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Qorten

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Such an unbelievably able schemer, that Manuel! You'd be good at it too, BT, having thought this all out.
 

unmerged(127999)

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Manuel is awesome. So delightfully sinister. He should slay Alexandros, ally with Theodoros, and, if they can't unite the empire, have it burn in the name of the CAMEL LEGIONS! ALL HAIL THEODOROS I AND MANUEL II, EMPERORS OF ROMANION!

All kidding aside, this du Roche seems rather capable; I bet he''ll become a von Franken or Mehtar-style figure. Or perhaps Manuel himself will fill that job.
 

armonistan

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Manuel is so deliciously evil, lives up to his predecessors name.

Nah, he is but a shadow of his predecessor. This Manuel lusts for power, for self-gain. He's desires muddle is ability to rule, a formula for corruption and doom. In other news, apparently the new Assassin's Creed will take place in the Queen of Cities! :D Just sayin ;)
 

Siind

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Nah, he is but a shadow of his predecessor. This Manuel lusts for power, for self-gain.)
He's ambitious yes, but so were the Great Manuel, our current Manuel is capable and patient, hes able to get along with the bureaucrats, nobles, military men and even Mother Church. He's shown that he can keep himself under tight control and NOT let his desires rule him. In short young Manuel has all the hallmarks of a great Emperor
 

TC Pilot

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Yeah, I wouldn't call him a schemer, just that his rivals are complete chumps :p Though if he knew de Normandie's theological inclinations beforehand, ok, maybe I should reconsider.

I do like how Alexandros thinks the "people" will be able to shield him from a knife in the back, poison in the cup, or a shove down a flight of stairs.
 

Lord Strange

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I do like how Alexandros thinks the "people" will be able to shield him from a knife in the back, poison in the cup, or a shove down a flight of stairs. a complex plan involving a pretty young boy and falling masonry next to a pool which happens to be filled with poison due to a mistake by a "servant" who then himself has an unfortunate accident while riding in the street involving someone dropping a pot of waste which someone had "accidentally" left a dagger in

Fixed with a more properly Byzantine plot.
 

WelshDude

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BT, what was in your PM?
 

vadermath

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I am utterly sure Alexandros will be thwarted in Italy (by either Leo, Demetrios, or, most likely, Manuel), seeing as he simply did not enter the city properly. A Persian Emperor should siege his way into Konstantinopolis through sweat and blood. It's a curse, as people have said :D
 
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If someone here read A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones on HBO), the situation in Constantinople reminds me of Red Wedding... Alexander's armies gone, he's alone surrounded by doubtfull allies... This can't end well for Persians...


But as I root for Manuel that's OK. :D
 

unmerged(59077)

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I am utterly sure Alexandros will be thwarted in Italy (by either Leo, Demetrios, or, most likely, Manuel), seeing as he simply did not enter the city properly. A Persian Emperor should siege his way into Konstantinopolis through sweat and blood. It's a curse, as people have said :D

I always say sacking Constantinople Hulegu-style is the one way to ensure dominance for whatever other centre wants to take over. Trouble is, the Roman super-identity keeps getting in the way. Nobody wants to be that guy.
 

vadermath

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If someone here read A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones on HBO), the situation in Constantinople reminds me of Red Wedding... Alexander's armies gone, he's alone surrounded by doubtfull allies... This can't end well for Persians...


But as I root for Manuel that's OK. :D

Nah, I wouldn't say it is a reminder of the Red Wedding; here, everyone is expecting Alexandros to be betrayed :D
 

theKing1988

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As i'm new to the forums but have lurked around and read your aar with great pleasure , i just want to say that this tale is so epic and you have done an amazing job BT. The quality of your updates and your writing just keeps getting better and better and i really hope that you are able to keep going and continue with an EU3 aar.
 

unmerged(31994)

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I always say sacking Constantinople Hulegu-style is the one way to ensure dominance for whatever other centre wants to take over. Trouble is, the Roman super-identity keeps getting in the way. Nobody wants to be that guy.

I'll gladly torch it vavi. Sorry about the election results by the way :(
 

General_BT

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Calipah - Well, you wouldn't be alone, there are a growing number who would... and we know it eventually happens. It's now a question of who is willing to light that fatal ember?

theKing1988 - Welcome to the story! I'm glad you've enjoyed it so far! I hope I'm able to keep going into EU3 as well... I'm in the early planning stages now. Time will tell however!

