"The grandest church in the history of man, probably," quipped Alexander. "I'm sure it wouldn't hurt if it was nice looking."

And that was how construction began on what was colloquially referred to as the "Hagia Sophia II". Alexander didn't bother to tell the current government about the former "Great Palace", as it had fallen into disrepair after the sack of Constantinople, and collapsed entirely afterwards. As a bit of a historic in-joke, he convinced the government to build their new palace on what would, in another reality, be the grounds of the Blue Mosque of Sultan Ahmed. It was suggested that it would take at least 8 years to construct the building, based on a local architect's plans...
Through national focus decisions, one can build a cathedral through the "Pillars of the Earth" decision. This gives you increased population growth for the lengthy duration, but you don't receive tax income from the province until it's done. It's kind of questionable. But I still built a cathedral in Constantinople; be forewarned that WAMMO has a different building system than normal EU3 - more buildings with more specialized benefits, mostly.

eu36d.jpg

Ioannes had shown signs of significant skill as a leader, but due to his status as a puppet, he'd had little chance to show it. The newest guy (Thomas III) simply lacked the talent of Ioannes VII, but was slightly more pious, as if that made up for it.

eu37g.jpg

More importantly, it was under him that Byzantium began to wonder if it hadn't, in fact, extended too far in the wrong directions.

eu38p.jpg

Surprisingly, it was the new colonies in the far north that proved most difficult to handle, especially with the covetous Magyaris and Altans (of Jochi) peering at them greedily. Alexander figured it was time to introduce the Byzantines to the concept of a "buffer state". Enter the Ukraine, established perhaps on a flimsy basis in the extreme north of Byzantium out of conquered Magyari land, and ruled over by figurehead kings under the control of the Basileous family. At the time, he had no idea how far they would take it.

Disclaimer: The Ukraine was created with save editing, although entirely out of Byzantine territories. I didn't make them my vassal, although I did pursue an alliance with them. I intend to fix the northern frontier of Byzantium at the coast of the Black Sea, eventually. Anything that's north of that and relatively close to being Russian or Ruthenian is being reprimanded to the Ukraine.

Naturally, other parts of the nation wondered why they weren't being given their own national sovereignty, and were told not to question it. Those who did received sword shaped explanations.

eu39.jpg

Conversion efforts in Anatolia were going somewhat well, as many areas near Thrace were reporting improved Orthodoxy. After a particularly virulent wave of conversions in relatively distant Dulkadir, the Basileous clan decided the best way to secure the loyalty of the converts was to launch another crusade. This time, the Mamluks volunteered by being in possession of Jerusalem.

eu310.jpg

According to Alexander, the Mamluks, when asked if they wanted to "wrassle", spouted a stream of Coptic profanities at Byzantium and called a group of tough looking men from the usual places. It was all a facade, as even the Golden Horde did not want to risk looking bad for the Mamluks' sake. They had an empire in Russia to look forwards to. Needless to say, everyone was quick to accept a white peace.

eu311co.jpg

The Mamluks essentially collapsed afterwards, and that didn't reflect well on them. As a result, Byzantium was able to take over the holy city of Jersualem, as well as a decent swath of otherwise moderately holy territory, while the Mamluks would probably go into permanent decline.

eu313.jpg

Needless to say, control of Judea was good for the country's international reputation. Alexander was able to count this as Nostalgia Freak's first success - maybe if he was producing some advertisements, and was a little bit faster about it, he could get more done in the long run.

eu312g.jpg

Soon afterwards, Scotland asked for assistance against Norway and Iceland, and Byzantium was happy to oblige them. That was also pretty useful for building up a good reputation... with Christians. Out of nowhere, the "White Sheep Turkmen" of Ak Koyunlu declared war on Byzantium, which was pretty incomprehensible.

eu314z.jpg

Why such a minor state thought it could win against the local superpower was not something worth even pretending to understand. Needless to say, Byzantium was feeling generous due to suspicion that larger Muslim states would attack. Combined with the poverty of most Turkmeni lands, a quick peace was signed after the occupation of one of their cities. After a brief blockade of Norway, Byzantium was also able to get a quick peace out of the Asatru coalition.

To be fair, Ak Koyunlu was able to drag Tunisia into the war, which was probably why they were so brazen as to attempt it. On the other hand, Tunisia has this nasty of habit being unable to beat Byzantium on the seas, so they might as well not have bothered.

And then, October 12th, 1492 (a date of no significance to most people) hit Alexander Phokas like a second hammer.


Coming up next: A "State of the World" update, followed by further campaigns in the Middle East. Next target: Alexandria!

...Also, just maybe, I should try to keep my infamy down. I have played to 1515, and it's remained high for quite a while due to some pretty aggressive expansion.
 
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Maybe I should reduce the amount of "buffer" I have between where I am in the game and where I am in this AAR...

...Nah.


Episode 9.5: A Kingdom Of Statistics

After 92 years, Alexander Phokas was taking a break from Byzantium. He'd disappeared into an outhouse and activated the recall beacon on the machine that'd sent him into the past in the first place. Needless to say, he wasn't going to tell anyone from the local time how long he'd be in the future. First of all, he didn't know. Secondly, nobody would believe him. Finally, if he didn't explain how he'd be in the future for the duration, people would think he was merely taking the emperor of all dumps.

There was a low thunk, and after a few moments (aeons?), the 27th century was much as Alexander remembered it - loud, bright, but all just a facade for a civilization smearing itself all over timespace. The general effect of "time travel" was to attract people towards alternate realities where the technology required for it existed earlier and earlier, until the laws of physics broke down and anyone standing nearby got sucked into a higher plane of existence, where they would probably repeat the types of process ad infinitum. Potentially somewhat scary, actually.

It got simultaneously better and worse from there - as a result of this, there were (probably) infinite variants of every single person to ever be capable of existing, and as a result, if you did something to anger one, you could just toss them aside and take on an alternate whom you hadn't offended. Needless to say, this was very bad for the continued moral development of humanity, especially if someone like Aderyn Gravenor was an example.

