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Blasted Conniving Roman
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Apr 20, 2007
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Rome AARisen - a Byzantine AAR (Updated 11/12/07)

Considering the problems I've been having with my Mongol-Byzantine AAR, I'm going to post an older AAR idea I had - The history of the Kommnenids of Byzantium, without their poster boy, Alexios. The game itself still isn't finished, time and a converter permitting, I'd love to continue this into EU3...


Summaries for Book One: Chapters 1-9

All Updates Are Linked in the Table of Contents




Chapter One: The Years of Darkness…

Introduction -

1066 A.D…

In the West, as the last of the Viking raids died away, new kingdoms had already staked their claim to the legacy of Rome. France, England, Leon, Castile and Navarre all used Latin as the language of government, and laid claim to being successors to Rome in their various territories and domains. The King of the Germans, Heinrich von Franken, also claimed the title “Emperor of the Romans” as heir to the Western Empire.

However, in the East, the real Roman Empire remained. Romanion for the previous half century had been in a state of flux. Since the death of Basil II in 1025, a succession of weak emperors who barely remained on the throne had sapped her strength. The formally powerful Roman fleets had shriveled to nothing, and her elites openly plotted for the throne. The weak Emperor Konstantinos IX died in 1067, leaving the throne to his son, Michael VII.

Our records on Michael come primarily from Anastasios of Ankyra, a scholar and teacher attached to the court of one Alexios Kommnenos, a powerful and respected general in the Imperial armies. His opinion of Michael is scathing, to say the least –

God at this time sent his wrath on New Rome. A great storm broke over the city during the coronation of the new Basilieos. Never has an empire been cursed with such cruelty, such ill-will, such malice, as when Michael wore the diadem. His speech was such that men laughed at him, his power such that men feared him. Together, these made men hate him, and plots and conspiracies were endless in number.

Unfortunately Anastasios gives us the most complete account of Michael’s reign, and all the plots and counterplots that took place. It appears that early on, Michael intended to establish a dynastic succession – a move that greatly angered the powerful families of the Empire, and considering future events, would prove ironically prophetic –

He took counsel with the Patriarch, His court, and all others, and lo – they advised him against such things, and spake – “Lord, raising thine son would anger thy generals, and enrage thine people.” Yet he took no such counsel, and raised his son Heraklios to Caesar, despite the child being on the earth no more than two years.

Anastasios’ patron, Alexios Kommnenos - a longtime friend of Michael - was one of the few nobles not angered by this action. Originally this branch of the wide and powerful Kommnenid family held the Principality of Kappadokia – two provinces and a single comes. We note however that Alexios began expanding this to the south, investing Muslim castles and cities, adding to his personal domain.

In 1072, Alexios seized the Emirate of Aleppo, and in 1078 he took control of the greater part of the Emirate of Edessa, adding the titles Prince of Edessa and Prince of Aleppo to his rank. With such power as well as a lordly and noble disposition, he quickly rose to a position of preeminence in the minds of the opposition to Michael VII and the Dukids. Michael kept this royal lion at bay through promotion – by confirming Alexios’ additional titles, he ensured his greatest opponent and best general remained at the frontier, far from Konstantinopolis.

This removed Alexios from the picture, yet various lords still continued to cause struggle and strife. The Metropolitanate of Armenia broke from the Empire in August of 1076, with no repercussions from Konstantinopolis other than several warnings. The Cilician Armenians followed suit shortly after, and constant cabals formed, led often by the Princes of Sinope and Samos, who intended to dethrone Michael and install themselves in his place.

Disaster struck in the spring of 1081, when Chaldea broke away and the confident Turk, under their brilliant Sultan Arp Aslan, swooped in and seized the two provinces. To make matters even worse, the Metropolitan of Armenia joined the Orthodox kingdom of Georgia, effectively removing her from the feeble imperial grip.

However, it seemed that fate had marked the supremely skilled Alexios as the next Emperor. Michael’s three young sons all died before the age of 6, while the already dim-witted Empress lost what little remained of her mind. Bereft of an heir, Michael in 1081 caved into pressure, and named Alexios Kaisar. Anastasios describes the Emperor’s plan –

Then Michael wrote to Alexios, and granted him the title of Kaisar, and gave him great gifts. While Alexios received these gifts, and was greatly pleased, Michael set about to poison his troubled wife, that he may have found younger flesh, that would bear yet another son.

In 1082, two great events happened that seemed to guarantee the survival of the Dukid dynasty’s stay on the Throne of the Caesars. First, the wife of Emperor Michael died. Within weeks he had remarried to Helene, daughter of the Lord Agyros of Lykia. She was promptly with child. Secondly, Alexios Kommnenos was severely wounded in a battle with the Emir of Damascus, whose territories his armies shortly engulfed. Alexios was taken by litter back to his capital at Aleppo, where he lingered for two additional years.

In 1083, Michael’s son, Eudoxios, was born, and in 1084, Alexios Komnenos was breathing his last…


The Byzantine Empire on March 30th, 1084, the day of Alexios Komnenos’death. Orange represent vassals of the Kommnenids, while yellow represent the Kommnenid personal desmense.
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Well, it expanded because when Arp Aslan made his first move back in 1070, I stupidly followed the mobilization call and kept the 7000+ Kappadokian troops together. We didn't hit Arslan's northern column (the Imperial Marshal tangled with them and lost badly), but we mauled the southern column of Seljuk troops in Aintab (they lost about 7000 to our 1500, mostly because they were commanded by some dupe with a 1 martial ability). The Emperor wisely paid the Turks off, and they've been licking their wounds since. Afterwards the Byzantine AI lurched northward after the Pechenegs, and the Principality of Samos ended up with a large chunk of Romania. This however left the Byzantine AI weak and overstretched, something that would haunt them later.

March 30th, 1084 A.D.


Alexios Komnenus, Kaiser* of the Roman Empire, Price of Kappadokia​

“There we stood, outnumbered – ten thousand Saracens versus our four thousand!” boomed Isaakios Komnenus, his hands gesturing grandly, his eyes bright and wide. “All of Aleppo came out to meet your father on the field of battle, and – I am not ashamed to admit it – I was scared! Frightened out of my mind!”

“When are you not scared, Uncle?” piped Manuel, a tall, thin lad of 14 years with a sallow face and sunken eyes. He coughed loudly as Isaakios looked him up and down before delivering a theatrical harrumph.

“Shut up, Manuel!” Evangelos Komnenus, nearly ten and still bright eyed and pleased with the world snapped at his older brother. “Let Uncle Issakios finish his story!” The complaint was echoed by the Qasim brothers, and other children present.

“I believe the mob has spoken,” Isaakios smiled, before looking up. The sun had just started peeking over the walls of the inner courtyard of the Damascus palace, and glinted off of Isaakios’ bald head. “Now, where was I?”

“The Saracens!” shouted Evangelos.

“Ah yes, the Saracens! Well, I was scared, but I looked over at your father – he was young then, as was I – and he had his blade in the ground and was praying before it. Even as the first Saracen arrows began to fall – ah! Good morning, Demetrios!”

“’Morning,” the oldest of the three children grunted, his serious face in contrast with the birds chirping and the crisp breeze that promised a beautiful day. He continued walking past, eyes not even meeting those of his siblings or uncle.