RGB - Exactly--there have been several people completely capable of Baghdad-style sacking and destroying Constantinople as a center of power, but for various reasons they haven't. Genghis Khan decided it was too much of a distraction from his main goals, while both Gabriel and Alexandros have had their eyes focused on becoming the Chief Roman, not destroying the Roman symbology. As Romanion spreads, more people will get ahold of these symbols... but also more people will change them to suit their own, often local needs. Its a matter of time before someone tries to destroy the source of the symbology in order to root it closer to home...

…in game I’ll reveal in a couple updates when the chapter is done. =)

Carlstadt Boy - However, it's unlikely you'd ever catch Alexandros wedding any girl to spark a mess like that... just saying... =)

vadermath - Storming a city with three rings of defenses, or accepting its surrender? I think it's easy to understand why Alexandros ran with what he had. A starving Konstantinopolis could have still broken his army. It's broken armies like his, armies that were as ably led...

WelshDude - I sent a second one.

Kirsch27 – Gottfried von Franken has ideas of his own—and as previous Komnenoi have discovered, northern Italy takes a long time to digest… =)

armoristan – Lines, what lines? There are no lines here. Move along. Nothing to see. Ignore the dead body with the poisoned chalice next to it. Nothing to see! =) Well, the other Manuel, at least at first, lusted for power for power’s sake. There’s room for this Manuel to grow as well…

Lord Strange - You forgot the stampeding elephants from the circus who "happened" to get loose who trampled the entire area destroying any evidence of malicious wrongdoing on the part of the malevolent parties. =)

TC Pilot - Alexandros has shown one thing consistently since he was young--he's got a huge amount of self-confidence (okay, he's cocky... reckless IS one of his most predominant traits!). This is the city that screamed and cheered for him the last time he was there, and the people were the ones that thronged the streets calling his name when he rode in this time. He's probably thinking anyone that harms him risks having the masses fall on their, rocks flying, so no one would dare to do such a thing... worse emperors have been protected by less…

Siind – Well, he’s patiently gathered all the requisite parties for a coup. That takes some skill certainly—but are this generation’s Manuel’s opponents as difficult as those of Manuel of old? That, I think, is the sticky question at hand…

SplendidTuesday – There are enough Theodoros fans I think I need to make him have a cameo…

asd21593 – He hasn’t taken to reading the Mithradatium constantly, however…

Qorten – I really have no idea if me being able to write this is an indication of scheming—after all, there’s no ‘delete’ key for life, so I can’t edit any mangled plots I might do like I can edit my story. =)

Panjer – Part of the reason I’d bounce around is to clear up some of the more painful AI decisions down the line—for the most part, by necessity, the AI will be running the successor states, however (I can only run one country at a time!)

Vesimir – Agnes is so sharp, she dug her own grave? /bad joke. =) And Constantinople isn’t cursed—it’s just bad things befall men who enter her gates without truly understanding what kind of beast they’re attempting to ride…

Enewald – Sarmatian grain—in the hands of Sortmark, which isn’t exactly the friendliest state considering Sbyslava is up there and has the ear of the heir to the throne. Balkan grain—not enough quantity, especially when cities like Athens, Dyrrachion and Thessalonike need it as well. Mesopotamian grain is feeding places like Baghdad or Isfahan…

Nikolai – Isaakios does have children already. IIRC he’s already got three boys, the eldest of which is either a Nikephoros or Nikolaios… I’ll have to check.

AlexanderPrimus – One tonsures a leper very carefully—though depending on the state of their illness, they might not feel it if you mess up badly…


Next update is done... it turned out longer than expected, so I split it apart. Below, then, is part one of Friends and Allies...

alexandrosicopy.jpg


“Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” – Dag Hammarskjold, Nordmark poet

July 4th, 1302

The parade of ships seemed endless—an enormous snake of sails and hulls, pennant tongues fluttering in the breeze. At its head was a great ship, a massive blue and gold flag with the Komnenoi double eagle stretching before it in the wind. A pair of lonely eyes watched as their vast stain filled the Marmara, flowing south and west, towards the Dardanelles, and then, Italy. Nikephoros Komnenos, once Megas Komnenos, was alone in not noticing the heat of that July day—despite being wrapped in blankets, a metal mask covering his face, his entire body felt numb, save for one sensation.

Pain.