The end result was that humanity would probably never be ready for time travel with so many of its members trapped in escapist fantasies in the past, present, and future. Phokas had read a paper once suggesting post-scarcity would be like that. Multiple versions, in fact; they had been written between 2023 and 2042. Most of them agreed on the same major points, and most of them were aimed at a broad audience. Either way, he didn't really care, and submitted himself to a few months of the 27th century's most notorious contemporary entertainment before heading back to Byzantium. Making things relatively simple probably made him a better person in the long run, and in the mean time, he had some time to think about recent developments.



Without a Christopher Columbus to misinterpret calculations of the world's circumference, Europe was not going to make any significant voyages of discovery any time soon, barring some sort of miracle. On the other hand, as Europe filled up with new civilizations (and the occasional miraculously revived ones), the pressures and border tensions might convince someone to travel especially far from home in search of god knows what.

Even if they did, it might take Byzantium a long time to find out, nestled securely in the easternmost parts of the Mediterranean, yet without access to the Indian Ocean. That last part was likely to change within the next few decades, though.

I've been reading through WAMMO's Dark Continent setup in an attempt to predict how borders will develop. Firstly, North America is going through a "renaissance" of its own; while the Americas are less advanced than the Old World, they are significantly further ahead of where they would be otherwise. Some more useful notes:

Steppe Hordes and the Far East get to "modernize" around 1480; earlier if nearby countries are quick about developing government technologies.
Ming China, if it can survive in its weakened state, gets the opportunity slightly earlier.
India is next to have their techs upgraded, around 1490.
Some Asian AIs are coerced to attempt colonizations through national ideas, and American AIs are given the option as well in the 1500s.
Needless to say, everyone's going to have higher technology rates after a while.


At this point, Byzantium was in complete control of Turkey and beginning to exert pressure in the Levant and the Caucasus. Steady missionary effort was beginning to have a rather significant effect on the mindset of the people in the country's "Asian" holdings. Coffee prices were dropping as the risk of smuggling from Yemen decreased, and small plantations were beginning to pop up in the warm, dry parts of the Greek peninsula.

eu31o.jpg

eu32.jpg

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A few trends of note - Byzantium had grown in size rather quickly. This had lead to significant jumps in ethnic diversity, amongst other things. Conversions to Orthodox Christianity were slow, but picking up steadily in the Turkish peninsula. Meanwhile, Byzantium could claim to be one of the richest nations in the world (if not per capita) with a straight face. Apparently coffee imports and sales could count for a decent amount of money. Obviously, given its status as an elite's drink (and the continued, although gradually lowering difficulty of smuggling the beans from Arabia), the actual coffee industry was still rather small, but it drove the sales of brewing utensils, silverware, pastries, all sorts of luxury items. As a result, Constantinople was one of the biggest centers of trade in the world from Byzantine trade alone, although the Islamic nations outside the empire's borders were less enthusiastic about taking their business there... officially.




My CoT in Thrace shrunk a bit (not all that much, though) once I started snagging other centers of trade. Also, the obligatory map of the world.

eu3mapbyz149210121.png

Outside of the "lost continent", the world hasn't changed all that much from 1453. A few provinces in Eastern Europe are uncolonized, but that's probably going to change soon.

- Morocco is set to be a major player, so long as they don't goof. If they colonize in the Americas, that'll make for an interesting world.
- The Mamluks vassalized Tripoli and took some territory from them. Probably worth noting.
- Russia is basically owned by hordes, assuming Jochi doesn't wander in and ruin their day.
- The Mongol Horde has begun to expand into the other hordes. They're fairly big to begin with in Dark Continent (they get a good deal of Oirat land, and some of Ming China's western holdings), but let's hope they keep it up.
- Faransa takes a pretty horrible, drawn out beating in the next few years. 80 Infamy in one go can do that to a nation, and they didn't even get anything out of it... except killed.

 

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I figure trying to get 2 updates out a week is an acceptable and sometimes easy stretch goal to obtain. I'll see how things go.

Episode 10: The Imereti Imbroglio and the King In Kiev

*What do I care if this history isn't exactly the same as my own?* thought Alexander Phokas once he'd recovered a bit from October 12th, 1492. Needless to say, his period of limited intervention had come to an end some time ago, although he still wasn't willing to use futuristic means to influence Byzantium.

For the moment, he threw his support behind the Basileous brothers, although they probably didn't need it.

"If you really want to do us a favor, Alexander..." said Phillippos when he caught on to Alexander's toadying, "...then you will acquaint yourself with my son Luther and groom him as my successor."

The first thing Alexander noticed was that Luther wasn't a Greek name. Then, he dimly remembered that after the incident with Faransa, Phillipos had married into the Stuart family that (even after the rise of theocratic rule) remained fairly prominent and powerful in Scotland. Given that both countries were now ruled by the Orthodox church, the son Phillippos had produced was destined, like his father, to rule only from the shadows.

"So you're sending me to Scotland?"

"No, that would be idiotic. Rather, Luther shall be living with you. If push comes to shove, you can make him slave away in your little coffee shop; it'd probably build character."

It would take a few months for Luther Basileous to arrive in Constantinople, but when he did, Alexander figured his life would get pear-shaped.

eu31x.jpg

In the meantime, the Basileous brothers made plans for the formal incorporation of Georgia into their country, which would be followed by a general push into the Caucasus.

Luther Stuart Basileous arrived in the court at Constantinople in the middle of 1493, to little fanfare.

"You're that crazed traveler in time, right?" were his first words to Alexander Phokas. Alexander got the feeling he wasn't much for diplomacy.

"I did some research, and it turns out people think I'm only half-crazed. It's a subtle difference." Luther stared at Alexander as if he were a giant insect; abominable, yet uncrushable.

"I can see we're going to have some fun times together."