“Hey, Demetrios! You promised to practice swords with me yesterday!” Evangelos complained loudly to his fast-retreating brother. Demetrios said nothing, and disappeared into the palace on the other side of the courtyard. Evangelos looked down, dejected.

Isaakios sighed. “Now there, there, boy,” he gently patted his nephew on the head, “Your brother is merely on his way to see your father. He is likely thinking of many things right now, and I do not think he meant to be rude to you.”

Evangelos looked down for a second, a puzzled look on his face. “When do you think he’ll stop thinking so much when he goes to visit father?”

“When your father gets better,” Isaakios said after a moment, “It won’t be long, he just needs his strength.” Outwardly he smiled at the young boy, but inside his heart sank. Evangelos still thought all the visitors to the palace were here to celebrate his upcoming tenth birthday.

Isaakios knew the truth.



The doors to the Great Tower in the former Emir's Palace

Alexios Komnenus, Kaisar of the Roman Empire, looked more pallid and pale than usual. His skin was ashen, and the great, dark locks of hair Demetrios remembered from his childhood now were shocked with strands of gray and even white. Alexios had once rode east as the pre-eminent Strategos in the Empire, and the expected successor to Emperor Michael VII. It was the mighty Alexios, at the head of four thousand men, who held ten thousand Turks at bay near Aleppo to allow the Imperial armies to retreat in defeat. It was Alexios, who saw the future of the Empire lay south and had smashed through Aleppo and Edessa, down all the way to here – Damascus.

Funny how something as small as an errant Saracen arrow during a minor skirmish can change things.

For over two years Demetrios had made this pilgrimage to his father’s room in the Great Tower of former Emir’s Palace in Damascus. He could still remember the confusion, the fear when his father first arrived in this sorry state – the fervent prayers for his health and salvation, and the initial cheer that death did not claim him right away.

Instead, fate played an even crueler joke than simply taking this man in his prime, Demetrios thought, gently closing the door behind him. The arrow had merely penetrated the flesh of his father’s thigh, but fever and abcess had set in – and the fever had remained with him ever since. The motions of climbing the narrow whitewashed stairs and closing the door behind him were the same – but today was decidedly different.

“Son?” The former Strategos of the Eastern Themes started to prop himself up, but weakness and gravity conspired against him. Demetrios rushed over and took his father’s hand in his own.

“Yes, father?” The old man’s eyes seemed different today – despite his infirmities and sickness, his father’s eyes had always been sharp and alert. Today, however, they seemed but dim shadows of their former selves. The strategos may have won almost all his battles against mortal foes, but in this war, the fever had won a crushing victory.

“I heard voices,” Alexios whispered, his voice heavy with phlegm.

“Many have come to pay their respects to you, father,” Demetrios did not lie. “Your brother Isaakios has come all the way from Antioch, and your brother Manuel sends his greetings and prayers for your health and soul.”

“My soul?” Alexios asked, before a faint smile came across his strained face. “Bah… that is now a debate between myself, and God. I doubt ‘Manuel the Lecher’ can persuade the Almighty to change whatever His choice is.” The faint smile changed to a grimace. “No word from the Basilieus?”

Demetrios shook his head. “It is a long way to Konstantinopolis from Damascus, father, and I know mother sent the dispatches by the fastest riders to Tripoli weeks ago when things turned for the worst. It may be another week before the Emperor’s word reaches our walls.” He soothingly caressed his father’s hand.

“Michael is a good man,” Alexios muttered, laying back into the pillow. “A good man…” He turned his head, and the eyes of someone twice Alexio’s 38 years looked deeply into those of Demetrios.

“Rome is not what it once was, my son…” Alexios said, his voice growing even quieter. “You will be a Prince of the Empire soon – have a seat in the Senate, have roles in court…” He wheezed.

“I will do you proud, father,” Demetrios said, barely managing to keep his voice strong and free of cracks.

“Where Caesar once reigned and Constantine raised us up, there are now many jackals who seek their own gain before that of Rome,” Alexios said after a few minutes. “Make sure you surround yourself with good men, like Emperor Michael, or my brothers. Avoid the ambitious, and the powerhungry, like Prince Gregorios of Trebizond, or the Prince of Samos…”

“Yes Father,” Demetrios nodded, realizing the end was approaching.

“And make sure no Saracen lends you money… they will take your cattle…”

Demetrios nodded.

“And don’t try to build a stone castle in a swamp…”

“I won’t father,” Demetrios looked towards the door, and caught a servant peeking in. He waved hurriedly, and soon the servant was off to fetch those waiting in vigil. Within a few minutes, as Alexios’ ramblings died into rattles, his brother, wife, other sons and courtiers soon gathered around the bedside.

The tired eyes of the Kaisar looked at all around, even as his head and hand began to tremble. Everyone waited for the great Strategos to rally one last time – to say one last, defiant thing in the face of death, like he had defied the Saracens all his life. Instead, a rattle came from Alexios’ throat, and his head lolled back into the pillow.

Demetrios was the one that reached over and closed his father’s eyes forever.


Several hours later…

Isaakios sat heavily in his chair, and looked about the Great Hall of his dead brother’s palace. It was high and arched, and the Saracens who built it long ago for their emir had covered the walls with turquoise and intricate designs. It was a fitting place for a Kaisar of the Roman Empire, but it felt huge and empty without Alexios’ booming voice.

Around him gathered the chief mourners of the late Alexios Komnenus – his wife, Zoe, Demetrios, Evangelos and Manuel, Isaakios’ wife, and the upper echelons of the court. It was a somber dinner – a wake to remember a husband, father, brother and leader. Alexios was widely regarded as the man that would save the Empire from its ills should he take the throne – now he laid in state in the palace chapel, where priests and embalmers attended to the body.

Isaakios reached over and took another sip from his goblet. The wine in Damascus was awful – the Saracens did not believe in alcoholic drink, so wine had to be imported and with the strained princedom’s finances, the wine that they had came from some place near Dorylaeum. Isaakios winced at the bitter taste.

“Makes we think we should go the route of the Saracens,” he said quietly to Zoe, who sat next to him on a raised table for members of the family. She sighed in response.

“Perhaps,” she idly picked at her food, disinterested in eating. She looked up at her sons, sitting several spots away from her. Evangelos’ cheeks were still wet from tears, while Manuel bore his usual scowl. Demetrios, however, bore a blank mask.

“I’m worried about him,” Zoe said quietly. “The future of the family, maybe even the whole of the Empire, depends on him. He’s legally the Kaisar, Isaakios, and he isn’t even married and just turned sixteen!”

“He’s a strong boy,” Isaakios smiled faintly. “He’s already tall, like his father was, and his body will fill out even more – he’s skilled with the sword, and I’ll wager he’s far smarter than he lets you think.” Isaakios pulled a section of bread from his plate and stuffed it into his mouth to get rid of the foul taste of the wine. “He’ll be fine,” he mumbled between his food.

Zoe turned around to face him. “Are you sure? He’s so young! And tomorrow was when his future bride was scheduled to come here to the palace – it will be the first time he’s seen the girl!”

“Really?” Isaakios raised an eyebrow, setting his food down. His marriage had been arranged too, but he had several months to get to know his wife before they were officially bound together.

