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Saithis

Lady of the North Star
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If I recall correctly Andronikos is no incompetent, but Taymiyya is clearly a genius of warfare and it's hard to beat that kind of person no matter how good you are...
 

General_BT

Blasted Conniving Roman
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andronikosiibannercopy.jpg


“A man may move a game piece. A king may move a man. But only God should move a man's heart.” - Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya

November 13th, 1312

Outside Astrakhan, Kingdom of Alania



“This?” the Emperor asked, his lip twitching. “This is what that Alan bastard retreated to?”

The motley wooden city looming out of the muck and morass before the imperial army looked as if it was built by a child, too hurried to think about simple matters like soundness, let alone aesthetics. The town the Alans called Astrakhan sat on an island wedged between the sprawling Volga delta and the Caspian Sea, twisting winding paths and narrow, rickety bridges being the only access to the rest of the world. It took Andronikos' men five fly-infested days to reach this spot—within bowshot of the cowering Basilieus ton Alanion, but blocked by the morass that was the very end of the mighty Volga.

If only they'd built this trading city a few miles further upriver, Andronikos complained to himself. Within a half-days ride to the north, the muddy, swampy ground turned to hard stone and soft sand—terrain he could have used to bring his army up even faster. But no, the city's founders a century before had decided the swampy island was the most defensible position against periodic raiding from the various nomadic menaces that roamed the steppe. They'd cleared roads through the mire, and raised bridges across the fingers of the Volga.

And made my life bloody terrible, Andronikos hissed, rubbing his temple. The 30 pyrokaroi had spent hours bogged in the mud, and only now, three days late, were they catching up to the rest of the army. Andronikos' headache had flared that morning when he saw for himself what the scouts had reported all day—Astrakhan was not on the near bank of the Volga, but in the middle of the mossy stream, a far better wall than any of the wooden palisades the Roman army had encountered during its whirlwind campaign against the Alans.

alancampaigncopy.jpg

How do we take this goddamn hovel? the Emperor asked himself as the initial sharp stab of pain behind his eyes faded to a dull ache. He'd been pondering the question for the better part of the morning, before the messenger had so rudely interrupted his brooding.

“Majesty?” the courier asked.

“Nothing. Your message?” Andronikos sighed. Alexandros, you clever asshole.

“Majesty, your new chaplain awaits you in your tent,” the courier bowed.

“Very well,” the Emperor gave one last look at the daunting little hovel his latest nemesis called refuge, then stalked towards his tent. It was spartan and bare, just as the Emperor preferred it—fur blankets were the only real comfort Andronikos allowed himself. Tapestries, carpets—they were useless additions to a baggage train. A camp table surrounded by stools stood in the middle. On one of the stools was a heavy-set, swarthy man, his mane of a black beard riddled with grey hairs. He was simply clothed as well—the simple black frock of a priest hung from his shoulders.

fatherosmancopy.jpg

“You're to be my new chaplain?” Andronikos asked testily, walking into the tent and falling into the campstool opposite. We could wade through the muck to get there. The water can't be more than a foot or two deep. But how deep would we sink into the mud beneath? And we'd be sitting ducks for anyone on that blasted island with a bow...

“Yes, Majesty,” the obvious Turk bowed slightly, his mustache and beard twitching as he did so.

“Your name?” No, can't cross the damn muck. The bridges it is, then. He's probably got his men hidden in the houses, gardens, and whatever else is in that shithole of a town...

“Osman, if it please Your Majesty. In the ranks of the clergy, I took the name Theodoros.”

“Osman?” Andronikos let his mind drift from the town back to the priest for a moment. “Impressive. I've never known a priest with a given name that means 'bone-crusher.'” The Emperor grinned. I like this man already.

“You speak Turkish, Your Majesty?” the priest asked with some surprise.

“A little,” Andronikos nodded.

“Excellent, Majesty. It is a good name from my ancestors, and what my brother's call me,” the man said. “As I said, since I took the cloth, I have been called Theodoros, for God's Love is what holds the world together.”

“As you say,” Andronikos sighed, looking back at towards the entrance to his tent, towards Astrakhan. I would much prefer a 'bone-crusher' to speak of fighting... not God's love and other trite things. “You're parents have lived near Trebizond since...”

“Since the days of Malik Shah, Majesty,” Osman said. “When the Romans returned, my great-great-grandfather converted to Christianity. I am proud to wear the frock of a priest in his memory.”

Oh God. And I wear this sword to break skulls, Andronikos grimaced.

“Is there something wrong, Majesty?” the priest stepped closer, a frown on his face.

“No, Father, I'm merely... thinking about the military situation to come,” Andronikos half-lied. Why did I assent to letting the Patriarch assign a chaplain? “Look. The town is in the midst of this Sea of Reeds, and Alexandros' men hold all the bridges across. Since you're a priest,” the Emperor smirked, “perhaps you can find me a Moses to part the waters so my army can attack?”

“I...tend to souls, Majesty,” the priest bowed, “not military affairs. Is there anything I can do for Your Majesty?” he crossed his hands, waiting patiently.

Bah. No humor with this one either, Andronikos groaned.

“Yes. Find me a whore, for when the battle's done,” Andronikos snapped.

“M...Majesty?”

“And fetch Doctor al-Hinnawi. Tell him I'll be in my tent. I my head is pounding,” he added. “Now go.”

Andronikos was sure he'd never seen a more... thunderous... look on the face of a priest. He stifled an entirely unprincely snort as Father Theodoros spun on his heels and stalked out of the tent. Andronikos watched him go a moment longer, before casting a momentary, forlorn look at the maps festooned across the small table.

Madgas, then hundreds of miles of chase, Andronikos traced their route over the past year, just to reach that mudpit. You thought I'd let you run, Andronikos' felt his lips curl back into something like a smile. After what you did—never. You could have fled to Cathay and I would've ridden you down for soiling the imperial title! A hell of a last stand, Alexandros. Not many self-declared Basilieai would want to die in a mud-ridden shithole...

The rusting of linen pulled Andronikos' gaze up from maps and memories. Kaleb abd-Hinnawi's bulk momentarily blocked the entirety of the tent entrance, before the medicus stumbled inside, a cloth bag nearly as ponderous as him looming over his shoulder.

