Next updates are finally finished! Once again, they went longer than expected and became a two-parter, but they're done!
“Even in the midst of Sodom, there can be one holy man.” - Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya
February 11th, 1314
Taqi a-Din ibn Taymiyya sighed. All around him, people pushed to and fro, laughing, talking, yelling and grumbling—the noise of a city humming about its daily business. Taymiyya had never before dreamed he would be in Konstantinopolis—there was the hate, the loathing he had for this citadel of lies, but, as much as he didn't want to admit it, there was an element of wonder, of surprise. He'd never expected the Kosmodion Palace to be so huge and sweeping, the Golden Horn to be so bustling.
Above all, he had not expected to find fellow Muslims living inside these walls.
“And that ahead is what the Romans call the Gate of Saint Michael,” the man walking next to ibn Taymiyya pointed. Sharif al-Rafiki was a wealthy merchant, a man who had made his fortune plying Konstantinopolis silk to Balkan markets, then bringing back honey and grain during the famine a decade before. He'd been the most prominent Muslim in the small deputation that had greeted ibn Taymiyya and Emperor Andronikos on their return to the capital city. After discovering Taymiyya's name, he'd called on Taqi every day since, offering to show him around the city. His company had proven a welcome diversion from life as a 'gilded prisoner' before the Emperor's official triumph—and eye opening as well.
“Saint Michael?” Taymiyya grunted, looking up at the thing. The gate was huge, with marbled stones and colonnades. Statues of previous emperors glowered from on high, as did a set of bronze elephants that towered over the ill-used parapets above. Taymiyya was surprised there was no looming statue of Jesus, or the named angel, towering over the gate—such nearly blasphemous statues seemed everywhere in this city. “The triumphal procession passes under this, yes?”
“It is tradition,” al-Rafiki nodded. The man had seen the triumphs of Andronikos I. He had become Taymiyya's expert of sorts on what was supposed to happen during such an event. “They'll hang the banners they took from the Alans from the rafters... none from your Jayshallah of course, and sadly, none from the Persians at Palmyra...”
“A pity,” Taqi replied.
There was a very small, tiny, part of him that still smiled at the Persian Spahbod's confused and sputtering welcome to the “most gracious, most loyal imperial majesty, Andronikos,” when the Emperor and his training army approached those Persian siege lines in full battle array. The Roman ranks moved with speed and precision in taking their posts—but the Jayshallah moved even better. There was still pride--they were the Army of God, the soldiers that had secured a homeland for their people, and they would act like it, rub the Roman's faces in it!
After the Persians hastily abandoned their siege lines, the Emperor had dispatched his brother, with 40,000 men, to 'escort' them back to Mosul and reaffirm imperial control over the principality. The rest of the imperial host, including the former Jayshallah, swung to the north to Konstantinopolis—there the emperor was to hold a great triumph to celebrate his victory over the Alans, as well as the 'pacification' of the Levant. That had been a thorny issue in and of itself—to claim victory would imply the Jayshallah had been defeated, and some of the soldiers were...intemperate...enough with the new arrangement as it was. 'Pacification' did not imply a defeat or conquest, but reaffirmed the new imperial control—a balance that impressed ibn Taymiyya, as much as he hated to admit it.
“Three days of celebrations, I have heard,” al-Rafiki nodded as the two walked under the great bronze elephants of St. Michael's Gate. The whitewashed marble was adorned with the faces of emperors long dead. Ibn Taymiyya swore their stone eyes followed the pair as they passed underneath the hulking structure. “The Ahl al-Kitab will be drinking in the streets—the emperor has ordered watered wine and ale distributed to the masses. I'll be closing the gates to the Muslim Quarter.”
“Wise,” ibn Taymiyya nodded. Alcohol makes men foolish. That is why it is forbidden to the Faithful. “I shouldn't be at the procession long after. His Majesty graciously invited me to a banquet at the palace. I graciously declined,” Taymiyya smiled. “How large is the Quarter, may I ask?” Surely it cannot be more than a thousand. There aren't many Faithful in the City of Sin I imagine...
"There's over 10,000 of the Faithful in The City," al-Rafiki said.
“10,000?” Taymiyya blinked.