At times it throbbed, at times it stabbed, but it had gone from a nagging accomplice into a constant companion, the only thing that now stayed with him during his last days, shoved away in the Hepdomon. A great deal of that pain was physical—pain he had grown used to, pain he could tolerate. The pain in his heart, and his mind—that he could never tame, never grow used to.

From his youth, Nikephoros had been groomed to be Emperor—he’d shown himself intelligent, if not brilliant, brave if not genius. He knew that in a kinder, gentler universe, he would have been universally acclaimed emperor on his father’s death, and while he made no pretentions that he would have been perfect, he thought he would have tried his best, and been a good emperor for his people. In that kinder, gentler universe, he would have been like the Megaloprepis, with brothers who supported him, augmented his regime. And in that kinder, gentler universe, there was no Persian David to stumble into his Goliath empire and bring it tumbling down.

But alas, the universe was not that kind.

He tried to sit up in his bed, but worn, battered muscles failed him—he slid back down, the windowsill blocking part of his view of those streaming pennants and countless hulls. Nikephoros should have been at the end of the expedition—no, he corrected himself—the massive invasion of Italy should not have been necessary. If the Empire had an undisputed, healthy emperor, none of it—not Alexandros’ invasion, not his brothers’ declarations of sovereignty, not this spectacle passing through the distant Bosphorus, would have ever happened. If only Romanion had a healthy Megas Komnenos

But alas, she did not.

And so now, a Persian ruled in Konstantinopolis—a Persian who now sent a Persian army on Roman ships to conquer Italy. A shadow had settled over the Queen of Cities, a shadow named Alexandros II Komnenos.

Nikephoros tried to turn his head, to follow that enormous double-eagle pennant, but his head was tired. Not that he’d be able to see old Harold Godwinson anyway, but Nikephoros still wished to say goodbye. The Varangian had tried his best to save Nikephoros’ crown—but his best hadn’t been enough. The ex-emperor was only thankful that his successor had been merciful—far from being stripped of his dignities or even executed, the man who’d commanded the greatest of Nikephoros’ armies was quietly retired with a pension, and given ship with the imperial fleet to return to his family lands in North Africa. It probably wouldn’t be a peaceful retirement—the servants occasionally spoke of Godwin Harroldsson’s efforts to defend Carthage from this army or that column from Alexios’ rebellious lands.

godwinsonwestcampaigncopy.jpg

That was, of course, when the servants were abuzz about the latest rumor from Konstantinopolis.

Of course there were plenty. Many were tales common in a city where food was scarce—this person or that group eating children was the most common. There were also rumors that the Kaisar himself had set off for Egypt to reopen the grain supply—but that sounded too… blunt, even iron-willed, for the man who’d rolled over and handed the city to the Persian. The title of Kaisar was his thirty pieces of silver, and Nikephoros had no doubt that already the schemer was planning some way to get rid of Alexandros too…

…and then there was Nikephoros’ own wife.

Ioanna had been graceful and beautiful, but she wasn’t nearly as dutiful as his first wife. Poor Helena had died in childbirth—an oh so ironic fate, considering the servants spoke of how now-Lady Ioanna was showing a protruding belly, telling everyone in sundry that the child was by him.

By the leper.

Nikephoros laughed, but the noise came out as a vague hiss. She’d visited the Hepdomon, yes, but not once had she been in his chambers! How was he supposed to impregnate her when she wasn’t in the room? When he could feel no sensation below his stomach? When he was bedridden and unable to rise of his own accord?

pregnantioannacopy.jpg

Yet there were people in The City who now clung to the rumor, saying it was a miracle of God, that the child would be the Savior of the City. To Nikephoros, it sounded more like the desperate hopes of a desperate, starving people, and not anything remotely miraculous or even logical. Yet, even as these rumors and hopes gained steam, it seemed amidst the servants here at the Hepdomon, other tales were also gaining hold.

Dark tales of unspeakable debauchery within the palace, stories of young boys dragged off the streets in the dead of night for the Emperor’s pleasure, then found dead in an alley in the morning after the night’s bacchanalia was over. Even as the city starved, there were tails of quail’s eggs, beef and mutton by the platterful, an endless sea of gluttony that filled imperial days and nights. Some spoke of hearing strange calls from the towers of the Kosmodion—more than a few thought they were the dreaded azzan, the precursor to the entire city being converted by force of arms.