“Yes… I expedited things, hoping Alexios would hold on long enough to see his son wed,” Zoe said distantly. For a moment she looked off into space, before a smile came back. “She’s the daughter of Lord Diaseneros of Bira – an extremely bright girl, smart and strong-willed. They say she’s an expert at diplomacy and strategy…”

“Isn’t that your forte?” Isaakios asked.

“Well, it was,” Zoe replied, her voice losing its happy tinge. “I’m getting old, Isaakios – I was a Konstantinopolis girl. I don’t know the ways of things out here on the frontier as well as she probably does. I’m going to recommend that she become the new Logothetes tou dromon**, with me as an advisor. He is going to need as much help as he can get.”

Isaakios raised his glass slightly. “I’ll toast to that…”

Zoe sighed. “He is a man by age, but in many ways, he is still a boy… he still lays with the milkmaiden his father arranged for him two years ago, and my agents say he is not careful… its only a miracle there has not been a bastard yet.”

Isaakios winced. Bastards meant succession troubles, fights and rebellions. “Love has no place in a lord’s mind,” the Prince said after a moment. “Or at least, the love that is often just lust…”

“Yes…” Zoe looked down. “He must break from her, so he may learn to love his wife… and for the good of the family.”

“Yes, the family,” Isaakios agreed.


Demetrios Komnenus, Prince of Kappadokia and Edessa​

* Kaisar – taken from the Latin Caesar, the name for the heir apparent of the Empire.
** Roughly “head of diplomacy” – so I’m using it as a translation for the game’s concept of “Chancellor”
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A very interesting start and setup! It will be interesting to see whether Demetrios can free the Empire of the useless rule of the Dukad family and life up to his fathers legacy or whether he will just be another lesser son of great men.
Anyway I like your writting style very much and I am looking forward to more. :)

~Lord Valentine~

Demetrios Komnenos was little more than a boy when his father perished prematurely. While an adult in age, Demetrios was still in military training when his father was injured – and as Alexios’ condition worsened, Demetrios’ mother, Zoe, took control of the regime as regent. She proved adept at management, but once Alexios passed, she could not deny her son any longer.

Demetrios himself was a bright young man – clearly gifted in the martial arts, as well as intelligent. He had a slight tendency towards quietness, as well as an impatience with those who he felt were lying to him or telling him a tale. On his own, he would have made a better than average prince – it was his pairing with Anastasia Diasaneros that would make him something far more.

Anastasia was something rare during the Middle Ages – a bright, intelligent, strong woman who we have many sources on. Anastasios describes her as “strong in mind and spirit,” and the “driving force of Kappadokia.” As strong women tended to be downplayed by medieval chroniclers, surely this speaks to her true abilities in the most positive light possible…


The door closed behind him with a final thump, and Demetrios Komnenos felt a lump leap into his throat. All around him, the lapis lazuli mosaics laid by the palace’s Muslim forebearers seemed to laugh at him – a boy trying to rein in a great beast of state.

“Demetrios, these are the members of your court,” his mother Zoe gently said, but the words did not register in Demetrios’ ears.

It was still sinking into his mind that he was the Prince of Kappadokia now. Barely two weeks removed from his father’s death, and he was here, heading his first meeting of the great members of his court – small as it may be. Before this, all his actions had been things that kept him within his father’s shadow – planning the great funeral, finishing his father’s final arrangements. Yesterday, the formal reply from Konstantinopolis had arrived, wishing the dead Prince a speedy recovery far too late, and reminding Demetrios just in case that he was required to travel to the capital to be formally invested in his positions by the Emperor.

That was when it sank in – he was Prince of Kappadokia and Edessa, and should the Emperor deem him fit, Kaisar as well. He expected, in some ways, to be named the heir to the Empire – what little he knew of the Emperor’s son indicated the young boy was slow to speak and did little save lay in his bed and cry.

“Demetrios?” His mother’s voice brought him from his reverie. “Let me introduce your advisors to you. The first you are somewhat familiar with.”


Demetrios nodded, and looked towards his left. The first person he saw was a woman of grace and beauty, aged finely like a cask of Cretean wine. Demetrios already knew something about Agathe Eulogios – she was unmarried, wholly and utterly dedicated to his father, and had served capably as the Logothetes tou genikou* of Kappadokia for many years.

“Agathe, word of your financial wizardry proceeds you,” Demetrios smiled shyly, before casting a glance towards the next unknown at the table. He was tall and thin, A scraggly dark beard framing his swarthy face. Far from being clad in the gowns of a Greek, he wore the white linens and turban of a Saracen.

“Your father’s Domestikos, Shamsaddin Qasim.” There as a slight tinge of contempt in Zoe’s voice, and Demetrios frowned for a moment, before he remembered. On the day of the skirmish where Alexios had been wounded, Qasim was in command of a detachment that was supposed to have driven away the Saracen archers. The previous day Qasim had mixed up his marching orders, and arrived at the field after Alexios’ cavalry had won the day – ultimately at the expense of the Prince’s life. He’s an incompetent, then…

Demetrios’ eyes narrowed, and he looked to the far end of the table, before his heart stopped.

“Then there is your lovely wife to be,” Zoe gestured, and Demetrios cast a glance at Anastasia Darienios for the first time and felt his face flushing hot. Blond hair, thick and full, cascaded down her back, and full red lips opened into a wide, inviting smile. Demetrios felt the heat of her gaze, and uncertainly, he looked down, surprised at the feelings running through his soul.

“An awkward start, my future husband,” she said in a lilting, musical voice that made Demetrios’ heart beat faster, “but we will soon know each other. Your mother invited me here because she knew of my talents – and I will place them in your service to the utmost of my ability.” She bowed slightly, but Demetrios watched her eyes stay directly on him, deep blue and penetrating. Somehow, he knew his mother bore an all knowing grin beside him.

“And finally, there is your Logothethes tou oiekaikon,** Anastasia Aristenos.” With difficulty, Demetrios pulled his eyes away from the other Anastasia, and beheld an old crone that seemed withered and stooped. Her eyes were sharp, and looked into his with a clarity that surprised him.

“She observes the council meetings, but only gives her reports to you, and you alone,” Zoe clarified. “Your father trusted her with the lives of the whole court as well as his own… I am confident you can do the same.”

“Please, Demetrios,” Zoe gestured towards the chair at the opposite end of the table, and Demetrios tried to sit down without betraying his unsteadiness. He cast another quick glance in Anastasia’s direction, hoping to catch her when she wasn’t looking. Like an all-knowing cat, she was looking right back, and he could see her purring through her eyes.

“Ah… um… well then,” Demetrios tried to clear his thoughts. “Mother, let’s start with the diplomacy.”

“Very well,” Zoe adopted the well-worn voice of the Logothetes tou dromon,*** before turning to her successor, Anastasia Diarenios, who started her report.

“As you are well aware, you are lord over four vassals, and five provinces in your personal desmense – almost 12% of the Empire’s total of 95 provinces.”


“Emperor Michael’s popularity in Konstantinopolis continues to decline, as lords all over the Empire continue to plot their means to rule themselves, or rule the Empire in his stead.”