“Hello, old man,” Andronikos grunted his usual address to abd-Hinnawi—the pounding was worse. Five hundred men on those bridges… a massacre if we try to charge them. The bastard's got us pinned nice and good…

“Majesty,” al-Hinnawi muttered, quickly setting his bag down with a harrumph. “I apologize, Majesty, but your interruption variable brought my collecting to a premature halt.” The medicus tore open his bag, and quickly a slew of parchments, vellum and flowers fell onto the camp table. “Does Your Majesty need medicating?”

“Um… in a while,” Andronikos glanced at the flowers—they were bright gold and yellow, a common sight all through southern Alania. The colors were striking, and for a moment the galloping left the Emperor's head. Andronikos paused. “Anything useful about these flowers?”

Bright_yellow_flowercopy.jpg

“Medically, no,” abd-Hinnawi's mustache twitched. “Visually, they are a most pleasing variable to be added to any room or chamber, as well as an additional attribute of olfactory pleasantness. I think...”

“I need advice, good doctor.” The headache was back, blazing in fully glory.

“Ah,” the doctor heaved out a huge sigh. “With permissions, Majesty, I would like to recommence the function of categorization. May I use Your Majesty’s table?” he asked, even as he sat down, pulling over the Emperor’s quills and ink next to him.

“I suppose,” Andronikos said without hesitation. He’d invited al-Hinnawi along anyway, both for his medical skills, and to look at the natural life in Alania—flora and fauna that were not well represented in the great libraries of Konstantinopolis. He was used to al-Hinnawi making all sorts of requests, from escorts to travel outside the army’s line of march, or extra parchment or vellum.

It's not as if I was sitting at the desk, Andronikos reasoned. “I'm wondering if I should have my men bring up some pyrokaroi with firebrand bolts and burn the lot down?” Andronikos grumbled. It'd save me the time of storming the shithole, and send a fearful message to anyone else who thinks they can call themselves Basilieus without my permission!

“There are many functions in mathematics, Majesty,” al-Hinnawi gruffed, laying a thin piece of vellum over the flower. “Life multiplies through birth, an addition that God has seen as good.” the medicus picked up the small cup of melted wax and a quill. “However,” he said as he dipped the quill into the wax, then began running it along the edges of the vellum and its backing paper, “there is also division and subtraction in life as well. All of these God has seen necessary to create in balance.”

“So I should burn Astrakhan?” Andronikos said quietly, a hand running up to his beard. It was growing too full. I'll cut it as soon as we reach Konstantinopolis.

“Your base of numetrics is different than mine,” the medicus snorted, swatting away one of the flies before returning to his delicate work. “Take from my words what you will, Your Majesty.” Finished, he looked up, his face beaming. “Six times ten flower species I have now bound for my book, a book to be added into Your Majesty's library. See?” al-Hinnawi laughed. “Addition and multiplication find their place!”

“So Astrakhan should be...subtracted...from the earth?” Andronikos frowned. He's talking in circles again! Yes, burn the town? He wanted to complain, but then he knew abd-Hinnawi would go quiet. He needed the advice!

“I did not say that. I merely said there is a balance in life, Majesty,” al-Hinnawi tsked, before reaching for yet another quill. This one he dipped in a proper inkpot, then brought to the newly wrapped flower in vellum. For a moment, the quill paused over the paper. “Majesty, there is a zero present, regarding the name of this flower. Would you like to turn this variable into a value?”

“Call it the fire flower,” Andronikos grunted, looking at the straw roofs that stretched before him in that run down town. I think he said burn the town... “Boy,” he called in a messenger, “send for Strategos Dukas. Tell him to have the men wrap the bolts of thei pyrokaroi with pitch and tar, and set them alight just before the carts fire! I want that city burning before I sit down for supper!”

“Majesty, what shall we do with the survivors?” the messenger asked.

Andronikos thought for a moment. Ruthless, cunning, deadly. “Put the men and boys to the sword. Put the women and girls into chains. Anything the pyrokaroi don't catch, burn down. As for their possessions, tell the men they'll have liberty in the town until it's stripped bare.” Yes, make the Alans tremble when they think of this day, make them think of the screams before they ponder raising arms against Konstantinopolis again! He smiled thinly. And perhaps a woman will be on my lap, if Father Bone-Crusher is less pious than I think...


andronikiosangrycopy.jpg


==========*==========​

October 1st, 1312

Khalifa al-Mutawakkil sighed, the parchment crinkling between his fingers. Incense filled the his nose—a scent of saffron and spice. He reached for the jeweled knife he kept by his desk, its hilt inlaid with beautiful calligraphy praising Allah--a gift to his father from the Persian King Alexandros. For a moment, the hands of the Commander of the Faithful paused, fingers tracing along the ridged wax seal of the letter.

From the hand of Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya, Servant of God, the glorious calligraphy imprinted onto the wax proclaimed.

Al-Mutawakkil slowly reached for his knife once more, almost guilty to be using it. It was a reminder of the status of the Caliph in this new, Roman world. It was an unfortunate arrangement his ancestors had agreed to decades before—the price for Roman intervention in Persia to stop the Mongol. Yes, the Persian Romans had been helpful since then. Without their support, the Great Aionite rebellion in the 1280s might have overtaken all of Mesopotamia. They held off the Mongols, and they sheltered the Caliphate at a time when there was seemingly no where to turn.

mutawakkilcopy.jpg

And now, the Caliph thought bitterly, Mongol are gone, yet we, the Commanders of the Faithful, are still trapped inside a gilded cage.

The Persian King Ishaq, known as Isaakios to his Roman nobles, had always been kind to al-Mutawakkil, as well as his father. He'd left the Caliph alone with regards to rulings on sharia, granted the Caliphal court a generous stipend, and even donated the old Isfahan palace when the royal court moved to its new grounds. Here, in Isfahan, al-Mutawakkil could live comfortably, and use his position to spiritually lead and guide the Faithful.

“I, your humble servant Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya, beg you, Successor to the Prophet, to abandon the city of the Romans and ride with all haste to Damascus,” the letter went on, “where the swords of me and my men will pledge everlasting loyalty to protect you in the name of the Muslim faith!”

Damascus, al-Mutawakkil thought.

Taymiyya—the Lighting of Islam, the Thunder of God. The man's campaigns over the past decade had literally broken the Muslim world wide open, politically as well as spiritually. The man had done amazing things in the name of Islam. Seventy years before, Islam lost its holiest city, and shortly thereafter, its political identity. The Mua'minin were lost, like the Israelites in the Wilderness, aimlessly stumbling across the sands of time. Then, came the light of Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya—his words, his campaigns. He not only preached a revival of Islam, spiritually and politically, he took up the sword and made true on his words. He restored the Levant, he was restoring Syria! He had given The Faithful hope in the hour of their greatest darkness!