“Indeed, and that's only in the Muslim Quarter. We have been granted charter to live in this quarter of The City since the days of my great-grandfather and Kayser Ja'breel, some even longer to the days of Kayser Basil. Back in those days," Sharif smiled, "there was no outer wall, and we were banned from the holy city of Christians..."
"Holy city..." Taymiyya snorted. It almost made him want to chuckle--there was little to anything holy in the city of plots and sin! Taymiyya had seen it with his own eyes, as the Emperor had shown him this wonder or that achievement. The great marbled colonnades, the enormous silken banners, the endless streams of silver, gold, frankincense and myrrh, no, they did not grab Taqi's eye. Amidst the splendor, the pomp, the circumstance, Taymiyya saw the poor, the suffering, the starvation and squalor sidled up within stone's throw of otherworldly luxury. There is no zakat here to protect them, no lord that cares for them, save they can bear his litter or bear arms in his defense. As wine flowed and the nobility plotted for an earthly diadem, it seemed all had forgotten the heavenly crown of God, the one who would judge them in the end. The gluttony was unspeakable, the avarice palpable--the city's heart and soul was wrapped around mindless, deadly sin. This city is Nineveh and Sodom put together! It reeks of hypocrisy, it stinks of sin, and its siren call twists the minds of good men from al-Andalus to Persia! Taymiyya thought. Thousands yearly went here to find their fortune, only to find death or sorrow...
The man and the woman disappeared down an alley for their illicit business.
Would it not be better if the sky fell, the seas rose, and this city's sins were washed away in a bath of fire and light? God would surely shield the Faithful, but all others... He looked off to the left, where a man was openly soliciting a scantily clad woman. ...fire would purge the sinful, and release the sinless into Paradise. The world would be saved. Oh Great and Merciful God, if only this you would make this happen! he prayed. In the name of righteous and true men, from the ranks of the Faithful and those who do not believe, I curse this city! I curse its call to the heart's of men--may it shrivel into nothingness and be forgotten! I curse its love of gold--may its vaults be emptied! I curse its gluttony--may its granaries be empty, and the bellies of the sinful rumble in hunger! I curse it's deviancy--may disease strip men of their manhood, and bind the harlot to bed! I curse it's claim to be Your City--may its false idols burn, may its siren call end, so that all men may find You, and know Your Truth...
"...am I interrupting, siddiq?" al-Rafiki asked suddenly. Taymiyya looked up. Just behind the pair was a simple stone wall, half standing on its own, half made from the walls of houses and shops. There were no battlements, no towers, and only a simple pair of wooden doors were at its entrance. Above that plain arch, however, was carved a simple phrase in beautiful calligraphy:
There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet.
The words of the Shahanda echoed quietly in Taymiyya's mind. He smiled at the perversity of it all—here in the Den of Thieves, the Shahanda was carved above a gateway for all to see. They are like the Taif, Taymiyya thought, guilt racing through his mind. The Prophet refused to curse them, he only asked God to guide them. I... The angry words that went through his mind cascaded through once more—sorrow replaced resentment, shame stood in for rage.
"Oh, no, I was merely praying," Taymiyya sighed, ashamed of himself and his dark thoughts. God's wisdom stays his hand, for reasons I cannot know. I must be content. "Where is the mosque for this island of the Faithful?”
"Oh!" al-Rafiki laughed. "How rude of me! We turn left here..." he suddenly darted down a side street, then another, before suddenly stopping. "Here we are! The Masjid al-Fatih!"
"Conqueror's mosque?" Taymiyya raised an eyebrow at the squat, rather ugly structure. What the building's frame lacked in subtlety was compensated with painted calligraphy of salawati and the Shahanda, done by the hand of some kind soul. To the north of the entrance sat a pile of stones, surrounded by builder's scaffolding—the very beginning of a minaret. What conqueror? Taymiyya wondered...
"It was simply known as Al-Masjid three years ago, until a caravan arrived from far off Delhi--the Turkish Sultan sent 5,000 gold solidii to rebuild it," Rafiki explained. "We ended up only being able to use 2,000 on the mosque itself--the city father's, the imperial government, and this group and that..." al-Rafiki shrugged. “It was enough money to finish the interior, and start work on a minaret so we can properly perform the adhan.”