Anastasia paused for a moment, before sighing, and leaning in close over the table. “I will only say this in these quiet halls, and trust that none will speak of my frankness outside these four walls,” she said quietly. After the others nodded, she looked down for a moment. “The Emperor is grossly incompetent. His stammer makes men laugh at him, not fear him. He commands armies like a child commands the sea, and insults the leaders of this realm and others regularly. His reign will not last.”

“My father said…” Demetrios started, but to his surprise, the newcomer to court spoke over him.

“Your father was a childhood friend of the Emperor’s, which colored his opinion,” Anastasia said. “He remembered the Michael of old, not the man who now rules as the Vice Regent of Christ.”

“Nonetheless,” Zoe interceded, “the Emperor is our lord and liege by the Will of God… we shall remain true to him unless God wills a change… right, Demetrios?”

Demetrios nodded, then steepled his fingers in thought. She is direct, and does not hide her feelings… he noted mentally, filing the though away. “Nonetheless, Anastasia has a point… there are dangerous times – Domestikos, how stands the Princely armies of our realm?” Demetrios asked, deflecting the debate he did not want to enter into another day. The army was something he actually felt comfortable about.

“Um… well…” the Saracen began. “In Palmyra we marshal 30 horse…”

“That’s funny,” Anastasia interrupted yet again, “according to my sources, you have six hundred horse in Palmyra on paper, and somewhere around five-hundred fifty in reality.” She cocked her head as the Domestikos’ face went white. “That’s along with some five hundred pikemen, heavy infantry and archers each, along with a thousand peasants.”

“How…” Qasim began, before Demetrios’ glare made him break off. The Domestikos looked down at his paper in silence.

“What else can you tell me about my domain?” Demetrios asked warily.

“Count Anathasios Malakes is by far your most powerful vassal – and only a twelve year old boy. Ruler of Dorylaeum and Ankyra, he has a strength of nearly two thousand when mobilized. His dreadful mother controls their court, and she has been busy spreading vile lies and slander about you.”


“Namely?” Demetrios asked, surprised. She only arrived her yesterday, and she bears commanding knowledge of one of my vassals?

“That you poisoned your father,” Anastasia said, before unexpectedly smiling, the grin disturbingly cherub-like. “Fortunately, your show of grief at the funeral is slowly winning over the weak-willed that she had turned against you.”

“Uh… very well,” Demetrios stammered momentarily in surprise. To prevent further verbal embarrassment, he waved Anastasia to continue.

“Next, we have Stephanos Kaukadenos, Count of Melitene. To be blunt, he is an old friend of your fathers, a trusting fool who we can easily bend to your will. I have several contacts within his court – they report the old man has been yelling randomly at people for minor things – perhaps lend him a few pounds of silver to ease his mind, and make him an eternal friend.”


“Thirdly, we have Count Konstantinos Tzetas, the old domestikos for your father and a longtime family friend. Reportedly he has some doubts about your age, but those are fading quickly. He might be old, but he is capable and alert – we need to keep him on our side.”


“Finally, there’s that old witch Eirene Droulenos.”

“The one that slept with a cow?” Qasim blurted out, much to the revulsion of those at the table. Anastasia sighed.

“That is but one rumor about her. She has never married, and has no heirs – she is too busy luring young men to her bedchamber to ever worry of marrying, and her age means she will never be impregnated. She’s causing a minor scandal all around – you need to keep her in hand, while still retaining her support.”


“Um… very very impressive,” Demetrios said after a second of silence. He quickly glanced at his mother, and saw her mouth was only slightly open – a face she made when mentally her jaw was touching the floor. “That was extremely detailed,’ he continued, talking onwards to overcome his surprise and the suddenly resurgent shyness, “and I pray you continue these…um… marvelous endeavors.”

He sneaked a look at Anastasia’s face, and for the first time, he didn’t see the lustful gaze of a woman, but the blush and grin of a girl newly complimented.


“A word, milord,” the elderly Anastasia asked, and Demetrios’ happy thoughts came to a crashing halt. He nodded, but watched warily as everyone, even his mother, filed out of the room. Once the heavy oaken door had shut, she motioned for him to come close. Warily, he complied, and the stale smell of old age and rotten teeth filled his nose.

“I have news for your ears alone, my lord,” she rasped, the foul breath washing over his face. Demetrios felt his eyes start to water as he nodded.

“Rumors of revolt abound. Your own uncle, Manuel of Sinope, openly conspires in Konstantinopolis to put himself on the Imperial throne, as does the Prince of Samos – I am confident both have agents here in Damascus, and that both will shortly approach you asking for your support.”


Manuel Komnenos of Sinope, known as "the Spider" or "the Lecher" to his detractors


Prince Ioannes of Samos, second most powerful noble in the Empire behind the Kappadokia Komnenids

Demetrios’ eyes went wide. “What could they want of me? I’m a Prince in name only, at least until the Emperor confirms my position – why do they seek…”

“What was the name of your young bride to be?” the aged woman interrupted.

“Anastasia, like yourself.”

“Ah… wisdom follows a name, I see,” the old crone smiled, revealing only several teeth. “She speaks the truth. The Emperor is weak and scorned, and my ears have heard that he marshals far fewer troops than even his feeble father did. Verily, he is so weak that even the Princes of Varna and Trebizond are actively planning to secede from the Empire…”

“But that is madness!” Demetrios interrupted, “Varna lies on the doorsteps of Hungary, and the Great Turk surrounds Treibzond on all sides, and if they leave the Empire…”

Anastasia nodded. “There are some that think the Prince of Trebizond might consider the Turk a lighter yoke than Konstantinople,” she said quietly. “Perhaps he feels he can follow the Archbishop of Armenia, and join the Georgian Kingdom.”

“Perhaps,” Demetrios shook his head. “That would still be foolish – Georgia has nary an ounce of the strength of Romanion!”

The old crone let out a cackle straight from the terrible tales Demetrios heard in his youth, and a chill ran up his spine.

“Verily, young lord, you have much to learn!” Her three teeth were plainly in view again, and a withered hand laid itself on his shoulder. “I shall teach you what I know…”

*Closest translation I could find to “steward.”
** - Head of domestic affairs and security – apt to be close to the idea of a “Spy Master.”
*** Roughly “head of diplomacy” – so I’m using it as a translation for the game’s concept of “Chancellor”
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Well it looks like young Demetrios will soon have to make a decision. I personally would have no scruples kicking that fool Michael of the throne but I don't have the feeling Demetrios is that kind of vigorous person.
Perhaps once he feels a little securer in his position he will become more ambitious...

~Lord Valentine~
I foresee a bright future for our prince.;) If only I had such a girl as his bride to be.:p


Within a week of Anastasia’s arrival, she and Demetrios were wed. The honeymoon was short, for a few months thereafter Demetrios, as well as his wife and a small retinue, rode to the Antioch coast. There, they boarded a ship, and made the two week sailing journey to Konstantinopolis. The two supposedly took this time to get to know each other, and Anastasios tells us that the shrewd Anastasia tried her best to teach the young prince the skills of intrigue he would need on his arrival.