He asks me to leave Isfahan, in the dead of night if needbe, and ride to Damascus. The Caliph's eyes went back to the two men sitting across the table from him. The smiled pleasantly, as he slowly folded up the parchment. Damascus, al-Mutawakkil thought. It was tempting—it would mean freedom from Roman interference, and perhaps the beginning of a rebirth of the Caliphate as a political power, a voice and sword for Muslims throughout the Near East. In the letter between al-Mutawakkil's fingers, Taymiyya swore his eternal allegiance to the Khalifa and promised his armies would protect the Caliph and the Muslim ummah[i/] to the last breath.

Yet, amidst that sweet honey there lurked bitter almonds. Taking up residence in Damascus would be tantamount to a declaration of war against all the Roman states, and Syria was squarely in the middle of the Roman world—Roman swords could pierce her from almost any direction. This, however, did not worry al-Mutawakkil the most--Allah would protect his people, but moving to Damascus would be nothing less than implicitly approving Taymiyya, his work, and his deeds. Al-Mutawakkil was keen to approve the man's zeal, his sacrifice, his dedication, but...

His theological stances...Taymiyya could mean the escape of my office from the clutches of the Roman, but would his clutches be worse?

There were a great many imams, great and learned men, who were uneasy with the rapid rise of the so-called Seyfuallah. Yes, he'd disavowed that title, but it was still what common folk from Baghdad to Jersualem still called him. Taymiyya was popular, and he had a formidable army. Together, these made him very powerful, and seven decades of living with the Romans had taught many a wise man to beware those who were powerful, or even could be powerful.

He is but one scholar among many, the Caliph grimaced. His views should not be paramount—they should be debated, examined, weighed by the ummah...

muslimscholarscopy.jpg

But paramount they had become—even those views that the Caliph and other imams found debatable at best. Taymiyya was that charismatic, that revered by many of the Muslims in the Near East, that his word was treated as if it was commandment, his utterances treated like gospel. Al-Mutawakkil had no doubt Taymiyya was sincere in his beliefs, but...

...he is one among many, one voice among many. One voice cannot decide every theological issue!

Take the issue of material wealth—Taymiyya disdained such things, and he lived the lifestyle he preached, where poverty was piety, and simplicity was next to godliness. He makes many people uneasy, the Caliph thought, as he looked at the rich tapestries and gilt-inlaid table before him. The smallfolk had taken his personal views as holy writ, and already there were rumors that wealthier members of the ummah were being forced to surrender their hard-earned property to angry mobs for the jihad. Piety means poverty? Not necessarily, in the Caliph's opinion, as well as those of many other scholars. God did not want man to put material wealth before spiritual wealth, that was true—but God could, in His own wisdom, choose to grant someone material wealth. What of the wealthy merchant, monies made through the silk trade, who then spends his fortune supporting the local mosque? What of counselor, blessed by his lord, who then amply gives to the poor even as he buys a ring for his beloved wife? So long as the wealth was gained through honest, virtuous means, there was no sin in wealth in and of itself.

Stealing, on the other hand... al-Mutawakkil felt the parchment crinkle under his fingers again.

Damascus...

Poverty was not the only area of concern with Taymiyya's influence. He also allegedly preached a philosophy that decreased the importance of hadith, favoring the text of the Qu'ran. Witnesses from all over the Levant could recall stories of the great Seyfuallah handing out vellum bearing sections of the holy work, insisting that those who could read should read it themselves. While to no knowledge had Taymiyya himself said anything denigrating hadith and sunnah[i/], there were many who heard his words and interpreted them that way—a theologically dangerous development.

Hadith could never supplant the Qu'ran—even a child knew this—but they enriched it, both in the opinions of the Caliph, as well as most every learned Muslim scholar. They filled in gaps and voids, and most importantly answered questions of sharia that were left vague in the Qur'an itself. Yes, there were contreversies—hadith had been debated, argued, for generations since the Prophet's death, yet Islam had always placed a great trust in the ability of wise, virtuous men to weigh the evidence and, with righteous wisdom, determine which hadith[i/] were truly God-given, and which were not.

The list went on.

Describing God as if he were a man was another charge. The Caliph knew Taymiyya's likely response—he was trying to make the holy ideas of the Qur'an more accessible. He also preached for everyone to read the Qur'an themselves—but wasn't that a dangerous place, where men could read words and misinterpret them to say whatever they wanted? Wasn't it better to leave scriptural interpretations in the hands of learned men, wise men, godly men, who would dedicate their minds and souls to unlocking the secrets of God's word?

Damascus... al-Mutawakkil thought one last time, before neatly folding the parchment, and sliding it across the table to the two men sitting before him.

Abbasidscopy.jpg

They were both well known to him—one was old, light skinned, with a proud Roman nose, a well-kept beard. Fine silks adorned his shoulders, jewels adorned the rings on his fingers. The other was shorter with the swarthy look of a native Iraqi. While his robs were made of the finest linen, he went without adornments or jewels, save the signet ring of his office which graced his left hand.

“Your Highness has read his letter?” the short man asked, taking the letter back from the Caliph.

“I have,” al-Mutawakkil nodded. They know what it says. There is a reason they handed this note to me, he reasoned. A Roman never approaches a problem head on—they come at you sideways, hiding their poison behind the sweetest of words and the purest of intentions. What are they getting at? “I trust, my lords, there is some reason for you bringing it to my attention?” the Caliph asked, putting on the best smile he could.

“Ah, Highness, always direct,” the jeweled man smiled broadly. “There is a reason. We beg you to not consider this request by ibn Taymiyya.”

Mutawakkil's chuckle grew into a full laugh. Is that it? Please don't flee to Damascus? “Of course you would want me to not consider his request!” he nodded towards the jeweled man. “You're a polytheist! You are Roman. You would like nothing better than me and my progeny to stay in your Persian palace! In fact,” the Caliph's smile grew cold, “you and your Vizier here were among the many urging me to support Taymiyya for many years. Tell, me, Majesty,” the Caliph said the Roman's title as if he was speaking poison, “why the sudden change of heart? Has Taymiyya proven too successful?”