“May God have blessings for him,” Taymiyya said quietly. The building was ugly, but on closer inspection, the masonry was sound—no cracks in the mortar, no weak stones visible to the naked eye. A careful mason did this. “And where is the mufti? I would certainly like to meet him." A populace as great as this in such a city must certainly have no mere imam. Any learned voice of the Faith in this sea of darkness would be a boon indeed...
“Oh, I apologize,” al-Rafiki sighed, “The Faithful haven't had a proper mufti in years, not since Ibrahim al-Nafis left The City for Fustat a decade ago. I must confess, siddiq I had a distinct hope that you might fill those shoes during your stay here, no matter how brief. It would be an immeasurable honor!”
Me? A mufti? Part of Taqi wanted to laugh. He'd been everything else in his life—a soldier, a scholar, a leader, a messenger—why not a mufti? I doubt The Faithful here have ever had a mufti who has given so much to the faith. Taymiyya felt eyes watching him, staring at him. He heard voices—children asking their parents if the grizzled old man they saw could possibly be the great Taqi a-din ibn Taymiyya.
No child, Taymiyya felt like saying, the ibn Taymiyya you know is ten feet tall, arrow-proof, and can single handedly take a city without a fight. You need to meet the real ibn Taymiyya...
“The honor would be mine, siddiq. Besides,” Taqi smiled, “teaching and sermons will take less of a toll on my body!”
Al-Rafiki beamed. “Thank you, siddiq! On behalf of the ummah in Konstantinyye, thank you!”
“No,” Taymiyya shook his head, looking once more at the mosque. It might not be beautiful, but it will stand any earthquake. “Thank you, Master al-Rafiki.” Slowly, Taqi walked towards the entryway, the Shahanda staring down at him. What has been done cannot be undone, save if God decides to undo it. I am but a piece of a puzzle, a drop of grain in the hourglass of time. If my grain can pull a few more precious souls with it as it falls towards the end and Paradise, God will be pleased...
“Come, siddiq,” Taymiyya nodded, taking off his shoes, “There's much work to be done.” Gently he set them aside, and stepped into the House of God.
March 1st, 1314
“Majesty.” Guillaume d'Ockham's voice echoed strangely off the room that had once been his library. Even a year before, the room had been filled with books, ranging from rare copies of works by the ancients to scandalous 'illustrated texts.' Now, the finely varnished wooden shelves and floor of the room were bare, empty...save for a table and two chairs in the middle of the vacant space. “Please, Andronikos, come in!”
Andronikos Komnenos covered the distance between himself and his best friend in two strides, before wrapping up d'Ockham in an enormous bear hug. The last time the towering emperor had seen his diminutive friend, things had been far more dire—d'Ockham's leg was crushed, hidden under sheets as a bevy of servants hauled the wounded Megoslogothetes onto a boat in Tyrus. Now, Guillaume was up and about, his fevers healed, even if his body had not been fully restored. The churigeons had reset the leg as best they could, but it had healed poorly. Chances were high that d'Ockham would keep that limp the rest of his life.
“I don't think I'll need your protection just now, boys,” Andronikos nodded to the two Palatinoikoi on either side of him and smirked. Guillaume smiled back, as the guardsmen bowed, then took up station outside the door. Andronikos closed the door behind them, then took in the spartan bookshelves once more. “Your library is bare, Guillaume. Are you moving? And where are your servants? I'm thirsty.”
“You could say that,” d'Ockham nodded. “I moved all the books over to the library at the University of Konstantinopolis. As for my servants, I've released them,” d'Ockham said simply. “I needed time and space to think—all those servants, they got in the way. Same with my business holdings... and you can keep the Scots, I won't be needed them either,” he added with a chuckle.
“Um... who did you sell them to?” He must have some scheme made up that involves a great deal of cash...
“A Muslim merchant named Sharif al-Rafiki,” d'Ockham said, before nodding towards a nearby chair. “This house will be his as well, as of the end of this month. It's too drafty... please,” d'Ockham pointed to the one open chair in the spartan room.