Sailing from Antioch to Konstantinople was by far the quickest method, but even then the trip took close to three weeks. Travel by sea was fraught with danger – Cilicia was independent, and her peoples had turned to traditions dating to the time of Caesar and became pirates. Nonetheless, sea travel was far safer than overland, where Demetrios and his retinue would have crossed the lands of numerous lords who would have considered the safety of a Komnenid a dubious priority at best. Despite these dangers, some comfort was had along the journey, for by the time the party reached Konstantinople, it was already known that Anastasia was pregnant.


Neither Demetrios nor Anastasia had never seen the capital city before. He had been raised in the splendor of a frontier capital at Damascus, while Anastasia was from what people from Damascus would have called a “backwater.” Intellectually sophisticated they might have been, but one can only guess that the glory of Konstantinopolis itself must have been overwhelming at first.

But underneath all of this, one obvious truth shined through – beneath this veneer of wealth, grandeur and pomp, there was rot. Anastasios tells us that the Great Palace had sections that were almost crumbling, the immense bulk of the Hippodrome hid large sections where mortar was weak and in dire need of repair, and sections of the great Theodosian Walls showed their age.


The Great Palace of Constantine, which had fallen into disrepair by th reign of Michael VII

Sections of wall were crumbling, as were parts of the Hippodrome itself. Weekly there were accidents, where throngs who came to watch the races pushed one of their numbers into a chasm, or a weak section sank much to the fright of those sitting there.

To all it should have been obvious that Romanion was ill. Michael’s lavish lifestyle had stripped the strapped treasury of its finances, leaving the army of Romanion in desperate need for repairs. Anastasios writes:

The Herculae and Scholarae (two regiments of the Imperial Guard) were dearth and in need of pay. Twice, once in 1078 and 1081, they came to the Basilieus, and asked for back payment, and twice the Emperor promised coin. Each time, however, the Emperor gave them gifts that the tagmata found useless. Instead of coin, they were given sheep on one occasion, and as many of them lived in barracks, they had no use for these animals.

It fell on the Emperor’s brother, Prince Andronikos of Thrace, to often find the means to bail the Emperor out. Evidence points that Andronikos genuinely loved Michael, and had no desire for power himself, but he lived in fear that Michael would be dethroned, and his whole family would be sent to a monastery or worse. Andronikos constantly was busy with bribes and gifts, hoping to keep the nobility and the army behind their emperor – but by 1085, the year of Demetrios’ visit, Andronikos’ finances were beginning to break down.

It was likely both Anastasia’s knew this information, and likely communicated it to the young Lord Komnenos. The hodge-podge alliance of nobles that had kept Michael on the throne was fast unraveling, mainly due to the efforts of Michael of Sinope, uncle to Demetrios, and Ioannes Kantakouzenos, lord of Samos. These two created their own faction, with the goal of setting Ioannes on the Imperial throne.

All of thse things doubtlessly were on Demetrios’ mind as he, his bride, and retinue, all entered the Imperial city on Christmas Day, 1084. It wasn’t until their second week in the city that Demetrios received the message he’d been waiting for – a summons from Emperor Michael.


Demetrios stood and gawked.

The Emperor always received his guests in the great octoganal chamber of the Great Palace, and this day the room was crowded with counts and princes from all over the realm. Ambassadors from Venice and the Kingdom of Germany stood in the corner, waiting for Imperial attention in their finest cloaks that sadly seemed drab in the New Rome. A finely dressed Saracen also stood, a representative from the Great Turk on some mission to the capital.

Overhead hung banners captured in battle, reminders of days long past. Most had been taken in the reign of Basil Bulgarontocus, and a few aged examples had even been hung by Nikephoras some two hundred years before. Far from reinforcing the might of the Emperor, they reminded Demetrios of the aged rags an old prostitute would wear to still try and lure her prey.

On the far side of the chamber was a raised dais, its stairs decorated with gilded lions on their sides and deep purple velvet on their surfaces. Periodically their mouths would open and close through mechanical wizardry of some kind. While several Cumans in the room, representing the Khan, were immensely impressed, Demetrios ignored the devices. His father had a working mechanical leopard installed in the throne room at Damascus some four years before.

At the top of the stairs of the dais hung a purple veil, behind which was the fuzzy outline of a great throne, its gold and ivory frame glimmering behind its shade. The Emperors had often used this ruse, Demetrios remembered. Anastasia his wife had explained that it created a yawning gap between the Emperor and his subjects, which made him seem more powerful and awe-inspiring.

I will not be impressed, he told himself, again and again, yet part of him was. Flutes and the distant hymn of a choir echoed over the noise of people conversing, making the whole experience even more surreal. Demetrios didn’t hear the noise of someone coming up behind him, and jumped when he heard his name mentioned.

“Ah! Demetrios Komnenos” a deep, silky smooth baritone rumbled, and Demetrios turned to see a tall man approaching him in some of the finest clothes he had ever seen. Jewels dripped from the man’s fingers, while the large gold necklace of a Prince hung from his neck. Demetrios then spotted his signet ring, gold encasing an enormous ruby.

“Lord Kantakouzenos,” Demetrios bowed politely, trying his best to hide his surprise. Never did he expect the great Lord of Samos to greet him so casually – the man was, according both Anastasias - a stickler for protocol.

“You have your father’s face and voice,” Kantakouzenos smiled, revealing a set of gold teeth. “It was too bad that God called him home before his time. You have my sincerest condolences.” Kantakouzenos bowed slightly.

“Thank you, Excellency,” Demetrios said quietly. What is he getting at?

“Your Uncle Manuel tells me much about you… like that you have your father’s mind and cunning as well,” the Lord of Samos smiled, and Demetrios felt a chill go down his back. “A perfect combination for the new Kaisar of the realm.” He leaned in close. “I know if I were Emperor, I would definitely appoint you Kaisar…”

Demetrios felt a lump rise in his throat. Did he say what I just thought he said? the young man panicked, instinctively looking around. It did not matter that Demetrios had not solicited talk of treason, he could still be implicated. To his relief, he saw no one was paying any attention… save a man looking over his shoulder, a slight smirk on his face.

“Hello Uncle,” Demetrios said warily.

Manuel Komnenos turned around, and smiled… yet another chilling smile. Manuel was tall, extremely handsome man with a build that almost looked sculpted by an ancient artist. He was known as “Manuel the Lecher” due to his appetite for women, and “the Spider” for his diplomatic acumen. He was no friend of the Emperor – indeed, he was only friends with those who were useful to him.

“Dear, dear Demetrios!” Manuel’s arms flew wide, and took the young man into arms. Demetrios winced, but hugged his uncle back half-heartedly.

“I am so sorry I could not see your father before he passed on,” Manuel said after the awkward hug was finished, “I was busy dealing with a rabble in Sinope… and I absolutely could not leave them unmolested!”

“Of course,” Demetrios nodded, despite knowing Manuel was busy in Konstantinople the day Alexios died. Probably making a tour of the brothels in the city…

“I understand many nobles here look to you for leadership,” Manuel smiled yet again. “I trust you will remember your dear uncle after you have been invested?”

“Of course… if I can help you with anything…” Demetrios said cautiously. Manuel’s smile grew larger, and Demetrios realized his uncle somehow knew his nervousness.

“I will hold you to that, dear boy,” the Prince of Sinope whispered with a dark smile.