Alexander intended to thoroughly warp Luther at this point. Since Phokas didn't want to anger Phillippos in the process, this meant subtly adjusting Luther's sense of humor for the bizarre. Easy enough, if one was willing to perform brain surgery to implement devices in someone's head... but Alexander, with 100 years of precedent telling him not to take a 27th century approach to things, decided that like usual, he wasn't going to do that. Between the lessons of statecraft and science (not very good science, but don't tell the Greeks lest they attack us), Alexander taught his protege how to make horrible puns.

eu32y.jpg

In the mean time, Ruma, seeing what had happened to Faransa as a result of Thomas II's gambit, had declared war on them, and naturally Byzantium kind of had to help them for political purposes.

eu33pt.jpg

Granada, despite having taken some territory in the Basque country from Faransa for much the same reason, decided to help them. Byzantium soon dropped out, after a brief blockade and some captured ships, as usual, but very soon the stage had been set for a major geopolitical shift.

Essentially, the Islamic world began its assault on Faransa, and with the help of Ruma was likely to dismember the state. On the other hand, Granada was likely to rise as a strong contender as well, because the recent war had proven Ruma was unable to properly defend their holdings in Spain.

eu34w.jpg

Mostly, Byzantium just sat and watched the chaos unfold, while slaughtering untold numbers of rebels (nationalists enraged by rapid Byzantine expansion and continued overextension). Georgia first received a formal request for annexation in 1495; at that point, Georgians were heavily opposed to the prospect. Alexander and Luther spent some time in Georgia per Phillippos' request, trying to make a grassroots unification movement take hold. Notably, Luther celebrated his 16th birthday on August 8st, 1495. It was a bizarre celebration, as the mostly Georgian guests showed off their rich cultural heritage for ulterior motives. Then, Luther did a standup comedy routine... the site of festivities was barren by the time he finished.

"Iuno, the nobles seemed to like the one about the bishop and the actress," said Phillippos Basileous, who had surprisingly attuned himself to Luther's new style of humor.

"And the Georgians found the exploits of the Rurikoviches pretty hilarious," Alexander added, trying to console the boy. He was being sincere for once.

"Then what happened?" asked Luther.

"I think one of the nobles got a bottle of wine to the face, and it spiraled out from there."

eu35f.jpg

It was clear that Georgia would not be quick to submit further to Byzantium, unless certain concessions were made. As Scotland's friendship had been bought through gifts, so would Georgia.

eu36g.jpg

Some of the elites complained that massive efforts were being expended to bring what were commonly seen as marginal lands into the empire, but the government generally ignored them.

eu37i.jpg

Eventually, in April 1496, Georgia accepted annexation, as people were beginning to realize the commonalities of the two nations, such as religion. If two nations could unite on the grounds of their similar cultures, surely it could also happen within the newly expanded Byzantium?

eu38m.jpg

Most historians would probably put it down to Byzantium's political concession that the officials of Georgia would be given high ranking positions in Byzantium's government. Understandable, as there were plenty of Muslims to needlessly repress. Also as a result of the annexation, Byzantium also gained reliable access to trade in Kartli, although given the wars of Byzantine/Georgian rivalry in the early 15th century, it had never attracted much business outside the Caucasus.

eu39s.jpg

It didn't stop the more desperate merchants from trying.

eu310d.jpg

Also on the foreign front, Thomas III pressed a claim to Damascus based on Byzantine control of Syria. Syria was just a means to an end, though; a necessary interstitial on the path to the inevitable Byzantine conquest of Egypt.

eu311d.jpg

It had not escaped anyone's notice that Byzantium, while generally intolerant of non-Christians, was very permissive (if only by necessity) about cultural heritage, perhaps because of its continuity with the actual Roman Empire. This pluralistic understanding was now enshrined within law.

eu312m.jpg

Other experiments occurred during this period - for instance, Alexander Phokas recommended to the Basileous brothers that ethnic Greeks and loyal Orthodox citizens be settled in Anatolia to simultaneously increase the loyalty and population of the area; never mind the fact it was already more densely populated than most of Greece. Bolu was placed under the effects of a settlement policy. And so, for some time, Byzantium went into self-strengthening mode. It wasn't a bad idea. Some of the states around Byzantium were stagnating, and others, like Faransa, had went into self-destruct mode.

eu313o.jpg

The loose, unofficial alliance that *sometimes* was the Maghreb was pushing deep into Faransi lands, seeking to kill or forcibly convert heretics.

There isn't much point in trying to spread Greek culture in Turkey, since it is already an accepted culture by virtue of numbers. However, it might trigger the province renaming events for flavor.

eu314p.jpg

In 1499, a bizarre incident occurred where the people of Trebizond declared themselves Cretans, probably inspired by how the islanders had not only reformed Byzantium, but owned their small, coastal nation at one point. Since Trebizond was generally outside Byzantine affairs, this was accepted, if mostly ignored. Then they converted to Sufi Islam, leading to calls for their blood.

European nations that pop up in Dark Continent get to do the Surviving Lineage events, apparently, no matter how late they form. Since Jochi can tag-switch to Poland, I think this is a bug.

Also, at this point, the construction of the new Byzantine palace (which had been named the cathedral of "Saint Adrian" in honor of the first, now canonized Thomas to rule over Byzantium as a metropolitan) was complete, if behind schedule and over budget. It was pretty nice, and incorporated a great deal of then-cutting edge architectural techniques. The government immediately began holdings its meetings there, which entailed a great deal of moving.

Alexander Phokas once caught the palace's top chef slacking off during this process.

"Why are you slacking off? You've got to get everything to the palace quickly!" he shouted at the chef.

"Not really. This place is becoming a Dolarasteron in five minutes," responded the chef, because the nonexistence of job security meant it didn't matter what he said. Alexander sincerely hoped he wasn't serious.

eu315n.jpg

In 1500, the second stage of the Caucasus plan began, with an assault on the Khanate of Qara Koyunlu, who was quickly left to the Byzantines to devour. At this point, Byzantium merely wanted to secure the rich gold mines of Alania.