“Al-Rafiki? I know of him,” Andronikos nodded. “He's been spending quite a bit of time with ibn Taymiyya. Speaking of which, I think you would have enjoyed meeting that Taymiyya fellow,” Andronikos sighed, kicking up his boots onto a nearby chair. It creaked under the weight. “Really combative in a debate. You know, he threw the Old Man onto the ropes the first day I met him? The first day? God be damned,” Andronikos shook his head and grinned, “I would've loved to see him and Bradwardine spar! Or that old clot Thomas of Aquino! And a good horseman to boot! You wouldn't have believed how well he controlled his mount during the triumph procession...”
“It was a perfectly lovely procession,” Guillaume nodded, limping over to the window.
Perfectly lovely? Andronikos coughed in dismay. That's all? The entire Palatinoikoi taxarchia as well as we three other tagmata that participated in the campaign, had ridden through the streets of the city in brillliant brass, blue, green, and yellow parade armor, cloaks flapping and pennants fluttering in the mild winter breeze. The Megara menagerie had been released to follow behind, along with dozens of performing troupes, dancing bears and baying hounds. Even Andronikos' normally taciturn wife had openly gaped when no less than the dreaded Taymiyya himself rode behind the imperial train, unbound by any chains save the Emperor's will!
Perfectly lovely? That didn't sound like the Guillaume d'Ockham that Andronikos knew. His friend d'Ockham would have smirked and commented there weren't enough beautiful women in the train, or that Andronikos' men had thrown too much silver into the crowd—the proles would've leaped at copper just as well. Maybe a different subject would help?
"I've been thinking," Andronikos shook his head and changed the topic, "about some of the things old Bradwardine said when we were young. 'Men behave better while they are being watched,' and such. Now, it's impossible to watch everyone all the time, so you have to trick people into... are you listening?"
D'Ockham murmured something from by the window that Andronikos thought was a yes.
"Ah, well...if you could trick prisoners into thinking the guards were watching, even when they weren't, we could have a dungeon with less guards... no, you're clearly not listening. What is on your mind, then?” Andronikos snapped. Absent minded, that one!
D'Ockham turned slowly, his face still long and sad. “I was thinking about your processional order at the triumph. Patriarch Kosaca....”
“...rode at the head of all the clergy and lords spiritual, yes?” Andronikos asked. What is so unusual about that? Kosaca's a jackass, and he looks the part as well. Maybe Guillaume thinks I should've let him ride a jackass in the procession...
“...yes,” d'Ockham looked down, “but all the clergy rode behind you, and behind ibn Taymiyya. Majesty, what does that say about what we think of our lords spiritual to the small folk?”
“Since when do you care of the Patriarch's position in a triumph?” Andronikos raised an eyebrow. Maybe he hasn't fully recovered from the fall... “I want to appoint you Megoskyriomachos,” Andronikos said quickly, before Guillaume could say any more. Let's get to the meat of the thing, before...what? What am I afraid of?
“Me?” Guillaume laughed. For a moment his face lit up like the friend Andronikos had known for years.
“Yes, you,” Andronikos felt his lips curling into a grin as well. “You! Du Roche has angered many of the dynatoi, especially Prince Angelos. He holds too many offices as well--Archeoikos and Megoskyriomachos?” Andronikos shook his head. “I thought he was a loyal servant, but he's held up promotions, he's...” Andronikos' voice slowed to a crawl. I can't trust him. I can't trust any of them. “I...well...Guillaume, I need you,” Andronikos looked down at his feet. I trust you!
“I...am flattered, Andronikos,” d'Ockham's smile went to a sad shade of its former glow, “but I must say no.”
“No?” Andronikos heard someone almost squeak. A second later, he realized it was him.
“Andronikos, do you love me as a friend?”
“Yes,” the answer was instant, no thought, no remorse. I trust you more than anyone else in the world!
“You trust what I say? You know my words are true, always?”
“I would stake my life on it,” the Emperor said.
“Then listen to me. I have found something far greater than an office of state, many servants, and gold coin flowing through my fingers. Those things provide earthly comfort, yes, but...” he paused for a moment, “they don't feed my inner soul. I now see I was empty, lost, in need of hope. I've found that hope. I've found Jesus.”
“I...you...what?” Andronikos blinked, before a smile crept across his face. A prank! It's just like when he pretended he had caught a disease from one of his whores! Or that time when...