Al-Mutawakkil was not a vengeful man by any means, but he got no small amount of enjoyment seeing a glower momentarily cascade over the Roman's features. That moment ended as quickly as it came, the thin smile back on his face.

“I am a Roman,” the jeweled man's smile stayed fixed, hard, “and nothing has changed. I want then, what I want now. I want stability and peace.”

“As do I,” al-Mutawakkil sighed. Damascus. “But what is peace without honor? Stability without morality? They are nothing if we do not answer the call of God, yes? If we turn out backs on those who would do His will?” He might be a Roman polytheist, but surely he can understand that!

The jeweled man's smile thinned once more. “Highness, what ibn Taymiyya offers you in this letter has little to do with honor, and even less to do with morality. I understand you disagree with him on theological issues. Tell me, Highness,” the smile slowly crept back, “what do you think Taymiyya would do if you two had a serious disagreement? Khalifa, you may have the shield of your faith, but Taymiyya has an army. Your faith is great, Highness, but would that matter to a man that violates the basic tenets of your faith?”

“With all due respect,” the Caliph growled “what would you know of my faith?”

“I was born among you, and grew up among you,” the jeweled man replied, his face breaking into a smile. “A wise man learns about those around him—and while I might not reach wisdom always, I do certainly try my best.”

“I have yet to hear a single charge against Taymiyya,” the Caliph stretched the truth. There had been rumors, yes, dark words... but nothing concrete.

He is but one man...

Khalifa,” the short man leaned forward, folding his hands, “we have information that Taymiyya means to force you to abdicate your title as Amir al-Mu’minin!”

“His men have been heard to utter salawati in his honor,” the jeweled man added. “He has been called a wali by some in the past.”

Salawati?” the Caliph snorted. “Really? You expect me to believe that an imam as pious and serious as Taymiyya would allow salawati to be said in his name? Sir, you are clearly not living up to your Roman standards!” al-Mutawakkil settled back in his chair. “Romans make good lies, believable lies! You're spouting pure fiction to me!” the Caliph laughed, even as dark voices reminded him of smallfolk stealing from the rich, or how they followed every word, every whisper Taymiyya said.

He is but one man...

Damascus...


caliphmutawakkil2copy.jpg

“Ah, you do not believe us?” the jeweled man smiled his serpent's smile. “Very well, Highness, we shall bring you a witness, one of Taymiyya's own qabbatin. He is willing to swear he bore witness to Taymiyya encouraging his men to praise him with salawati, and also swears he saw Taymiyya proclaim himself a wali.”

“Who is this man?” the Caliph laughed uneasily, his heart falling fast. Has ibn Taymiyya actually done such things? Why? How? Could he be duplicitous? Could...

Calm... let us hear this man out,
the Caliph thought. They probably have no more than hearsay, no more than the rumors I have heard. I cannot, will not, stay the hand of a man who has acted righteous and true so far on mere rumors!

“We have him here, Highness,” the jewled man smiled, before nodding to one of the servants near the door. Quickly he disappeared, only to return a moment later with a tall, thin man with a thin scraggly beard and large brown eyes. His armor and linens looked well worn, and the smell of horses and sweat assaulted the Caliph's nose just as he saw the blue band wrapped around the man's forearm.

He's from the Jayshallah...

“May I present Qubtan Hassan ibn-Sabbah, Your Highness,” the jeweled man smiled. “I believe you'll find a great deal of what he has to say very interesting...”
 

unmerged(75409)

Field Marshal
Apr 30, 2007
7.727
101
Oooh the intrigue!! Not even the Jayshallah are secure from it.

In other news... Osman, son of Ertugrul, is an Orthodox priest?? What a travesty :D I hope no Turkish nationalist reads this AAR!

"...the destruction of the Kosmodion..." yay for more civil war!! (But what's so civil about war anyways...)

I'm surprised though that Emperor Andronikos doesn't want to do any state business while he's chasing the Alans. No carpets, no throne, no perfumed servants with the baggae train?? So I suppose he's not planning to entertain any official visitors while on campaign. Sounds like Andy II is something of an escapist, content to leave his mother and megaslogothetes run state affairs in Constantinople for months... no wonder the empire is going to hell!

Such an entertaining and fun world :D
 

cezar87

First Lieutenant
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Mar 28, 2008
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Of all the cameos you have made so far, Osman's is the most amusing of them all. It certainly is a far cry from what he was in our time-line.

Andi II sort of reminds me of Thomas I. He's so...angry. I'm sure the Empire is in VERY good hands :D.

Oh, yeah, before I forget: GO TAYMIYYA! :D
 

Nikolai

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Love the Osman appearance too.:D And I fear the Caliph will be the one to doom the uprising of the Jayshallah...:(
 

Saithis

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Totally rooting for Taymiyya. Osman and Andronikos got a laugh out of me.

I'm hoping to one day see Tayimiyya rule the middle east, he is as worthy a conqueror as any!
 

von Sachsen

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If he is smart (which I'm beginning to doubt) he will offer the city a chance at redemption. If they offer the ring-leaders up, the city would be spared. Otherwise, yes I agree that burning the city is probably the best option.
 

MajorStoffer

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I shouldn't be surprised this is still going, but I admit it, I am.

I've got something like 80 pages to catch up on, damn you BT!

Do you have any idea how many ~300 page AARs there are on this forum I have to get through?

On another note, I suppose Game of Thrones sure turned out to be a convenient TV series for you; you just got another generation of character portraits handed to you.
 

Avernite

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Sounds violent, burning all of Astrakhan. Still, desperate times, desperate measures.

I do wonder what the Persians have in store though ;)
 

vadermath

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The Lions better Turn, as promised by the chapter title, because this (stupid to begin with) Jayshallah ordeal has already begun to bite them in the arse. I can imagine how that collaborative Persian Council meeting went.

"Okay, let's use the opportunity of the greatest civil war in history to cause a shitstorm in the neighborhood. We should somehow use these upstart Muslims, who've been waiting for an opportunity to break free for centuries. Let's...let them make an army!"

"...wouldn't that be kinda stupid?"

"Yeah, you're right; let's give them weapons too!"

"Oh, and gold, don't forget the gold!"