In 1501, though, the Golden Horde attacked Byzantium, perhaps out of offense at this, and pulled in a variety of hordes, at least at first (Naturally, they soon dropped out because of Tatar honor or something. Alexander didn't quite understand steppe nomads). Understandable, but Maygaristan pledged to attack the Golden Horde after this. Alexander began to suspect (rather correctly) that one of the other time travelers had made their way into Maygaristan. The recently Islamified people of Crete decided to join in on the side of the Horde. Huge mistake on their part; they were annexed so quickly that it was soon like they had never existed.

eu316.jpg

Further evidence for the Golden Horde losing the influence of time travelers came in October 1501, when Byzantium won a significant victory against a larger Golden Horde force in the Ukraine.

eu317p.jpg

The war had devolved into a race by 1502, with Golden Horde troops struggling to take control over the Caucasus before Byzantium, Ruma, and Maygaristan took over their Black Sea holdings. Crete was annexed in August 1502, and most of the horde's allies had dropped out of the war by then. In December 1502, Sarai was occupied, and as a punitive measure, the Golden Horde was forced to cede a small amount of territory. Kiev was donated to the Ukraine, and Cherson was kept for Byzantine machinations.

I love how the Holy War CB works both ways... although that's already in normal EU3.

eu318.jpg

After that, Byzantium resolved to ensure further peace and quiet for a few years, and immediately afterwards to take over the entire coastline of the Black Sea. Meanwhile, interests in the Maghreb conspired to increase their influence in Faransa. Al-Alemand and Tunisia decided to carve out a block of territory formerly owned by Iceland into another friendly Islamic state. The Sultanate of Flanders quickly filled up with the Islamic minority of Faransa, which was undergoing severe persecution after the country's beating at the hands of Morocco, Algiers, and Tunisia.


In 1505, only the Crimean khanate and the province of Kouban stood between me and complete encirclement of the Black Sea. I'll probably go for Astrakhan as well, if only to be particularly cruel.
 
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Thomas III might look like an administrator, but he really isn't that good at it. That's what having a power behind the throne is for.
Anyways, I am considering a tag switch at some point in the future for variety's sake, especially if Byzantium grows particularly rich and powerful. If Scotland continues to exist, they'd be a viable choice, although I have a good chance of moving to an entirely different part of the world, especially if I conquer/colonize some overseas territory. Most likely, this will be whenever I pick up the "Imperialism" Casus Belli, so that Byzantium has reason to wage war on countries outside the Mediterranean and Europe.


Episode 11: The Generation Gap

The Basileous and Palaiologos families continued their takeover of the Byzantine government. It was likely this would come to blows eventually. For now, the Palaiologos were on the rise, as their rivals were in the middle of an interregnum. On March 8th, Stefanos was shot and killed in a hunting accident. Phillippos was so distraught over this that he committed suicide a month and a half later, on the 19th of April. Thusly, Palaiologoian interests came to the forefront. Luther, the half-Scottish scion of the Basileous, wasn't happy about the deaths, but being relatively distant from his deceased father, he was able to avoid suicide or self-mutilation handily. On the other hand, he was worried retaining control of Thomas III might be difficult.

"This Metropolitan is basically a mindless sponge. Don't worry about it," Alexander said, trying to console Luther as he fretted about the potential loss of political power.

"But that's the problem! How am I supposed to influence something that can't comprehend what I'm trying to do?" responded Luther.

"I'm still here to advise you. I've got the benefit of extreme hindsight, you know?"

Luther was willing to accept that, at least. After 10 years, Phokas was a closer father figure than Luther's actual father had been.

"Whatever you do, don't talk to Aderyn Gravenor. She hates Scotland and everything from it," Alexander suggested. She had started attending the Metropolitan's meetings for inscrutable reasons. Mostly, she kept to herself, occasionally wrote something down, and unsettled the Byzantine clergy with her presence.

"I'd be worried about anyone who talks so casually about the murder of thousands," claimed Luther.

Luther Basileous's first act as patriarch of the Basileous family was to advise Thomas III to continue his harsh stance on 'heathen' nations. In the interest of retaining its status as a major power, Byzantium began arming its troops with arquebuses and other cutting-edge firearms.

eu31o.jpg

Aderyn described the latest advances in Byzantine military as "adding sugar to turds". Alexander, on the other hand, saw any advance in Byzantium as worth noting.

"Give them a while. They'll learn how to use the things properly," he suggested.

"By the time they figure out that they're not supposed to point their guns at themselves, the things will have changed so much they won't recognize them as guns, and have to start over," snarked Aderyn in response.

eu32l.jpg

Byzantium was still no technological superpower, despite its relatively advanced weaponry. Ironically, it was the small city states in the Mediterranean that drove Greek technological advances, mostly out of gibbering desperation.

eu33qz.jpg

One of the more successful Mediterranean minors was about to lose its foothold in the Balkans. Byzantium had always been annoyed by the Sardinian control of Ragusa; in July 1506, an opportunity came to press a claim on it.

eu34t.jpg

The city took over a year to siege, but capturing it rid Byzantium of a nasty blemish in its borders.

Again, Byzantium was called to fight petty wars for naval glory.

"We've got to fight the Scandinavians!" shouted the Metropolitan of Scotland, when the three Orthodox nations met in the local median point of Galicia to coordinate foreign policy.

"We've got to subdue the evil Knights of Malta!" the Rumi Metropolitan responded, perhaps inappropriately. Then, Thomas III took the stage; as his country was the strongest and controlled the important holy land of Jerusalem, the other two metropolitans abruptly ceased their war cries.

"Gentlemen," began Thomas, speaking from cue cards he had memorized, "We can fight both of those wars at the same time, and win. The countries trying to assault you are poor, marginal, greedy, and Catholic. They are therefore of no threat to anyone."