“Look there, young Komnenos,” Lord Ioannes smiled slyly, “the chamberlain is here.” Demetrios followed the older man’s gaze, and watched as a bejeweled elderly man, the chief of ceremonies for the Emperor, took his position next to the raised dais. In his hand was a long staff, topped by the twin-headed eagle of Romanion.

Manuel snorted. “Just in time to hide His Majesty’s voice… imagine that,” he said dryly.

“The Emperor will grace us with his presence soon,” Ioannes whispered ironically.

As he spoke Demetrios saw a shadowy figure appear behind the veil. It seemed tall, willowy, ethereal and otherworldly, purple flowing behind purple. The room fell silent.

“Ah, the Silent Stammerer,” Manuel whispered acidly before silence was complete.

“All hail Basilieus Michael, Seventh of that Name, Emperor of the Romans, Vice Regent of Christ, Prince of Konstantinopolis and Thessalonika, Defender of the True Faith…”

After the long list of Imperial titles and credences ended, the nobility, as one, took to one knee, and bowed. When the hushed rustle of clothes and bodies ended, the chamberlain called for all to rise.

“Step forward, Demetrios Komnenos, son of Alexios,” the chamberlain intoned, his voice smooth and powerful at the same time. The crowd of nobles parted, and Demetrios stepped into the middle of the chamber. The chamberlain lowered his staff towards the ground, and Demetrios ceremonially got on his knees and bowed towards the Throne of the Caesars.

“Demetrios, son of Alexios, we choose to grant you the themes of Kappadokia and Edessa, both beholden to your father, as well as the newtheme of Palmyra,” the chamberlain said slowly according to the ritual. Demetrios’ legs started to ache.

“However, we have not decided to grant you the title of Kaisar.”

Demetrios ignored protocol and looked up. What?!

“Keep your head bowed before the Vice Regent of Christ!” the chamberlain boomed. Demetrios complied, emotions starting to roil within him. He is humiliating me! In front of all the nobility!

“We have decided,” the chamberlain continued, “that our son, Eudoxios, will better fulfill the duties of the Kaisar, and thus we officially announce that Eudoxios Dukas will take on the responsibilities of Kaisar by our decree!”

Demetrios felt his face flush. A mere babe? Kaisar? How will a child that can’t hold up his head hold up a sword to lead an army when the Emperor is away!?

“Demetrios Komnenos, you may rise and go,” the chamberlain intoned, and Demetrios could not hide his confusion, even anger, as he looked up toward the figure shrouded in purple.

“Godfrey, son of William…” the chamberlain began.

Hiding behind his chamberlain, hiding behind this veil… Demetrios felt the eyes of all the spectators falling on him. He stood, rooted in place, before a slight smirk came on his lips.

“Demetrios Komnenos, you may go…” the chamberlain stopped his ritual call of the next supplicant, but Demetrios stood his ground. Demetrios wisely did not cross his arms or do anything else demonstrative – he merely just stood, as if he was dumbfounded. Let’s see him come out from behind his…

Before he could even finish his thought, the figure behind the veil stood up, and flung the curtains wide. For the first time Demetrios saw what the people of Konstantinopolis saw – a thin, emaciated man with little hair, a nose too large, and hands too small. His eyes were small, beady even, and he breathed in loose rasps. There was an anger, a rage beyond that of reason in his eyes...

“Y…y…you a…a…are dis…smissed!” the Emperor snapped, a thin weak arm shot towards the door, his voice high and shaky. A ring flew from the Emperor’s hand and clanked onto the marble floor. Demetrios stared for a moment, before the slight noise of a muffled snicker echoed through the room. Immediately Michael was on the steps of the dais, pointing into the crowd of nobles and guests. “W…w…who d…did …that!? W…who m…mocks the Th…th….throne of C…Caesars?”

The eyes of the crowd went wide, and the chamber fell utterly silent. Demetrios had an idea of what was coming, and was starting to bow when Michael pointed at the entire audience and snarled.

“V…very well! Scholarae*! A…a…arrest t…them a…all!”


“That man is a raging buffoon!” Demetrios snarled, snatching the wine goblet offered by the steward. A glare and a wave of his hand told the servant to go away, and Demetrios shook his cloak yet again. Dust from the renovation of the palace mixed with the dirt of the streets fell to the floor of the Komnenos house.

“He attempted to arrest all the great nobles of the Empire because someone snickered at his speech!” Demetrios hissed.


Princess Anastasia, wife of Prince Demetrios Komnenos

“What?” Anastasia squeaked. She’d scrambled to meet him as soon as she’d heard word that something had happened at the palace, and found her husband snarling at servants and uttering mild curses about Imperial ancestry.

“All of us!” Demetrios growled, before downing the goblet in one gulp. “I have no idea who it was who laughed, but he nearly got half the nobility blinded or worse!” He slammed the goblet down on the table next to him. “He’s a madman, Anastasia…”

“How are you sitting here before me then?” Anastasia asked.

“The Imperial Chamberlain interceded, and the Emperor’s brother Andronikos…”

“Prince of Thrace?”

“Yes, him,” Demetrios clarified, “stepped forward and calmed down his brother. I don’t see why that imbecile backs his brother so much!”

“How bad is the actual stutter?” Demetrios heard his wife say, and he turned to see her leaning forward, a smirk on her face. For a moment his anger held its ground, before relief and distance from the event let a smile break through his face as well. She was trying to break the tension.

“Like a bleating ram that’s being neutered,” Demetrios said wryly, before the smile disappeared once again. He sighed.

“It’s not that I mind not being named Kaisar,” he said after a moment, “I know I am young and unproven. It’s that one – the Emperor names his son, who can’t even walk yet in my stead, and two, he chose to reveal this in such a manner as to try to inflict the worst possible public embarrassment on me.” He stopped again, and looked at Anastasia. “Why?”

Anastasia’s smile never left – it started to twist into a giggle, but she covered her mouth.

“My poor, naïve prince,” she said finally. “It’s because he’s afraid of you. Afraid of what you’ll become.”

“A father?” Demetrios smiled, looking at Anastasia’s slightly protruding belly. She rolled her eyes.

“That’s part of it… but he also thinks you will be like your father, except while your father was several years older than Michael, you are far younger. As Michael ages, you’ll gain strength.” She leaned close, her voice dropping to a whisper. “He knows if you want the crown, you merely need stretch out your hand and take it…”

“Uncle Manuel and Lord Kantakouzenos already tried to sidle up next to me, as both you and your shadow said they would,” Demetrios sighed, “and Lord Gavras of Trebizond also approached me and blatantly said he would back a Komnenos for the throne over a Dukid any day after the debacle with the Scholarae.”

Anastasia steepled her fingers, and closed her eyes – and Demetrios started to wince. That was always what she did when something was making her upset.

“Why do you not move?” she finally asked, her voice quiet but sharp.


“It is plain the Empire needs new leadership,” she hissed, her eyes now aflame with anger, “and your father was the savior the people, the clergy, and the nobility were praying for! Now that he is gone, the nobles bicker amongst themselves, the clergy stand silent and dumbfounded, but the people see you!”

“I am not going to move against the Will of God!” Demetrios finally snapped back, loud enough that several passing servants momentarily stopped their duties. Demetrios closed his eyes, trying to regain his composure before he blurted something within their earshot.