So, a scheming whore-lover who is considered a disgrace to the court hires himself a bunch of savages from God knows where and brings them to the capitol. And a completely underestimated, yet somehow brilliant leader frees shitloads of people, recruits them in his great army, whilst everyone else is ignoring him because they're fighting for the Throne, and starts capturing the cities of their former masters. Meanwhile, an arrogant regent queen plots anything she can so her son remains on the throne, whilst trying to remove any other influences and powers around him. Oh, and she's also having problems with some silly religious rebels. No worries though, she's got her 'little birds'.

In totally unrelated news, I'm off to watch some Game of Thrones :D
 

General_BT

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vadermath - Well the full details of what the Persians have going on just barely didn't make it into this update (it got too long) so part will be revealed here, and another part will come with the next update (already partly done, so hopefully it won't take as long to finish!) And there are definitely some similarities to Song of Ice and Fire, though Sbyslava has shown herself to be anything but a whore, and her religious fanatics are across the Mediterranean, not in her own capital. Andronikos is a bit more older and more capable than Tommen too... ;)

Avernite - It's harsh indeed--definitely something a Basil would not have done. Terror, when used correctly, can be a formidable tool in conquest (look at Genghis Khan, or Timur), but when used improperly, it can spark revolt or even worse, civil war. We'll have to see if this becomes a regular tactic with Andronikos, and if so, if he walks that fine line...

MajorStoffer - Great to see you still with us! At least you don't have to wait for updates for a while! And yes, Game of Thrones has been mighty convenient picture wise--it showed up right as my own reserves of images were starting to run low!

Vesimir - I think the amount of Greek fire necessary to set the Mediterranean on fire would be mind-boggling! :wacko:

von Sachsen - Mercy definitely has its uses as well. If you look at people like Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great, they always balanced mercy and cruelty--resist unreasonably, and you will be utterly destroyed. Surrender peaceably, you will live, perhaps even thrive. The carrot and stick approach works well--and Andronikos DID reach for the stick awfully quickly. There wasn't much thought about the carrot options... a sign of things to come?

asd21593 - In plunder, no. In reputation, if not one's soul? Yes, a definite price...

BraidsMAmma - I knew I somehow needed an Ottoman cameo. Osman as a cleric, especially considering what his name translates to, was simply too good an opportunity to pass up!

Saithis - Taymiyya is probably the most honorable warrior this story has seen in a very very long time. If he can muster the means, he could definitely take on the Empire--the means have so far been his problem, and the Persian government seems keen to try to cut off his means now (whether they succeed or not is a different story). If I had to guess his stats, I'm sure his Martial is in the 20s...

Zzzz... - Yes, it was that Osman... the one that Ottomans took their name for...

Nikolaios - A great deal depends on what kind of man Mutawakkil is. He could decide that despite doctrinal differences, the good of Islam requires him to issue a fatwa for all Muslims to help Taymiyya as best they can. He could also decide that, no matter how successful Taymiyya might be, one man who is not the appointed Khalifa should not have so much sway over Islam, or that Taymiyya's doctrinal differences are too big a gap to be bridged. It all hangs in the balance...

cezar87 - Andronikos does have some of Thomas' traits--the love of battle, the anger issues, to be sure. So far, he hasn't yet shown any signs of being insane... unless his headaches and mood swings are a harbinger of something much darker to come... (dun Dun DUN?)

Leviathan07 - Andronikos as a child never wanted to be emperor, yet the role was thrust on him. Is it any surprise that campaigns provide an escape for him? It's likely much closer to the hunts he loves than sitting in court, hearing petitions and issuing decrees... and of course the Jayshallah is involved (unwittingly) in a plot... this is Rome AARisen... everyone gets used in a plot! :rofl:

Carlstadt Boy - Konstantinopolis will get sacked at a future date. I won't say by whom or for what reason though... it's a surprise!

Is anyone still interested in the Theodoros side story? If so, please let me know!

andronikosiibannercopy.jpg


“Konstantinopolis is the city of the devil. I think if it should sink into the Marmara, the world would be a better place...” - Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya.

May 19th, 1313

Outside Konstantinopolis


Tromp tromp tromp...

The noise of boots on the road behind him sounded like music—a steady, comforting rhythm, a reassuring measured beat that spoke of order, discipline and strength. Andronikos II Komnenos could fall asleep to such soothing tones, if sleeping on the march was appropriate. Alas, it was not, so instead the Megas Komnenos contented himself with gazing at the vast host moving south east at his beck and call. Banners fluttered, tunics and mail shined in the sun, and pride swelled in the young man's heart.It reminded him of the day Petros killed his first grouse with a bow, the day Anastasios said his first word, or the day Theodoros took his first steps—but unlike those events, mere letters to be read in his tent while he was on campaign, his army, his other sons, they were real, here with him. He missed his trueborn children, he missed his wife, but he was Emperor, ruler of a broken realm. Someone needed to put the shattered pieces back together. Someone had to lead his adoptive sons to victory, honor, glory, and a renewed, reborn Empire.

I'm the only one that can, Andronikos told himself yet again. But can I? Dark, troubled thoughts danced lazily in the back of his mind, taunting him, haunting him.

He hadn't wanted to be emperor—yet here he was.

He'd been told that from the time he spent in exile in Havigraes. You will be a great emperor, you will rebuild your father's realm, his mother always said. He'd worked wonders so far, had he not? The Danes were pushed back, the Black Sea was once again a Roman lake, the Alans had been punished—all his work, despite his youth. He'd even asked abd-Hinnawi if he thought the reconquest of the realm was his life's mission.”These ten digits,” abd-Hinnawi had murmured touching his fingers, ”they will build an unknown variable of things, if,” he had tapped Andronikos' head, ”the equations of your mind let them. Does that answer your query, man of few years and many questions?”

andronikosthegreatcopy.jpg

“Yes, it did,” Andronikos said to no one, and everyone. I will rebuild the empire. I must do it! No one else can! he told himself. Syria would be the start of that great crusade. And after Syria, Egypt, then Leo, then Alexios...

...and then peace?


Andronikos was not taking any chances with this ibn Taymiyya—the man had already decimated every Roman army sent to stop him, and despite invading largest Christian Syria, showed no signs of halting his lightning advance. He'd stripped the garrisons of the Balkans dangerously low, and yanked thematakoi and standing tagmata alike from Anatolia. He'd even pulled, by imperial decree, nearly 10,000 men he'd promised his own wife he would send to help her father campaign in Austria—over her loud and frequent complaints. In all, the great Syriatikon Stratos that would finally assemble at Tarsos would number nearly 30,000 horse and 50,000 foot, easily the largest Roman host mustered since the beginning of the Great Civil war, 15 years before. The vast host would be supported by an immense supply train, as well as half the imperial battlefleet furnishing succor via sea. The soldiers were ready, eager even—they were a part of a massive host, led by a seemingly undefeatable emperor.