The Orthodox powers particularly disliked heretics.

eu35i.jpg

Scotland asked for help against Norway and Iceland, while Ruma asked for help against the Knights of Malta. These technically were wars, in that both sides fought against each other, but with the limited interest of Byzantium in intervening outside of naval affairs, it was hard to tell. Byzantium then turned its attention to the South in preparation for yet another war with the Mamluks. It was imperative that Alexandria come under Byzantine control if the Mamluks were to be properly broken.


eu36.jpg

In the mean time, Ruma drew the attention of Al-Alemand. This was apparently one of those "real" wars, since the Alemanis were perceived as taking up the role of Byzantium's land nemesis over Maygaristan. On the other hand, they were expected to rely on other countries to handle their naval duties.

eu37.jpg

As a result, Byzantium quickly won a dramatic victory over the Tunisian fleet.

eu38.jpg

An elite regiment was sent to the northern reaches of Ruma to disrupt Alemani operations; for its success some of its members would be canonized (in more ways than one).

eu39z.jpg

However, Byzantium also suffered its first major defeat on the sea in many years at the hands of Al-Alemand. Ruma soon exited the war despite the many victories of the Thema Paphlagonia, ceding territory to the Tunisians.

eu310x.jpg

Byzantium made a mental note to utterly destroy Tunisia after the Mamluks were dealt with. As Byzantium had not managed to protect Ruma from its own leaders, Thomas III conceded defeat to the Tunisians.

Tunisia and Al-Alemand were running low on troops, and suffering severe war exhaustion. Ruma was about to liberate its losses from both countries, and begin sieging their enemies. Besides, my army was winning significant victories against their divisions. So naturally, they surrender their land.

A few days after the official conclusion of the war, Alexander saw Aderyn had left him a scribbled note.

"Be back in a few hours. Committing atrocities," proclaimed the note, surprisingly enough in early-modern Greek. It didn't look like it was her handwriting, but if it wasn't from Aderyn, why was it on his bedstand? Later, Phokas questioned her.

"Oh, that thing. I just scuttled a few ships... and might've burnt down a shipyard," she laughed. "Don't worry! I took precautions to make sure I didn't get caught. Wasn't hard, anyways. Look at what century we're in."

"I do hope those weren't Greek ships," muttered Alexander. Turned out he was wrong.

Admiral Orestes Palaiologos was officially blamed for the mysterious disappearance of a dozen Greek galleys to a degree bordering on surreal, and immediately resigned in protest. To be fair, he had lost a sea battle, and been most virulent about supporting Rumi's military ofperations. Luther Basileous, on the other hand, was more of an anti-Mamluk type. Meanwhile, another Palaiologos clanster - a shipbuilder named - Mark proposed the modernization of the navy; this was not something that could be sensibly opposed and therefore began.

eu311l.jpg

Alexander Phokas soon found out that Orestes' replacement (Dionysos Psellos) was basically Mark's puppet. This made Luther fret quite a bit, but Mark was one of those rare Palaiologian diplomats in recent memory - he came to Luther one day with a proposition that they work together, and push Thomas III into attacking Egypt yet again.

Luther later claimed he had to accept, lest the Palaiologos moved against him. It helped that the alternative was not expanding into Islamic lands and therefore giving the countries a chance to consolidate. The Mamluks, therefore, were attacked on January 12, 1512. Again, the legendary Mamluk manpower attracted Byzantine notice (and envy), as the Egyptians kept calling up gigantic levies of troops. Luckily, decades of scrambling for military development meant that Byzantium had better guns.

eu312.jpg

Even Byzantium's allies were able to contribute to this war by occupying the Mamluks' Libyan coastline. If Byzantium had given up on Thomist warfare due to having plenty of land to host battles on, their more navally oriented allies could still put the ideas to use.

eu313t.jpg

The ensuing peace treaty sliced the Mamluks in half. If the loss of Judea had been like the loss of a foot, this was like sawing the country's legs off. Byzantium now had access to the Red Sea, another valuable center of trade, and some more of its historic territory. The Mamluks were now vulnerable to repeated raids on their capital if need be.

Further interest was noticed in the diplomatically isolated (in that none of their allies had proper access to them) and backwards nation of Tripoli. Not good for them, to say the least. It would also serve as a useful beachhead for containment of Tunisia. Naturally, war was declared.

eu314h.jpg

Ethiopia was called in to bully the small Tuareg nation's closest ally in the form of the Hedjaz, and Tripoli was unable to put up any real resistance to Byzantium.
eu315.jpg


Byzantium now had an overseas colony of sorts, and the nation went back into peaceful expansion mode. Thomas III, following his predecessors in the realm of information technology, passed an act standardizing supplementary material to the Bible.

eu316c.jpg

Indeed, with the Mamluks essentially obsolete, it was increasingly time to give Tunisia a vigorous beating... but the truce from the Rumi war would delay this revenge by at least a few years.


All of North Africa will be ours! The next update will be narrative only, because it seems like the best way to introduce an important character given the situation.
 
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It turns out that the conquest of North Africa (especially Tunisia's holdings) has been delayed a bit, in-game. I got a bit preoccupied with the nations to the north of Byzantium; more on that later. For now, however...

Episode 11.5: Maygari Culture Shock

"We've received word of a defection," Metropolitan Thomas III said to Alexander in particular, in the middle of a particularly boring policy meeting. Boring was what Thomas III did best - he demanded functional, plain architecture, stable relationships with other countries, tried and true military tactics. They worked, but they weren't very fun.

"Thomas, Byzantium is built on defections. Every time we take land, a horde of screaming pseudo-Muslims begs us for mercy and asylum. As long as they convert to Christianity quickly, we let them settle. What's so significant about another defection-" responded Alexander, who was desperately scrabbling to summarize things Thomas ought to have known. Thomas just spoke over him.

"This time, it was a high ranking member of the Maygari army. He turned himself in to authorities in Dalmatia, claiming that he had state secrets which he intended to give us free of charge."

Usually, this was annoying, but for once in his life, Thomas III had said something useful.

"There was one other thing," Thomas continued, "It seems that this Maygari general wasn't entirely human, as we understand it. Witnesses have said he is made of metal and speaks in a horrific screech. If the Maygars have been working with a demon that has recently abandoned them, it may explain their recent stagnation on the battlefields."