“You see, I do want to help you, Andronikos,” d'Ockham went on quietly. “I do. I want you to accept the Church, accept God, accept Christ...”
“But I am Emperor! I am Christ's Vice Gerent,” Andronikos stumbled, “I implicitly accepted...”
“No you haven't!” Guillaume shook his head slowly. He turned from the window, worry and concern masking his face. “You are not right with God, Andronikos,” Guillaume said more forcefully. “You use His Name in vain, you mock His power, you ignore His commandments and His Word! Listen...”
“...I...so do you!” Andronikos backpedaled. What's going on here?! Where is my friend?
“I freely admit, in my sinful days I did,” d'Ockham nodded. “Please, Andronikos, hear me out. I'm your friend, and I want you to get right with God. I want you to know the peace, the love, the calm that I now know...”
“Guillaume, what's happened to you?” Andronikos asked. You owned a slew of brothels! You regularly took your employees 'home with you!' You have bastards sired from here to Cilicia from the last campaign alone!
“I saw the light, Andronikos,” d'Ockham said. “I pray you will too!”
“Well, bring back the dark,” Andronikos snorted. “I'll be home from campaign for a year or two while we get the Taymiyyites organized. I want to go to the brothels again, before we head to Italy, and...”
“That Guillaume is dead, my friend,” d'Ockham cut him off. “He died when his horse fell those months ago. I am the new,” he opened his arms, “cleansed, a servant of God. I...” he paused, a frown crossing his face. “I am your friend, Andronikos, still and evermore. Like the sinful Guillaume, I want to help you. I want what's best for you. I want to see you in the Life to come...”
“And I want to see you in the palace making money fall from the sky,” Andronikos shot back. “What made it come to this? What made you turn me down? Are you angry I made you come on campaign? Are you...”
“No, my friend,” d'Ockham shook his head, that same sad smile on his face. “After I fell, I spent weeks laid up on milk of the poppy,” Guillaume said. “I was in agony. I prayed for death, I prayed for release, but none came. I was in a perfect hell—I couldn't escape, I couldn't run away! Then God, in his infinite wisdom, took me away one night in my sleep. I saw a light, a heard the angels sing, I heard the call of God, the promise of hope, of peace, if I would only lay aside my earthly burdens. Andronikos,” Guillaume suddenly grabbed his hands, “you can feel that peace too, if only...”
“I don't need peace, I need your help!” Andronikos finally snapped. “I'm going to invade Italy in two years! The von Frankens expect 40,000 gold solidii to spare 10,000 men to pressure Leo in the north, and that's on top of food, pay, and supplies for 100,000 men!” Andronikos sighed. “I need your help. I need the help of the man who could find a silver solidus behind ever piece of copper, the man who could make gold appear in his hand! I...no, the Empire... needs the old Guillaume!”
“This Guillaume is the one who is here, Andronikos,” d'Ockham said,, “and I have offered to help you with something far greater than finding a few coin...”
“A few coin, not a sermon, is what I need!” Andronikos growled. “Will you help me with that? Will you serve in office? You have contacts with the major banking houses! You have friends across the sea! You have countless connections, a sound mind!” Will you be the voice I can trust? My Regent? My second-in-command?
“I can give you advice, I can give you an ear, but that life is one I left behind. I...”
“...cannot help me,” Andronikos grimaced. A dull ache started behind his eyes—the precursor to a headache. “Fine, don't help me! Don't help your friend, don't help the Empire!” Andronikos snapped, leaping to his feet. “Stay here and pray and do whatever it is you do!” He started for the door. “Be a selfish asshole!”
“I will pray for you, Andronikos,” he barely heard d'Ockham say as he yanked the door to the library open. “I'll pray for you and your success.”
A quiet rustle filled the official chambers of the Small Council of Romanion as Andronikos sat down, the thick furs of his winter cloak rising up his neck. Gingerly, the Emperor rubbed his temple. The headache was now gone of its own accord—the Emperor hadn't had time to properly take all of abd-Hinnawi's medicine, only his pig's blood concoction. It's briny taste still soured his mouth, as well as his mood.