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Nikephoros had no idea if there was any truth to the servants’ mutterings, but if even a tenth of what they spoke of was fact—he shuddered. Even if there wasn’t a shred of truth to any of it, Nikephoros was no fool—he heard the rumblings, he could see the signs. Old Thomas of Aquino had grown unusually quiet—something almost frightening out of a man who had made a career of not knowing how to shut up.

Something tremendous was in the offing.

But what was it? Nikephoros didn’t know.

Manuel would be in the center of it, though. He had been in the center of everything, from the moment Nikephoros left the city! The ex-emperor’s mind had little to do as he lay in his exile, save reminisce, and piece together how h is downfall had happened. Being defeated by Alexandros had been a humiliation, but his treatment by the Persians cut even deeper. Nikephoros groaned, remembering those days—how Alexandros had constantly praised his ‘courage’ in coming in the field, “despite his ailment.” It made him feel patronized, useless, a trophy of conquest and not a man—let alone an emperor.

He’d been a good, if not great, commander in France. He’d been wounded four times, fought in the front with his men, and even had a nickname—Nikephoros Gkenaios, Nikephoros the Brave! Defeat and capture were terrible enough, but how had it come to this, he wondered? How had Nikephoros V, Emperor of the Romans, become Nikephoros the Leper, a forgotten, diseased husk of a man at age 34?

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Nikephoros felt his eyes narrow inside the confines of that hot steel mask. He knew exactly who to blame for it all.

Manuel.

Once again, he found himself cursing his brother’s name, praying that God would cut the Kaisar’s days short—yet every day he uttered the curse seemed to be another day the vile man prospered. The servant’s rumors covered more than just the sultry details of palace scandal, they ranged into full on politics as well on occasion—mostly tales of how Nikephoros’ appointees in The City had fallen from grace or retired suddenly, and how Manuel’s own cronies rose into their place, or stories of how, one by one, Alexandros’ staff fell into disfavor or passed on from age, only to be replaced by men recommended by the ever-“helpful” Kaisar. Inch by inch, it seemed that Manuel and that toad du Roche were wrapping the entire government around their little finger, a noose the blunt Persian had no idea was wrapping around his neck!

Nikephoros knew how Alexandros could slip into the hangman’s trap all too easily—he’d fallen for the same smile, the same promises! Manuel had always seemed loyal—oh, how he’d fooled Nikephoros! Under that veneer of trustworthiness, though, was a dark, evil soul! He’d promised loyalty, he’d promised support, but when Nikephoros was captured, when he needed him the most, that was when his brother, his friend, had twisted the knife deep into his back!

Nikephoros had no doubt that when the time was right, the Persian would discover what the knife of betrayal felt like as well! Then, he would hear the words he knew his bastard brother would relish hearing:

Manuel II, Emperor of the Romans.

The name left a bitter, ugly taste in Nikephoros’ mouth—a taste Nikephoros swallowed, however unwillingly. Here, in his bed, pain wracking his tired, worn body, there was nothing he could do.

Except pray.

The night of his coronation seemed an eternity before—another life, when Manuel was loyal, when Alexandros was a distant threat, when Alexios was a rumble in Spain. He remembered Leo asking him how he could pray to God, in earnestness, when God had laid the curse of leprosy on his undeserving shoulders. He had been a decent man—he’d had a few faults, like all men, but nothing to justify the pain, the agony he was in now. Nikephoros had responded then the same way he would now.

God knows all, and he sends us no more than we can bear.

The Leper Emperor smiled at the thought, the gesture cracking the edges of his lips, making them burn with pain. His life was torturous—an early death would mean release from the pain. Mayhaps he wouldn’t live to see Manuel’s plan come to fruition, or his father’s realm break even more. Death would be a blessing when it came with it’s dark wings—a welcome friend in these troubled times, when all other friends had left him alone, abandoned and forgotten.

So Nikephoros prayed that today would be the day—and if not today, perhaps tomorrow. He prayed for the soul of his wife, treacherous as she might be, and even Manuel, Demetrios, Alexios, and his youngest brothers, wherever they had slipped to with their mother.

Finally, he prayed for Leo—the legitimate ruler left. He asked for God to grant him strength to hold out against the force under those pennants and sails, for a way he could turn that to his advantage, to gain the crown that should be his. Leo would stand, Leo would survive—he had to! Romanion had nowhere else to turn—a pair of children, a dethroned shell of a man?