“No,” he said after a moment, his voice once again under control. “Not unless God wills a change. Michael is God’s anointed ruler, and I shall not break that unless the All Mighty wishes me to. Should another prince declare for the throne, I will remain neutral – denying Michael my 10,000 troops will be more than enough of a statement.”

Deus Vult,” Anastasia sighed in annoyance, the words coarsely buffeting their ears, “you sound like a foolish Latin. ‘God Wills It.’ Have you ever thought that God might remove his Blessing on our Sovereign and give it to you?” She gave a slight huff, before flitting her hair back. “He has withdrawn his approval from other emperors far more deserving than this one.”

“Yes, but…”

Anastasia glared at him for a moment, before suddenly changing the subject. “I have letters from home…” She reached into a the folds of her gown’s arm and pulled out a stack of letters. She flitted the first one open. “Apparently your brother has done better than expected in the monastic school – he’s mastered the language of the Turk even, and translated the Gospel of St. John into their language.”

“I have a feeling he will be the new diocese bishop in a few years,” Demetrios smiled, relieved to be off the subject of the Imperial Throne.

“Letter from your mother,” Anastasia pulled the next out, “the move to Palmyra continues,” she said a few minutes later. Demetrios nodded. Anastasia pulled one last letter out, and by her face Demetrios automatically knew who it was from. He took it from her, opened it, and read:

My Lord,
Several suspicious fellows have been mucking about during the court’s move to Palmyra. I have taken liberty to have them followed – I suspect that they work either for your Uncle or for the Lord of Samos. Additionally, one of your mother’s maidservants – Anna was her name – has been acting strangely lately. I know her state salary, and that of he father, husband, two brothers, cousins and nephew, yet she wears a pendant that easily cost the yearly salary of all of the above put together. Something is afoot… I will message more when I have more information.

Please burn this letter after you read it.

“What did it say?” Anastasia pressed after a moment, as Demetrios casually tossed it into the fireplace.

“Nothing much,” he lied.
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Yeah, the intrigue ramps up and stays high through the reigns of most of Demetrios' descendants. It is, after all, a Byzantine AAR... but trust me, the intrigue that goes on here, while really deep, pales to some of the things that occur during the reign of some of Demetrios' successors :-D
A little bit shorter update than normal this time - this week is going to be kind of busy with things outside the game and the AAR. I have my first preliminary exam for my doctorate in history this Friday, so I'll be kind of busy studying for that (obviously)... if there is time and I need the break, I might have another small update up before the end of this week... if not, look for a larger update next week once the exam is past!



The succeeding months proved painful to the young Komnenos.

First, the birth of his first child proved taxing to Anastasia. While she survived, the child, a boy, was stillborn. Anastasia was heartbroken over the loss. Secondly, evidence mounted that Demetrios was no longer welcomed in Konstnantinopolis. At first, the snubs were simple – he was shunted to a box with lesser nobility at the Hippodrome, or received a seat further down the table at state functions. As time wore on, the invitations from the Imperial family ceased – while invitations from his uncle Manuel and the Prince of Samos increased.

Demetrios found himself torn. His father had spoke of the Emperor as someone he could trust, as a man to hold close, yet as anyone could plainly see, Michael was decidedly not the man to run the court of Romanion. Facing pressure from all sides, Demetrios resolved to head back to Palmyra and think the situation over. Accordingly, in February of 1086, Demetrios Komnenos and his retinue rode out of Konstantinopolis.

On the return journey, the by now swollen retinue planned to travel overland. Assurances had been gleaned from the Princes of Nikomedia and elsewhere granted Demetrios and his court safe passage, and the young Prince planned to use this to conduct a surprise visit on Ankyra, Paphalogia and the other Kappadokia holdings in Anatolia. The still upset Anastasia, along with most of the court, was sent ahead to Palmyra while Demetrios stayed behind to meet with his vassals and inspect the provinces.

= = = = = = = = == = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Demetrios sighed as he trudged over the scattered mound of stones that would, in several years time, become Ankyra keep. A cold wind blew around him on the high mountain where the foundations for the castle had been laid, and he threw a glance at his companions. Beside him stood the fourteen year old Anasthasios, lord of Ankyra, who was proudly beaming. The construction project was taking a large portion of the County’s wealth, and the young noble was clearly trying to impress his liege lord.

“Over here, Your Highness, will be where the main tower of the keep will stand,” Demetrios’ own guide, a councilor named Licinios from court, droned. “His lordship tells me that there will be numerous slits for archers as well as other defenses…” Licinios’ voice went quiet when Demetrios raised a tired hand.

“Licinios, I’ve seen several castles, I know what the main tower of a keep does,” he said, too tird to care if he offended the notary. He ignored the quiet huff from his dignitary and instead turned to Lord Anathasios. “The work you have done here is impressive, but we have been up and down this mountain and the villages below for most of the day. Let’s take a rest, shall we?” Demetrios raised an eyebrow, and immediately the boy’s eyes went wide too. A flurry of orders shouted from the young man’s cracking voice brought the day’s business to a halt, and the group began picking their way back down the mountain.

Demetrios and Anasathasios walked together, and chatted quietly as their aides and followers on made plans for the following day’s schedule. Yet as they reached the small camp at the bottom of the mountain, Anasthasios asked a question Demetrios was definitely not expecting.

“How long has it been since you’ve seen your wife, Highness?”

“Four months,” Demetrios said haltingly, slightly taken aback. It was a bold question, and many a Prince in the rest of Romanion might have struck the impudent child, regardless of his status as a count. Demetrios was merely confused. “Why do you ask?”

“Ah, you have the patience of a saint,” the young man smiled, the orange of the campfires nearby reflecting unnervingly off his teeth. They were now among the tents. “Highness, I pains me greatly to see you go tomorrow. It has been an absolute pleasure entertaining you. Please,” they started to round another turn inside the camp, “allow me to offer you one last token of my esteem.” Anasthasios stopped, and gestured towards his own tent.

“Of course,” Demetrios nodded, then followed where the young man was pointing. Standing at the entrance to the Count’s tent was a sight to behold – a woman with cascades of blonde hair, and eyes than even in the firelight seemed to show with the color of the sky. Her skin was clear, milky, and her figure looked as if it was taken straight from many of the statues within Konstantinopolis.

“Uh…” Demetios stammered slightly.

“Do not worry, Highness. She was sold to my father three years ago, a prize from the Varangians in the north.”

Demetrios merely stared, his mind trying to engage, but failing.

“Her name is Thera, Highness. She has been instructed to see to whatever needs Your Highness might have through this night.” Unnecessarily, the Count added, “She is extremely well trained.”

Demetrios nodded dumbly, and parts of him that hadn’t been alive for several months began to awake. It wasn’t as if he had laid with a woman in a while – most of the Konstantinopolis stay Anastasia had been growing ever closer to term, and the religious side of Demetrios forbade him from touching her. And after the tragedy, she was not ready yet to event think about such things. Yet he was still a man, and it had been almost a full year…

…Thera still stood there, smiling invitingly, and Demetrios smiled, and started walking forward. Her smile became huge as he approached, and she lifted the flap of her tent to let him in.

I deserve some fun, Demetrios thought as he followed her through the open tent flap. What could really go wrong?