Alexander resolved to meet this fellow. For authenticity's sake, he hired a horse-drawn carriage to take him out of Constantinople. Authenticity, in this case, meant going slowly (5-10 miles per hour) over roads that were technically maintained, but still kind of bumpy and erratic. It really lent Alexander a new perspective on the scale of the Byzantine world; outside of Asia Minor, most towns were small and rural even after a century. Occasionally, a slightly larger provincal capital of no more than ten thousand would show up, and the naive driver of Phokas's rented carriage would claim it to be glorious.

Alexander considered himself a resident of a city state in his "native" timeline; in this case, a space station in Sol's asteroid belt named Salyut Tyumen that could trace its 'ancestry' back to a Russian corporate project centuries before. Tyumen was home to 10 million people, some of whom were best described as "non-human". Compared to the 10 billion or so in the rest of the asteroid belt, it was a drop in the bucket, but enough to make Greco-Roman heads explode. Even Rome itself, which at its height was said to be home to a million, was beyond them.

Dalmatia was still perilously close to the Maygari border even after the last campaign in the deep past; less worrisome was that it was also near Ruma, and it performed a valuable economic service in facilitating trade between the three nations. At many points, Byzantine officials had called for strict embargos on the Maygars, but these were rarely enforced; firstly because Maygaristan did not engage in much foreign trade (when it did, it was generally with the Islamic world), and secondly because doing so made it harder to steal useful ideas and technologies from them. Indeed, Byzantium was good at stealing, although it specialized in land grabs.

When Alexander arrived, he found the town to be suitably multiethnic, if forcibly Christianized. As he made his way to the local prison, he saw a construction crew erecting a cross on what had once been a mosque. The mosque probably felt violated and insecure as a result of this. In the prison proper, security measures were moderately good for the early 16th century, but brainwashing was at least a century ahead of its time. A warped, manneristic face of Jesus or Mary stared at Phokas from every corner; the newest ones had slightly better proportions that still weren't quite accurate, and were therefore even worse to behold. Alexander immediately resolved to introduce some Flemish art and claim it as his own work.

The guards at the location had been informed that Phokas would be visiting through Byzantium's fairly robust postal system. It dated back to the days of Metropolitan Ioannes - he had kept colleagues in the far corners of the Empire and hired personal couriers to deliver messages. This didn't give the couriers much work, so they started taking private requests, and pretty soon the richer citizens of the empire could send each other letters and packages as they pleased. Once Ioannes had fallen from Basileous favor, the couriers had organized themselves into a loose guild entirely free from the government, and some of them were even considering expanding their services into other countries... although international deliveries would probably be incredibly expensive.

Regardless of how they were informed, Alexander was directed to the cell holding the Maygari defector. Someone had drastically overstated the degree of cybernetics he'd been equipped with - an arm and a brain transplant at best. Either way, he was dressed bizarrely - a ragged cape and a loincloth printed with incomprehensible, constantly shifting text, and was apparently meditating, as his full-lotus posture and closed eyes indicated.

The defector's eyes suddenly opened, and they began to cycle through every color a human eye could percieve, faster and faster. It was disconcerting, and presented a risk to epiliptics.

"Fact: I have been informed of your intent to visit," he said to Phokas. His voice had been altered by some sort of digital signal processor, as the highest and lowest pitches his vocal cords were capable of producing were already grating on everyone's ears. The Maygari defector's diction remained impeccable, but he spaced his words in a bizarre fashion, and made a special effort to emphasize where a writer would put punctuation.

"Why are you letting them imprison you like this?" asked Phokas, hoping to glean some information about concealed weapons.

"If he decides to escape and return back to Maygaristan, the Metropolitan's not going to be very happy with you," one of the guards cautioned.

"Hypothesis: Alexander's reasons for remaining in this time are questionable." This took Phokas by surprise.

"Hey, come on! I haven't dodged any of your questions, why are you evading mine?" responded Alexander.

"Warning: I have not yet asked any questions. Do not try to pull such rhetoric."

"Look, I've got a good life in Byzantium. It's a humble life, but we're both time travelers, right? We can switch back and forth without anyone caring."

"Note: I have pondered the ramifications of this on many occasions."

"So, do you want to tell me what you're doing in this time period?"

"Fact: Some of my motives are beyond your comprehension."

"Oh, come on! I'm not stupid or anything." That last jab had stung.

"Fact: I claim descendance from Hungarian citizens."

The tendency of time travelers to trace their ancestry to arbitrary ethnic groups was probably motivated by the fact that they could visit versions of their ancestors at any time... and possibly scatter their atoms to the wind.

"So naturally, you go for the universe where the Black Plague erased most of Europe, and your supposed homeland is now a hotbed of Islam."

"Opinion: I find the geography of Budapest aesthetically pleasing."

"Then why leave?"

"Rationalization: Due to the two interdimensional travelers in Constantinople, the Byzantine Empire is now the most interesting place in this world."

High praise from an interesting fellow.

"Oh, so you just want to watch me and Aderyn f-"

"Demand: Never speak of your personal relations again, especially in such a crass fashion. Rationalization two: Constantinople is also an important intermediary on the path to personal plans."

"Fine, whatever. So you're going to follow me back to Constantinople?"

"Correct. Fact: I have no real time constraints."

"Make sure you wash up before you go. Your clothes look like they smell bad."

"Advertisement: My apparel contains self-cleansing technology the likes of which is not generally available in this time." The guards in the prison opened the door of the defector's cell, giving him some bizarre looks in the process. He merely stood up and began to walk slowly, with a measured, almost mechanical pace... and the noises coming from his right leg made Alexander think the fellow had replaced the innards of his legs.

"Yeah, I'm going to need a name and a timeframe to refer to you with, because you're going to get some very strange looks wherever you go."

"Solution: I will take the name of Eligos in order to both frighten my new employers and earn the respect of their youth. It is not the name I used in Maygaristan, but it means about the same thing. I was born three hundred years before you were, to the minute."

The guards began giving each other fearful looks. They had a few moments where Eligos would be preparing his belongings before departure, and they chose to spend them in a superstitious fashion.