Three weeks of headaches, Andronikos winced, and this goddamn Council meeting likely won't help. He knew what the council would say of his plans. They'll scream and complain, unless I break them...
His eyes looked around the room with disdain and annoyance.
Firstly, Metropolitan Gennadios Kosaca of the Hagia Eirene looked up at him with expectant, beady eyes. The good churchman represented the Patriarch of Konstantinopolis. An ancient man, nearly decrepit with age, he had a white mane that nearly touched his toes as he walked. Prince Theophylaktos Angelos was present as well, his beard neatly trimmed, the gold and emeralds of the office of Megoslogothetes contrasting with the dark silk and velvet of his doublet. Prince Simon Kantakouzenos of Moldau was present as well. For the time being, the overweight, sniveling man was Megos Domestikos, a placeholder until Andronikos' own brother Heraklios returned from the East. Then, the army will be wholly under imperial blood, Andronikos thought.
The new Megas Doux, Petros Psellos nervously sat in the far corner—the table was clearly too tall for him, and the Emperor was sure his own great height intimidated the little man too much. You shall soon be replaced, and be back on your ships, where you belong. There was, of course, Roland du Roche, both Archeoikos, Megoskyriomachos, and Regent. While the Emepror had been on campaign, du Roche had decided to finally follow the latest in fashion and grow a magnificent beard, a brown mane worthy of a lion, he loved to say. We'll see how you like your mane clipped, the Emperor thought bitterly. Beside the Megoskyriomachos, to the Emperor's direct left, sat his own mother, now merely Logothetes ton Genikou, in charge of imperial finances. A solidus pincher. You complain too much, the Emperor coolly complained.
Andronikos already knew what her main complaint today would be, and she wouldn't be alone. None of you have seen the new me, the lion me, Andronikos told himself. They will protest the newcomers... and they will see what their protests shall earn!
One of the new men at the table was his medicus, Kaleb abd-Hinnawi. Yes, he held no formal position within the government, but since d'Ockham's rejection of Andronikos', he had become the most trusted man in the Emperor's world. He doesn't twiddle his words, he doesn't equivocate—he speaks his mind, and he tells me what I need to hear without malice, without motive. If the other vipers here cannot accept that... Andronikos felt the distant pang of a far away headache, driven off by abd-Hinnawi's medication. They'll find soon enough what imperial wrath means...
The other was the new Logothetes ton Levantikon, Muhammad al-Qayyim, who had so far deeply impressed Andronikos. The Megas Komnenos had assumed that if ibn Taymiyya was the intellectual heart of the Muslim cause in the Levant, that his right hand lieutenant would be the sharpened sword and little more. Muhammad al-Qayyim had shown himself almost as well read as Taymiyya himself. The man was something of an astronomer, and had scribbled out several sketches of the night sky he'd seen on campaign, as well as labels for every star and notations on their brightness. Andronikos had gone so far as to give the man a copy of Patriarch Thomas Aquinos Ethics--al-Qayyim had approved of many of the Patriarch's conclusions, and even alluded to some of their allegories in Muslim tradition.
If only Guillaume was himself, the Emperor sighed, he would've enjoyed debating that fellow...
Alas, Guillaume d'Ockham was not himself, and his sudden religious zeal had thrown all of Andronikos' plans into disarray. Now, Roland du Roche couldn't be sidled away from Megoskyriomachos--the man had overstepped his bounds, but there was no competent replacement, at least not yet.
Andronikos felt a tingle go down his spine. He could almost anticipate what was going to come, he could feel it in the air. With what I want to do, I'm going to need competent, loyal people on the council, which means... He glanced around the room one last time.
“Council is now in session,” the Emperor announced with a smile. “Metropolitan, you said you had some urgent matters you needed to discuss?”
"Majesty," Kosaca folded his hands and said in his careful voice, "I would like..."
"Andronikos," the Emperor heard his mother hiss next to him, "why did you invite these two... heathens... to sit in Small Council?"
"I trust Master abd-Hinnawi--unlike some people in this room," Andronikos hissed right back, "and Master al-Qayyim is my Logothetes ton Levantikon, my personal viceroy in the..."