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God grant him wisdom, grant him strength, let him know of his brother’s love…

Nikephoros the man might have held a broken body, unable to move, but his soul—it sang to the heavens, a song of hope, a song of vengeance, a song of strength…

==========*==========​

August 8th, 1302

“Allah u-Ackbar!”

Taqi a-din ibn Taymiyya listened as the dissonant cries from below echoed off the great walls of Delhi. The words were not the sonorous, thundering roar they’d been three days ago, roaring loud and clear above the din of the Muslim army storming the city’s citadel. Instead of a cry of battle, or a jubilant shout of victory, it was the more quiet, reflective noise of men enjoying the fact they were still alive.

“Allah u-Ackbar,” Taqi said to himself, looking up over the greatest city in northern India. The Turkish Sultan was already making noises that he would shift his capital from Zaranj to these ancient, formidable walls—once the trappings of the last Khan had been stripped and taken away. Taymiyya turned back out to the camps beyond the city walls, great siege machines sitting like giants at rest. To the right stretched the might of the Sultan’s armies—30,000 or more, from ghulam horsemen to janissaries and other infantry. Yet it was when Taymiyya looked over to the left that he smiled.

The other camp was much smaller—simple white tents, no ostentatious banners or cloth. It was neat—all the mounts were tied to one side, all the tents in perfect rows. Above all, it was pure, spiritually—men who had forsaken their worldly lives, to follow ibn Taymiyya’s call of jihad. Men who had laid aside robes or tatters, in the name of mail and spears. Taymiyya himself now felt comfortable in the mail shirt under his black tabard and robes—after years of not donning armor, it felt natural, second nature even.

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“Amazing isn’t it?”

Taymiyya turned, and smiled as one of his oldest friends walked up beside him on the parapets. Abdas ibn Faraz al-Rustami was, at best, a nondescript man. His beard was well-maintained, if short, and his teeth shone perfect and straight—the mark of a well-fed, well groomed man. Al-Rustami had always been that way, ever since Taqi had first met him, nearly ten years before. In those days, Taqi had been little more than an itinerant preacher, and al-Rustami was a minor functionary in the Roman Persian government. Taqi had been used to seeing the unwashed poor filling the streets before him—so when he saw the bright red and blue of a minor functionary in his sight, he was immediately intrigued. When that functionary had revealed he had the heart of a Warrior of God, he and Taymiyya became more than mere allies.

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They became fast friends.

“It is,” Taymiyya nodded to the five thousand men left from his volunteer force. “I admit, I had my doubts. I prayed that my doubts were wrong.” He looked up and smiled at al-Rustami. “God is good.”

“He is,” Abdas said, before nodding back towards the city. “Al-Qayyim is busy, informing some of the Turks how plundering is not in accordance with the Qu’ran. He asked me to take this to you.” Al-Rustami pulled out a letter, rudely sealed. “It’s from our friend Omar, down south.”

“Omar? Well, go ahead,” Taymiyya nodded.

“He said he was received well in the Chola court,” al-Rustami read, before frowning. “They put him in accommodations, and politely listened, but…” al-Rustami read on, “no interest in converting, despite our friend harassing some of the Council of Ministers, especially the Marayam, from morning till night!” Rustami offered the note and Taymiyya scanned it for himself.

“I doubt that the Marayam appreciates being awoken repeatedly by Khitami,” Taqi smiled slightly. “Khitami always was very… insistent.

“Khitami is always working too hard,” al-Rustami laughed. “There’s always a soul to save, eyes that must see the light!” the Persian’s voice dropped to a low, gruff facsimile of Khitami’s. “We never thought the glory of Allah would reach India, we must work double!”

Taqi laughed as well. If there was one term to describe Omar Khitami, it was intense. Taymiyya wouldn’t be surprised if the Marayam would be displeased soon, but he also knew that Khitami’s harsh, harassing methods had worked before. Taqi a-din ibn Taymiyya had learned long ago never to question how God moved through men—it never was good to assume to know how Allah would work in this world.

He was sure he wasn’t alone in assuming the Turks would never reach India either. But not only reach, but conquer it they had. Sultan Selim had earned his moniker Duramayan (“the Restless”) for his constant travels throughout his kingdom in his youth. It was little wonder his curious mind would be drawn to the almost mythical lands of India. In the last fifteen years, however, Selim had earned another nickname during his ‘travels’ across the Hindu Kush at the head of his army—El Fatih.