Yet despite these advantages, there had been many that'd counseled against the expedition still—chiefly the Emperor's own mother. She favored sending a subordinate, like Roland du Roche, to head the expedition with a smaller portion of the empire's resources. Romanion's borders were quiet, but not secure by any means. Sbyslava's homeland had been laid low, yes, but it could rise again. Persia was a growing threat. The von Frankens could turn back east. Andronikos' imperial kin could turn their eye on the Queen of Cities. Andronikos' plan was an all or nothing gamble. If, by some unforseen disaster, a smaller host led by du Roche was lost, the blow would not be nearly as calamitous to an empire still surrounded by enemies...

Mama would love nothing more than to see the Megoskyriomachos swinging in the wind by his neck...

Most alarmingly, Persia was regaining her strength. The great nemesis of Konstantinopolis had been laid low by the death of Alexandros III as well as the loss of his great army to Leo, but Alexandros' able younger brother was spinning dark webs of his own. Romanion's self-destruction gave Isaakios plenty of time to rebuild his forces, and Persian forays into Konstantinopolis-friendly territories were on the rise. The previous year a Persian a small contingent of Persian troops, along with a governor, had arrived in the ancient princely lands of al-Jazira, north of Mosul, and squarely claimed by Konstantinopolis, though no princely family had ruled there since Prince Aladdin had thrown his lot with Alexandros III only to fall at the Halys. Then, only six months ago, Persian troops seized Madaba, formerly a prized part of Arabia. Already that little hornet's nest was screeching and screaming about its violated sovereignty to any larger power on Persia's borders—Arabia's ambassador in Konstantinopolis made weekly appearances at the Great Audience Hall to howl, and both the Dowager Empress' and Megoskyriomachos' networks reported ambassadors doing the same in Samarkand, Zaranj and Alexandria. Egypt had responded by increasing her garrisons in Jeddah, and there were reports of an army marshaling in the Delta.

diplomaticstormcopy.jpg

Persia was stirring—and with no Levantikon, and the Syrian Komnenoi on their knees, there was no regional power that could stop them. A reborn Persia, built to the same power of Gabriel and Alexandros, was a nightmare come true for Andronikos and all of Konstantinopolis. All other powers outside Romanion's rightful borders could harm her, but only Persia, it seemed, had the power to take the Queen of Cities, and usurp the throne. “Al-Jazira, then Madaba. What is next?” Andronikos remembered his mother worrying at that dark council meeting.

All the more reason to stop Taymiyya now, and rebuild my father's realm. Once I've rebuilt the empire, Andronikos had decided long before, I'll turn my sword east, and end that pest once and for all.

It would all start with Syria. It had to start with Syria.

The plan was simple.

Hit Taymiyya, wherever he was at, with everything the Empire had.

The entire rebellion was dependent on that man. His heart was the rebellion's heart, his soul the rebellion's soul. With him, they were a seemingly unstoppable horde, barreling through every Roman army sent their way. Without him, there was no doubt the rebellion would wither and die away, torn apart by apathy and splintering factions. Both the Oikoi and the Dowager Empress' own assassins had tried to fix the Taymiyya problem since the destruction of the Syrian armies, but to no avail—apparently his followers were impervious to Konstantinopolis coin.

All the better, Andronikos had remembered saying, We'll solve it the way it should be solved—on the field, as men.

As a result, the first target of the vast imperial invasion was Antioch. The city was massive, wealthy, and the center of Christian civilization in Syria—all facts that made it the greatest target for Taymiyya to strike personally. A true leader is at the front, at the greatest point of danger, showing courage and strength by example. Andronikos had taken those words to heart—he led his men on campaign, fought in the center of battle, reveled in the blood and chaos of war, and they loved him for it. Ibn Taymiyya must be the same way. He will be at Antioch, the point of greatest danger, the key to Syria.

The imperial army would smash, destroy Taymiyya at Antioch.

The host was as varied as it was vast—professional standing tagmata, thematakoi and even politikoi filled its ranks. Andronikos had marshaled the backbone of the Palatinoikoi to form 15,000 of his cavalrymen, as well as du Roche's Mongol mercenaries, the Danish horse tagma as well as thematakoi cavalry from throughout Anatolia. The infantry was even more heterogeneous--skoutatoi tagmata from Greece and Anatolia, Cilician archers, Armenian hill men, several tagmata of Varangian and Serb descent, as well as the newest tagma in the imperial army—the Lofoandroi under their commander—Guillaume d'Ockham.

syriatikonstratoscopy.jpg

Andronikos smiled at the hilarity of the moment, beside him. To say that Strategos Guillaume d'Ockham looked like a fish out of water was an understatement—he was more akin to a great whale, beached on a desert mountain, sand blasting his face, fins and tail. The armor he'd commissioned was specially fitted, bronzed greaves, gauntlets and green enameled mail flashing in the sun, but he slouched in the saddle, drooping like a flower caught in a parched land. His sword hung limply off his belt, and his brand new scarlet cloak—the mark of his new, illustrious rank—hung limply across the back of his horse.

“This is torture!” d'Ockham complained. “This armor chafes, and I feel like a crab just before dinner!”

“Oh stop!” Andronikos laughed.

“How much further?” the unwilling commander moaned.

“We've been marching for half a day, so I'd say we're... five miles from Chrysopolis. Ten from Konstantinopolis,” Andronikos beamed wickedly.

“God save my broiling ass,” d'Ockham grunted from behind the grimacing steel of his helm.

“I warned you to not wear your heavy parade armor,” Andronikos chuckled in his much lighter silk and velvet tunic. “Someone, I shall not say who, wanted to look dashing for the young maidens of Chrysopolis as the army left town! Besides, you've impressed your men,” Andronikos nodded to just behind the imperial charger. The Scots, clad in their riot of leinens and marching to their droning pipes, were watching the Emperor and their commander. None of them had their mail hauberks on—not for a simple march!

“Bugger them.”

“Now they just need to see some battle, and who better to lead them than their illustrious commander, Strategos d'Ockham!”