It was early the next morning when the noise of a trumpet woke Demetrios from his shortened slumber. Instinctively he tried to feel for the warm presence that had been next to him most of the night, but Thera was gone. The trumpets blew again, and this time, Demetrios recognized the noise – a courier had arrived in camp. Before he could even throw off the sheets, the flap to his tent flew open, and bright daylight flooded the inside.

“Highness!” Licinios shouted, “A messenger from Palmyra!” Demetrios blinked in the bright light, and motioned for whoever had the message to come in. A worn, tired herald stepped into the tent a few seconds later, and deposited a letter in the Prince’s hand before withdrawing quickly.

Normally they stay, waiting for my reply… this must be from the old crone… Demetrios realized, even before he saw the seal of the Logothethes tou oiekaikon. He opened the letter and read -

My Lord,

I regret sending this dire news. The maidservant Anna Iolianos has been compromised. I know she was a great friend to your mother, yet she has been detained. I personally interrogated her, and after three days of work, she has confessed. What I have discovered can be summed up with the following:

One – Anna claims she was approached by a man named Eudoxios Paliologos, who offered her money and her family a position in Konstantinopolis should she follow his commands.

Two – Said Eudoxios gave her small quantities of hemlock and told her to add it to the daily wine of your late father, which likely sped his passing.

Upon further observation, I have concluded this was not a single man acting alone. For one, the necklace and other gifts she was given were far to expensive for a lone man out for vengeance. I am convinced this Eudoxios was in the pay of someone else. Anna claims that once when he visited her, she saw a purple pendant that was just covered by his cloak. This evidence points that he was affiliated in some way with the Imperial Household.

While this makes the matter seem an open and shut case, I am wary to point at the Emperor just yet. It seems far too convenient, and from reports I am unsure the Emperor, given his delicate mental state, has the capacity to plan something such as this. I have my suspicions the Emperor’s brother, Andronikos, might have had a hand in this.

Anna and the rest of her family are currently in the dungeons below the new Palmyra palace. I am awaiting your instructions on how to deal with them. As for this act of Imperial aggression at home, once you return we can formulate a proper and just reply.

Always Your Obedient Servant,

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Your wish is my command... the exam is done, and now I'll get back to making more updates for the AAR! In game, the Empire's past 1300 and dealing with the black plague... but I'll describe those happenings here down the road...



February 5th, 1087

Who could have done this? Demetrios asked himself again, a question that was on the lips of everyone in the council meeting. Domestikos Qasim sat unnervingly quiet, confusion on his face (as normal), while both Anastasias and Demetrios’ mother Zoe were busy arguing over who was responsible.

“I think it was the Emperor!” the younger Anastasia exclaimed, anger in her voice. “He has always had a vendetta against your family, Demetrios, and he finally struck to knock down your father!”

“Aren’t we all forgetting the obvious culprit?” Zoe Komnenos said rather coolly, glaring at her daughter-in-law. “There is one group that would have wanted Alexios dead, more than the Emperor, and more than any petty noble in the Empire. The Turk. They feared your father, Demetrios, ” Zoe turned, anger in her voice. “The Emir of Aleppo had only wounded him, and they wanted to finish what that wound did not! Your father was the only man to face Arp Aslan in battle and win! Ever!”

“The Turks are too barbaric to even realize the use of poisoning someone!” Anastasia countered. “Their language is harsh, their manners are coarse, and everyone infinitely prefers the Saracens to them!”

“Why couldn’t the Great Turk have just hired a Saracen to use the poison!” Zoe shot back, and tempers flared brighter and brighter until, for the first time since anyone could remember, the elderly Anastasia cleared her throat. Silence quickly fell in the small room.

“The Emperor is mad,” the elder Anastasia rasped, before coughing some. “He is definitely mad… but that tells me that he was not the person behind this, Highnesses.” She rolled her eyes. “Could a madman have come up with a plot, so devious, so precise, that it has taken us over two years to discover it, and even then only through the indiscretion of a young maiden?” She shook her head. “No, it was not him. But neither was it the Turk.” She turned slowly towards Zoe. “The Turk are enemies of the hashashin cult, who terrorize them with assassinations. It is unlikely they would use the tactic of their enemies.”

“If I may be so bold,” she tuned back to Demetrios, “I have a suggestion, my lord.”

“Yes?” Demetrios raised an eyebrow. Now that you’ve confirmed that this person is not an enemy I know, and brought this ruckus of a debate down to a discussion…

“Regardless of who did this, we must strengthen ourselves. I have hired several new Saracens to serve as cupbearers – they are from Hispania, and have no affiliation with the Egyptians or the Turk – I have vetted them myself, and I would trust them to bear my own cup at the expense of my life. But we must also make you stronger, so that others will fear your wrath.”

“But he already has over a tenth of the whole Empire!” the younger Anastasia complained, only to have Demetrios raise his hand to silence her.

“Go on,” he said.

“More power is never a bad thing, as long as that power is wielded properly,” the old crone continued. “Most men always look elsewhere for leadership, and if you wield your power in a just manner, they will follow you to the ends of the earth. If you wield it capriciously… woe betide you, and them…”

Demetrios nodded slowly, letting the words sink in. As the others talked, his mind went over options and plans.

“’Capricious’ does not begin to describe Emperor Michael,” Anastasia the younger commented bitterly. “All the more reason to be rid of him, save that someone,” she looked at Demetrios, only to her surprise, find him nodding his head.

“He does need to go…” the young Komnenos commented with a sigh, “but not now…”

“What do you mean?” both Anastasia’s asked at the same time.

“If we are to survive, no matter who is doing this, I must enlarge my theme,” Demetrios said, rising from the table, his mind made up. “And, my dear, we are still not large enough to challenge the Emperor when we have the Turk at our backside. Do you see any possibilities for me to do this, dear?”

Anastasia the Younger thought for a moment. “We could investigate how loyal some of the Imperial vassals on our border are… and we could send spies to see how strong the new Emir of Tripoli is…” she thought aloud. “I have heard that the Emperor snubbed several of the local Counts, and some of them are upset. I have also heard the Emir of Tripoli is a rash man, given to recklessness in politics and battle. It would not be hard to lure him into a fight.”

“Excellent then… let’s begin this.”


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Over the next few months, Demetrios and his wife jointly determined that the Count of Archa, an Imperial vassal whose lands bordered the lands of the Komnenids, was tired of his current master and wished to change who his lord was. The old Anastasia formulated some paperwork she then sent to some hapless lackey in the Imperial government, and suddenly Archa was removed from the themes held by the Imperial person and added to the theme of Palmyra.



Patrikios, Count of Archa, who was snubbed a seat at the Imperial feast of Easter.

It was a small victory, a message to the Emperor that the Komnenids would not be his playthings, nor the quiet objects of his aggression. Yet even Demetrios knew more had to be done. The Princes of Kappadokia must grow stronger if they wanted to make the Imperial eye and the eye of the Great Turk afraid to lust after their lands – and next to Komnenid lands in Palmyra lay the tiny, wealthy emirate of Tyre, newly independent from the Fatimid caliph and flaunting its wealth.

In July of 1087, Kappadokia was going to war.

Meanwhile, to the north in the county of Ankyra, the young Thera finally gave birth to a boy she named Michael.
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