The Conqueror.

The Mongol Khanates that arose from the ashes of Arghun Khan’s empire were neither strong nor united. Lahore fell to Selim in 1295. The land of Gujarat, ruled by strange heathens unlike anything Taqi had heard of, fell to the Turkish Sultan in 1298. With Delhi falling to the ever-victorious Turkish armies, it seemed as if soon the Word of God would soon be ringing from minarets all across India. God willing, perhaps it would continue south, into the lands of the Deccan, or the fabulously wealthy lands of the Chola.

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Taqi a-din ibn Taymiyya, however, would not personally witness the day when that happened. He understood Omar Khitami because he shared many traits with the old man—he was often called a Shepherd of Men, as often for how he drove them on with his words as he cared for their spiritual well-being. It took no less to build an army of the Faithful in Mesopotamia. What the Turks were doing in India was no less than jihad, bringing the Faith to a land of unbelievers, and Taymiyya felt it was the duty of every Muslim—including himself—to contribute, if not by joining in force of arms, then by other means of support.

His following was large, and men flocked to the banner of the ‘Army of God’ once more, an older, wiser, Taqi a-din ibn Taymiyya both its spiritual as well as military leader. He wasn’t alone in making the large force that had tramped off to join the Turks, however. Taqi lent his voice, his thoughts—they inspired men to join in the Turkish campaigns—but it was men like Rustami, men of substance and wealth, who outfitted the expedition with arms, and paid ex-kentarchoi from the Persian tagmata, and ancient stalwarts from the days of the Seljuk Empire to turn a mass of 10,000 eager but raw men into an actual army. They drilled on the march, singing songs, practicing, practicing. Some of them lost their boyhoods on the march, all lost their former identities—merchants, sailors, farmers, laborers, all turned into soldiers.

The entire affair even had the blessing of the infidel Ishaq, now Roman ruler of Persia now that the dreaded Iskander was seated in Konstantiyye—after all, the Romans were obligated to help their ‘vassals’ in the conflict, but Rustami explained that with half the Roman army in Persia gone, Malik Ishaq had not been keen on sending any of his men to help a vassal who was rapidly approaching her liege in power. The reformed ‘Army of God’ was the ‘Roman’ contribution—an irony that still made Taqi’s lips curl up in a smile, considering where, God willing, Taqi ibn Taymiyya’s army would be headed next.

Arabia.

Taymiyya glanced up at the walls of Delhi, the blue and white flag of the Turks fluttering above its battlements. Rustami followed Taqi’s gaze, and smiled broadly.

Taqi, however, did not. His worn face was crossed by a frown, as deep as the Khyber Pass. He would be returning back to Persia soon, his much smaller, but much tougher men in tow. Unlike Omar Khitami, Taymiyya had crossed the fine line between being an annoyance, and a liability. Some said Taqi did not know when to hold his tongue—Taymiyya said the Will of God needed to be spoken, no matter whose feathers it might ruffle.

“Selim has the world within his grasp,” Taymiyya leaned on those stone walls, propping up his tired body, “and yet he’s content to meander through India…”

“Taqi…” Rustami rolled his eyes.

“…taking this city or that…”

“…he’s brought the words of The Prophet to places it’s only lightly touched!” Abdas complained, gesturing towards the great towers and domes of Delhi behind them. “When we arrived, there were but two mosques in the whole of this great city! He is building fifteen as we speak! Taqi…”

“The Sultan isn’t doing enough,” Taymiyya sighed, looking towards the distant walls of once impregnable Delhi citadel. “It’s time he turned his blade West, towards the heathens that despoil I-raq, and the Holy Cities!”

“Taqi,” Rustami shook his head quickly, “that talk is why you’ve…”

“He has the means!” Taymiyya snapped. “The Roman in Persia is weak! The khanates left are quaking beneath his gaze, the Hindus to the south do not wish to cross him! Why doesn’t he take that,” Taymiyya gestured past his own comparatively small contingent, towards the great Turkish army still camped outside the newly taken city, “and free the Holy Cities, and all of Persia and I-raq from the hands of their oppressors!”

“Because, Taqi…” Abdas shook his head slowly. Taqi knew what was coming, and he didn’t want to hear it.