“I didn't want a red cape!” Guillaume ripped open his face helm and looked positively petulant.

“But now you have one,” the Emperor grinned, looking his age for once. “Besides I need you on campaign. You have an eye for information, and a talent for finding facts where others see fiction.” And I know you have bought several of du Roche's Oikoi and my mother's Filoi. You clearly have a more devious mind than they think “Taymiyya is a wily sort—he uses tricks and strategems that have fooled everyone he faces. I'll need you,” Andronikos tapped a finger against his friend's metal encrusted chest, “to help me sniff out those traps. Besides, it's not as if the city won't be ably run,” the Emperor smiled wryly at what he was about to say. “I trust Lord du Roche will do well as co-Regent...”

“...though your mother chafes at sharing her old position,” d'Ockham's voice grew serious.

“It is the way of things,” Andronikos' smile disappeared as well. He'd heard how his mother felt—for several hours. She'd called her son all manner of things, but above all, she accused him of being a fool, for failing to see how ambitious the Megoskyriomachos was, and how he wanted to become the power behind the throne. She'd demanded—yes, demanded--that he be stripped of all offices and sent into exile, if not executed!

Her, demand? Andronikos felt his lip curl slightly at the thought. I am Emperor! I rule! No one rules me! Her demanding things of me is like the moon demanding the sun abandon the sky, or the mouse roaring at the lion! It shall not happen, it shall never happen! he wanted to snarl. Instead, he forced a pleasant smile on his face. Guillaume is merely worried. Calm, Andronikos. He's to be trusted. Only him and abd-Hinnawi. They, and they alone are your true friends.

The Megas Komnenos smiled thinly.

Ruthless. Cunning. Deadly.

“Andronikos, please do not be offended when I ask this...” Guillaume began.

“I trust you to to say what I need to hear, not what I want to hear,” Andronikos said back. It was true—there were many syncophants, people eager only to make him smile, earn his praise. They were of no use. Guillaume and abd-Hinnawi, though, they spoke what needed speaking—even if sometimes it went against what Andronikos wanted, or was difficult to interpret...

“Was it wise leaving them jointly to run The City?” Guillaume asked, rubbing his painful arm once more. “They are cordial on the surface, but the Watch has investigated numerous deaths, both intentional and suspicious, involving followers of...”

medievalassassinationcopy.jpg

Andronikos frowned as the litany of evidence came. This was why he brought Guillaume—the young man was ambitious, and his whores and barkeeps knew as much about The City as the Oikoi knew of the provinces and other realms. Both du Roche and his mother were becoming increasingly desperate—or increasingly sloppy. Men now openly spoke after a few drinks of how they slew the friend of a support of one Regent or the other. Some of the plots were outlandish—one blabbered to one of d'Ockham's whores how he was supposed to sabotage the beams that held up the roof of the Dowager Empress' apartments. Others were brutally effective—one assassin before his arrest openly bragged about killing the assistant grain monitor for the Augusteon, as well as his entire family.

The knives were out and spreading, while Andronikos was desperately trying to rebuild what was lost. It could not last—and it would not last. I have spent scant yearsof my reign in my capital—I've been on campaign all other times! I need stability while I am gone, else I won't be able to campaign! One of the two co-Regents will have to be dealt with, he'd decided long ago. Yes, this had gone on too long. Yet another item on his docket when he returned to the capital.

“They have worked together for ten years,” Andronikos interrupted his friend. Ruthless, cunning, deadly. “I don't see any reason why things should be any worse on my return in a year. However,” Andronikos looked at Guillaume somberly, “I do want to tell you now that, in a year's time, I have promised Theophilos Angelos the position of Megoslogothetes. It's...” he frowned, as d'Ockham looked away. “It's not that I don't think you're capable.”

“Then what is it?” was all Guillaume looked back, eyes blank. He's fuming Andronikos thought.

“Oh, nothing,” the Emperor allowed himself a sly smile. “I'll have other, more important things for you to do when we return is all...”

“What?” d'Ockham grimaced.

Ruthless, cunning, deadly... Andronikos let his grin go wider. “Let's just say it will involve you divesting yourself of the tawdy status of 'bachelor...'”

“I...what? No, I...”

Andronikos laughed loud enough that several Hetaratoi turned and looked. “Oh, for this to work you'll need a title as well. The Prince of Abydos died last year without issue...”

“...and his lands reverted to the crown,” d'Ockham finished the statement, his brewing tirade set aside for a moment. Andronikos smiled—d'Ockham held wealth, and a few estates, but a princely title?
Guillaume looked down, pondering, before looking up with a thin, tense smile of surrender.

Ah, Guillaume. Gold always holds your eye, Andronikos smiled.

“You are an evil man, Andronikos,” the future Prince of Abydos sighed.

abydosprincecopy.jpg


==========*==========​

May 21st, 1313

The walls were speaking to him.

Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya blinked, staring at the mighty rampants of Antioch climbing high up the slopes of Mons Silipius. The original defenses of the city had been formidable enough, but the Roman Emperor Thomas III had built an additional ring of towers and bastions around the city, as well as supervised the re-dredging of the Orontes, allowing the metropolis to be resupplied by sea—all of which meant that Antioch was by far the most formidable fortress Taymiyya had ever faced.

The Amir was not taking any chances. The Antioch campaign had received the lion's share of the Jayshallah forces in Syria—30,000 men in five qabbatin, compared to the 15,000 sent to invest Emessa, or the 20,000 sent to Edessa. Taqi and his men had spent the previous five months digging trenches, building siege works, and most importantly, building an earthen motte, surmounted by a wooden palisade, on either side of the Orontes River downstream from the city. Already, the men of the Jayshallah[i/] were creating catapults and trebuchets to threaten, perhaps even sink, any ship that attempted to reach the beleaguered city.

Yet, despite all his careful planning, it seemed the walls kept taunting him, reminding him of how Antioch had broken two great Turkish armies long before.. We have seen mightier than you, those stones called, and we ground them to dust!

wallsofantiochcopy.jpg

Allah give us the patience and strength, Taymiyya prayed, watching as miners stumbled out of yet another tunnel under the defenses. Taymiyya had planned for six tunnels just below the slopes of Mons Silipius, and...

Amir, a letter.”

Taymiyya kept squinting at his men working, even has he held out his hand for the letter in question.