"He's Satan for sure! God curse his name!" said one.

"The 24th century has become pretty chaotic. I think he came from a version where time travel was relatively new and body enhancement was popular," Alexander commented. At this point, the local staff of the jail decided to shut down all their non-essential cognitive functions, leaving them to escort Eligos outside the premises and to Alexander's carriage without comment... or much of anything besides mindless shuffling.
 

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I get the feeling I'm not going to launch a proper assault against Tunisia until I establish a land corridor (at Mamluk expense) to Tripoli. In the mean time, there's plenty of tasty lands to devour.

Episode 12: Thálassa Mas

"Demands: Obtain access to the Red Sea," said a synthesized voice, making sure to emphasize the colon.

"Well, this 'Eligos' seems a little out of it. We already have a port at Sinai!" Luther Stuart Basileous responded. In 1518, he was drawing perilously close to his 40th birthday. The high infant mortality rates of the 16th century made it look as if he was nearing his life-expectancy. On the plus side, Byzantine elites could often reach the age of 60-70 if they were tenacious enough. Mediterranean diet, perhaps. Luther had married late and secured his succession even later; Alexander found himself babysitting Luther's two sons; Matthew, who was 8, and Robert, who was 6. They were fairly typical children for their age - boisterous and not all that empathetic.

"New demands: Up to date maps of Byzantium's holdings," asked Eligos.

"What are you, some sort of spy?" No response.

"I was kidding! Don't look at me like that. It's scary," Luther admitted.

Eligos had not adjusted his fashion sense towards Byzantine norms, and as a result was immodesty incarnate in Greece. The average citizen wore full length robes in drab colors, and women who veiled were seen as 'hot', in more than one way. Travelers, on the other hand, were described as scandalous.

To understand this, one had to look at Thomas III's court - it was not the height of fashion. On one hand, there were people like the Metropolitan, who took the robed approach to an extreme by using bright dyes and precious stones to make himself look important. On the other hand, there were figures like Luther, who had traded in his highlander's kilt for a fustanella a few years after his father died. Alexander Phokas had adopted a similar choice of clothing at about the same time. Aedryn and Eligos hadn't adopted new styles of clothing since the 1470s, and therefore looked wildly out of place. On the other hand, even Luther and Alexander weren't showing much beyond a foot or so of leg hair. After a while, that was tolerated, although Phokas occasionally caught bishops and primates staring covetously at his legs.

The clergy of the court was relatively immune to wild new fashion statements, but one day, Mark Palaiologos entered the court in a cape and a loincloth, to much shock and awe. Eligos had started calling him "Captain Underpants", but ever more of Byzantium's elites started imitating his apparel. It spread outside the court like wildfire, and within weeks, fashionable Byzantine men could be seen baring a lot more skin than beforehand. I blame the warm weather of the area; naturally this was followed by increased fertility rates and increased funding for monasteries.

"I guess that if you haven't much to bare, you'd best bare it all," said Aedryn, whose clothing remained form-fitting through the period. "Now, can you please do your job as a government? You wouldn't want to make me bored, much less angry."

That frightened the court enough into thinking about their country instead of their clothing.



Recent years had convinced Luther that Byzantium needed to gain further control over the local oceans. Asserting hegemony in the Mediterranean, though, could be difficult, as Byzantium lacked the naval bases to service its ships once they got near France or Spain. Fighting on the open Atlantic was even more difficult (not counting 'punitive' expeditions). On the other hand, there was one fairly large body of water that Byzantium was a short period of land warfare away from completely controlling...

The first order of business was convincing most of the Islamic nations that they were not on the list of Byzantine annexations... at least not yet. In reality, most of North Africa and some of the Arabian peninsula was assumed to be on the Byzantine hitlist. As long as that was concealed for a few years, though, things would be okay (unless, of course, they decided to come to each others' rescue).

Meanwhile, Byzantium's favorite ally (Ruma) continued beating up on the Knights of Malta, but never committing to taking over their lands. This was mostly ignored. Conversion efforts were stepped up yet again, as Thomas III expressed a half-formed desire to see the entire Anatolian peninsula become Orthodox.

eu31w.jpg


Needless to say, he had more resources to throw at it than the last guy who tried to forcibly convert Islamic subjects, and since the extremists in Constantinople had generally adopted Christianity decades ago, he was much less likely to die for it.

eu32x.jpg

In October 1521, Aragon broke away from the Catholic faith.

"This means they now follow the true faith, right?" asked Thomas III when he was informed of this by a courtesan.

"At first, we thought so, but apparently no. They just accused the Papacy of corruption and complacency against Islam. I wouldn't be surprised if they try to wage a crusade... and fail," the courtesan responded. Since Aragon remained a struggling state focused in the Baleares, they would be ignored, at least for a brief moment.

One of the ironies of this world's Islam is that they rarely had the opportunity to jihad against Christians due to the Byzantine/Rumi alliance.(Of course, this means joining ALL of Ruma's wars, no matter how stupid. You know, like the time they said they gave the Knights a ducat, and then claimed they owed Ruma four quarters.) Small nations like Scotland and the Ukraine occasionally were attacked, but Byzantium was always quick to rush to their aid, with nasty results the Islamic blocs.

Case in point: In 1522, the nation of Jochi decided to seriously challenge the existence of the Ukraine, and sent some insults. The Ukraine responded by declaring a crusade...
eu33h.jpg


...and Byzantium, claiming the necessity of the Ukraine's existence in order to ensure political stability in the region, rushed to assist them. The Ukraine had chosen a good time to declare war - the Altans were especially backwards, scattered throughout Eastern Europe, and under attack by the Golden Horde.

eu34u.jpg

Yes, the Ukraine looks worse, but they were created with relatively low tech levels, and have had revolt issues throughout their existence. Besides, they have me to look out for them.

eu35j.jpg

With some Byzantine assistance, the Ukraine was able to expand into formerly Jochid lands.