“Abdas, I don’t care if he is friends with the infidel Iskander! I don’t care if he, you, or anyone else thinks such a war would be fruitless! God’s work is never fruitless, never pointless!” Taymiyya shouted, “It must always be done, and guided by God’s Will, not the whims of mere men!”

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Rustami didn’t blink, didn’t flinch as Taymiyya roared onwards, repeating word for word the same damning lines that had him dismissed from the Sultan’s presence. The Sultan was a Muslim first, a monarch second! He needed to turn his sword against the Roman, and free the lands once held by Islam! He needed to free the Holy Cities! He needed…

“I know, siddiq,” al-Rustami finally said a few minutes later as the tirade ebbed. “I know. But Taqi, sometimes we must work from the inside,” Rustami smiled.

“Bah,” Taymiyya waved his hand dismissively, “I have no use for your bureaucrat tactics, Abdas!”

“Well,” Taqi heard his friend say, “what if I told you that some of your words did reach the Sultan’s heart. And…”

“What do you mean?!” Taqi spun around, excitement palpable.

“And…” Abdas went on, “while he won’t support you openly, he has made some arrangements…”

What arrangements?!” Taymiyya yelled. Abdas always did this! Held back details, teasing him as long as possible! He’d always done that, through their entire friendship!

“He sent a letter of introduction to the Roman Ishaq, in Isfahan, detailing our contribution to his campaign in India, and…” al-Rustami paused, the smile on his face enormous.

AND?!

“I’ve been named Roman Vizier for Mesopotamia!” Abdas finally said, beaming.

Taqi blinked. “Congratulations?” he said, confused. Taqi blinked again. “I see what you mean by ‘working from the inside,’” Taymiyya said quietly after a moment. He’d never saw himself working as an agent, a spy, a saboteur—those were Roman ways, not the ways of someone trying to restore the Caliphate!

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Al-Rustami’s smile faded. “Taqi! Think,” Abdas gently slid his arm around Taymiyya’s shoulder, “of what it means, now that I’ll be Vizier of Mesopotamia. No Roman Patriarch will be able to prevent you from preaching in lands from Baghdad to Mosul! No ulema will dare deem your teachings false! And most importantly,” Rustami leaned close, “you’ll have a safe haven to strike the Romans illegally and immorally holding the Holy Cities… as it is said, give your dough to the baker…”

“…even if he steals half of it,” Taymiyya nodded with a sigh. He knew what Rustami said made perfect sense, but working with the Romans in Persia, even if it allowed him a base to strike at the infidels holding Mecca hostage… it made his mouth sour, his soul feel dirty. He looked back at the camp, a sea of tents, men wearing white over their armor. A battle-hardened, tested army of men committed to God and his Faith—his true Word, not some sweet-tasting wine that poisoned the body and soul. Rustami was right—secure in Mesopotamia, more would flock to the banner of jihad. The 5,000 men here would be augmented, would grow in size and strength. “When the baker is a Roman,” Taqi finally said, “I can’t help but wonder if he’ll steal all of it in the end.”

These Roman bakers won’t!” Rustami smiled broadly. “Malik Ishaq has only half an army—Iskander took the other half with him to Konstantinyye, and even now sails for lands to the West! Ishaq needs me, Taqi. He needs you, your men, your words! We merely will use his need to get the time, the men, the money we need! And then…”

“The Caliphate will be truly restored,” Taymiyya nodded. A true Caliphate, one bereft of Roman interference, where the Commander of the Faithful was able to once again rule and judge without fear of Roman persecution, without the shadow of Roman influence. Caliph al-Muttawakil would be able to rightly guide, rightly command the Muslims of the World, without the looming Roman looking over his shoulder! “Blessed be the day,” Taymiyya prayed.

“Blessed be the day,” his friend agreed.
 

vanin

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What is Alexios in Iberia doing? Expanding towards America? Azores?
I thought he was busy failing in southern France? ^^

On the update, it was great as always. And I certainly didn't see a Turkish comeback as possible, nevermind eastwards into India. Interesting to see what implications this will have on India and surroundings in the future. Will the Seljuk Turks take the place of the Mughals perhaps?

I feel sorry for Nikephoros as well, he has really lost everything since the coronation, from his wife and his friends to the throne. With him out I am really rooting for Leo, as Alexandros has acted more stupidly than I had thought he ever would and Manuel is plain evil. Evil has a charm of its own obviously, but he is nothing like the emperor of the same name.