“Da'ud, faster,” he whispered as the messenger laid the parchment in his hand. Da'ud's men had worked as miners in the Zagros before the formation of the Jayshallah--at Damascus and Palmyra they'd been, by far, the speediest of his mining teams. Yet today for some reason they were lagging... why? Who knew? Taymiyya pulled his eyes away from the siege lines, and down to the paper between his fingers, and smiled. It was doubly sealed, with beautiful calligraphy in wax denoting its sender: Abdas al-Rustami, Vizier of Mesopotamia, and Taymiyya's eyes and ears back in Persia.

My old friend, Taqi smiled, slicing off the seal with his dagger. Eagerly, his eyes tore into the letter. Abdas, as usual, was full of personal questions before he arrived at business: how was Taqi feeling? Abdas' sons were just granted their first posts in Baghdad, his wife was well. Finally, the Vizier arrived at darker news—men were trying to turn the Khalifa against him.

Taymiyya had expected this for a long time—he knew some of his ideas were not popular amongst many imams, nor was he loved by the Muslims who had grown rich off the Roman occupation.

“While these evil men seek to twist the ear of the Khalifa, rest assured my old friend, Vizier Abdas is doing the same to great effect. The Khalifa believes my words, that you condemned the men who did such things, and you only seek to be a humble and true servant to God,” the letter went on. “Al-Mutawakkil has decided to come out of his contemplative seclusion, and will issue an important proclamation on the 1st of June—the start of Ramadan. I have all the confidence in the world that the Amir al-Muaminin will call for all Muslims to stand with you in your fight against our oppressors!”

Taymiyya read the rest of the letter—it was full of promises and news. Several key imams in Baghdad had openly said that Taymiyya's reforms to Islam were right and true with their own understanding of the Q'uran and hadith. A few other imams joined the ranks of those who opposed. The promised Persian coin was set to be sent under guard within days. Abdas' family was well and in good spirits, and he prayed and hoped for the best in Taymiyya's expedition. When he reached the bottom, however, his eyes went wide.

“And finally, my friend, I hope that Damascus is prepared. The Khalifa's household has been buying dry foods in quantity, and His Highness has also purchased a slew of fast horses. I am entirely confident he plans to leave Isfahan, in the dead of night, and ride to Damascus to raise the banner of the [Ummah over the city. I can think of no better way to start this new, holy era than to have the Khalifa and his Amir meet in the Ummayad Mosque, a symbol of Islam reborn!”

Most men never saw the entire focus of their life's work, a goal they have strove for since they were a youth, just within their reach. For a moment, Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya, the man whose words raised up a people, stood speechless, his eyes re-reading those precious words again and again.

The Khalifa will be in Damascus...

Years of planning, fighting, praying and hoping, and now this. The return of the Caliphate, the rise of Islam, like a phoenix, from the ashes of its own destruction. God, I thank you for friends as loyal as these, Taqi prayed quietly, setting the letter aside. Good Abdas, loyal Abdas! From when this great campaign was no more than a mustard seed, Abdas has been behind me, supporting me! Without him... Taymiyya glanced up at the siege works encircling Antioch's mammoth walls, and shook his head.

“What did it say, sahibi?

Taymiyya looked up into Qubtan Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr al-Qayyim's radiant smile. Sweat covered his old friend's brown, the red soil of Syria covered his hands and boots. Al-Qayyim might have been a qubtan, but he toiled building siegeworks like his men when time permitted. It kept him in contact with his men, and allowed him to see what they saw and feel what they felt.

Taymiyya beamed. “I ride to Damascus to await the Khalifa!” Taymiyya hugged al-Qayyim tight, sweat, dirt and all!

caliphalarrivalcopy.jpg

“He... blessed be God!” Al-Qayyim laughed. “And blessed be you, Amir! That's great, wonderful news! I...”

“...I don't know what to say either!” Taymiyya laughed as well. “This... this is a great day! A great day!” Taymiyya wanted to say more, to say everything that would sum up how important this day was, but nothing would come out. Only laughter, and tears. Blessed be God! Blessed be God!

For several more minutes the two merely hugged and laughter, the only language that was needed. Finally, al-Qayyim pulled back. “If you're going to Damascus,” he said, “what are your orders here?”

“Man the fort while I am gone?” ibn Taymiyya replied, giddy as a schoolboy. “Take Antioch! Hold the north! When the reinforcements from Persia come...” Mecca will be ours! And with the Khalifa backing us, Iraq and al-Misr will soon follow! From there... With Mesopotamia and Egypt under the banner of the Caliphate, the possibilities were endless. Perhaps even Konstantinyye will fall, as in hadith...

“We'll have the walls and be in Tarsus by the time you return,” the Qubtan smiled.

“I look forward to hearing that, and all the other heroic exploits you'll have while I'm away!” Taymiyya laughed.

Good, loyal friends are a boon at all times...

“And if the Roman should come?” Seriousness won over al-Qayyim's good humor. “My people have heard word that the Romans in Cilicia are organizing, and that their Emperor is drawing together a huge army outside Konstantinyye...”

It would actually be to our advantage, Taymiyya thought to himself. The whole purpose of the Antioch siege was to give the Jayshallah a bastion to hold off the Roman emperor long enough for it to organize. If he was obliging, and came to it...

“Abandon the siege,” Taymiyya said in an instant. It would be a tragedy to lose what gains we've made here, but it would be an even greater disaster to have the army dispersed when the Roman emperor comes. “Fall back to me in Damascus. I'll send riders to the contingents in Edessa and Emessa to do the same. Here, we fight on his ground, so we'll pull him south, into Galilee...”

“Our ground,” al-Qayyim's grin returned.

“And there, inshallah, we'll break him like we have all the other Romans that have come our way,” Taymiyya said. And, inshallah, we'll have more reinforcements from Persia. The Roman will be facing twice as many as he thought. “Warfare is trickery, the Prophet said. Let us keep fulfilling his word!”

==========*==========​

So Andronikos finally comes south, while the situation in Konstantinopolis seems to be growing worse. Taymiyya seems confident the Caliph will side with him, and leaves al-Qayyim to take Antioch. Can Andronikos catch al-Qayyim unprepared? Will the situation in Konstantinopolis become untenable? Will the Caliph side with Taymiyya, and ride to Damascus as he hopes? More to come, when Rome AARisen continues!
 

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Why must you post what looks like a wonderful update just as I want to sleep? :D

Must....resist....urge.....to stay up and read it anyways. :)