The Byzantines took this as a sign to resume their holy wars, but it was only with the pressure of one Fabricius de Villaret that this boiled over into yet another war against Islam.

eu36i.jpg

de Villaret was, ironically, the theologian who had pushed for reform in the Catholic Church. When this had boiled over into heresy, he had fled the Baleares and converted to Orthodox Christianity. Thomas III hired him, and declared war on the Crimean Sultanate.

eu37r.jpg

Naturally, Muslims seemingly rushed to defend it, but dropped out soon afterwards.

One problem with the AI in this session that makes it less interesting to play is that they are too quick to ask for a white peace, and therefore this often results in Byzantium beating up on some helpless, exhausted minor nation. Outside of this game, I recently started a Baluchistan -> Mughals (Peace of God scenario) game that for the first 30-40 years or so was a constant dogpile. It was difficult dealing with Khorasan, Durrani, Ak Koyunlu, and a few Indian minors at the same time (to say nothing of their respective allies, which often included mini-hordes), but difficult is sometimes good.

eu38b.jpg

What followed was a long struggle between Byzantium and Qara Koyunlu while the Crimeans feebly tried to defend their territories. Eventually, the Crimeans were annexed; it would have been quicker except for the guerrilla type resistance that had popped up near the border and slowed Byzantine advances.

eu39nj.jpg

The question of the Turkmen remained, though - while their Caspian holdings were reasonably valuable, the mountainous terrain and relatively strong army of their nation made operations needlessly difficult.

eu310.jpg

For the moment, they were forced to pay a tribute of 400 ducats, as Scotland asked for help against Djata Kurufa.

eu311.jpg

Djata's aggression was stifled by the destruction of their fleet.

eu312s.jpg

After that, Ethiopia dragged Byzantium into a war with Maygaristan and Skandistan by trying to conquer land from the Sultanate of Adal. This resulted in a few nasty border conflicts throughout Eastern Europe, draining everyone's manpower. Byzantium eventually peaced out from this, and decided to take the military equivalent of a power nap afterwards.



Luther shocked the court afterwards by formally retiring.

"I'm getting too old for this. My sons need to learn responsibility and I need, at the very least, a stiff drink," he announced.

"Fact: You have shown no signs of mental decay up until this very moment," responded Eligos, drawing sneers and giggles from his sphere of influence.

"Here's a fact. You're ugly!" Nobody knew why Luther had taken such offense to this, but they were fairly clear on what happened next - with breathtaking speed and only a few steps (despite a distance of about 10 meters), Eligos strode over to Luther, grabbed him by the neck, and threw him into a wall.

"Conjecture: I am the most attractive person in this room," Eligos said. On the other hand, the guards had taken notice, and were now rushing to subdue him. While Eligos could probably survive a full volley from their arquebuses due to his cybernetics, he wouldn't look nearly as good as he claimed to afterwards.

"Demand: Stand back, or Thomas gets it," interjected Eligos when he'd started paying attention the guards. The metropolitan was rationally frightened by this, but the guards didn't listen - after all, they were twenty against one, well armed, well armored, probably somewhat acceptably drilled, too. What could Eligos do?

About a minute later, Thomas III's lifeless body was embedded in the ceiling up to his shoulders.

"Yeah, usually it's one of the humans who kills the metropolitan, if anyone," Phokas commented. The guards had stopped due to a patented mixture of fear and approval of Eligos' cybernetically enhanced strength. If they attacked him now, it wouldn't matter, as crucial damage had been done.

"Trivia: Luther is still alive, but will not survive if given contemporary medical treatment," said Eligos, as if it weren't obvious from the odd angle that Luther's legs were splayed. Aedryn told him to put Luther out of his misery.

"Opinion: I did not intend to kill either. I merely underestimated the resilience of the court members by a significant portion."

"If someone had thrown you into the ceiling like that, I doubt you would have survived," Aedryn snarled. Then, softening a bit, she tossed a chip very similar to the one she'd given Alexander the first time they'd met. Naturally, Eligos caught it.

"Send him forwards. He'll probably get prompt medical treatment, and come back, unless he really resents you," commanded Aedryn. The chip went in his hand, and Luther winked out of this existence. Unusually, there was no advertisement.

Robert and Matthew immediately took the reins of power from Luther. Unfortunately, they did not share their grandparents' ability to work together, and Alexander found himself trying to keep them from killing each other.

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Thomas III was replaced with a fourth Thomas. Clearly, he was enamored with the last three. More importantly, he had been groomed for the job by Robert Basileous over the objections of his older brother. Matthew immediately resolved to murder Robert.

The shrewd will notice that this is not how I usually show off the new ruler's modifiers. In my defense, I forgot to take a screenshot.

Thomas IV remained happily oblivious to these schemes, considering himself loyal to both of the Basileous brothers. However, on the advice of de Villaret, he immediately took steps to reform the government, thereby weakening the role of powerful families like the Basileous and Palaiologos in his court.

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On the other hand, this also meant the office of Metropolitan was more likely to come from outside the highest ranks of clergy. The new Metropolitan had the qualifications to be a bishop, but he had spent most of his life as a merchant in Kartli. His friends in high places (locally sourced) insisted that he was as devout, if not more so than his predecessors.

Since he'd never been in the Byzantine court until his inauguration, he had no idea that he might potentially find his reign coming to an end with a sudden crash.



A little bonus - conversion efforts!

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Bits of Eretna and such have been holding out against Christianity for a while, but for the most part, the northern parts of my nation have converted, which is good from a tax/manpower perspective and gives me a revolt risk buffer. The Levant and Egypt lag behind, mostly because in WAMMO, missionary conversion rates are reduced by nationalism (A recently conquered non-core with 50 years to go reduces the already relatively low conversion chances by 5 percent!).

Incidentally, Constantinople is about to pass one hundred thousand inhabitants. It still has some distance to go before becoming the largest city in the Mediterranean. Alexandria, Cairo, and Damascus are still larger, and so far Tunis appears to be the biggest city (although Constantinople earns more money). Regardless, it is imperative that Carthage gets destroyed... eventually.