"I know your opinion of my decision, mother," Andronikos hissed as Kosaca murmured on about repairs to the dome of the Hagia Sophia. "It was my decision, and I did what I thought was best for the Empire! Even Doctor abd-Hinnawi agrees it was a smart choice! Yes, some of the Taymiyyite soldiers refused to go along, but we gained 35,000 armed men, men who are loyal for pay, men who have no ties to the dynatoi! We drove the Persians out of the Levant! We..."
"...started negotiations to allow the heretic Isaakios to re-enter the Empire as a Sebastokrator of an autonomous Egypt? You know the Church's opinion on..."
"And I don't care," Andronios shot back. He felt his teeth grate. Guillaume wouldn't mouth off to me like that! "I have the army! Kosaca and the Patriarch can go fu...”
“Andronikos!” Sbyslava hissed sharply. “You need the Church! The dynatoi are plotting, and the army alone can't stop them! You're taking the advice of an Aionite, a mere medicus, over me? Are you...”
There was no fear in her eyes, no tremble in her voice—only the matronly hiss of a mother addressing a little boy. Guillaume knows his place! Guillaume...
...Guillaume said no... Andronikos felt his fingers flex instinctively, anger coursing through his mind. He abandoned me, and she's treating me like a child! She's the child! She's the defiant one, ignoring her Emperor! Defiance must be punished!
"Are you implying I need guidance!?" Andronikos snapped loudly. The murmuring noise of the rest of the Small Council died away--all eyes stared at the Emperor, but Andronikos didn't care. You stupid bitch! “I need no guidance! I need...”
“You clearly need good counsel! You...” Sbyslava started to speak.
Andronikos later wouldn't remember the next moment exactly, but somehow his hand flashed down to his hip, to the purely ceremonial dagger he wore at his waist. With the flick of an expert hand it was out, drawn, shining in the sunlight streaming into the room. No one had a chance to react, to yell, to scream, before Andronikos threw every last ounce of his six foot, four inch frame into driving the dagger down as hard as he could. The blade slammed point first into the table. Splinters of wood flew into the air as the dagger shivered, quivering in the shattered wood.
Several chairs squeaked against the marble floor as terrified eyes stared up at him. Andronikos drank it all in, reveled in the fear, the terror he saw all around the table. It filled every face, it dripped from the ceiling, it welled up from the floor. They are afraid! They should be afraid! I am the Emperor!
“I am Megas Komnenos!” Andronikos roared. “I am! Not my mother, not you,” a finger lashed out towards du Roche, “or you,” another finger stabbed towards Prince Angelos, “or any of you! Remember that, or my Scots will cut off your pricks and stamp your families into ruin! You!” he pointed at his mother, “Surrender your chains of office! Now!"
Andronikos glared at his mother. Alone, her eyes showed no fear—there was surprise, to be sure, but it quickly faded. Is that... resignation? Sadness? Or... pity? Pity?! Andronikos felt his lips curling into a snarl. She should be afraid! She should be at my feet, begging forgiveness, apologizing for all the times she's usurped my rule!
I'll show her! I'll show them all!
“Scribe!” Andronikos yelled, “Note this! By imperial decree, Kaleb abd-Hinnawi is hereby appointed to the office of Logothetes ton Genikou in charge of all finances in the Imperial Household and the Imperial Treasury, effective immediately! You!” an accusatory finger pointed at the Dowager Empress once more, “You are sentenced to perpetual exile in the Hepdomon! You will leave the city immediately with the clothes on your back! Go and get out of my sight!”
Run mother! Run! he mentally yelled as he heard a voice whimpering slightly. It was Prince Kantakouzenos, his eyes fixed on the still trembling dagger. Feel the same fear he does!
Slowly, the Dowager Empress rose, those eyes still staring at him. Still pity! Why pity!?
“Go! Or my Scots will take you out on the point of their swords!” Andronikos spat.
Slowly, with far more grace than he'd hoped, she rose and looked around the council chambers one last time. No heads bowed her way, no eyes even looked at her—they all were rooted on him. As they should be! Andronikos wanted to snarl as his mother finally left the chambers. The emperor reached over. Thick imperial fingers grasped the dagger's hilt, and with an all too easy tug, wrenched it front the broken table. The room was absolutely silent, save the hurried breathing of the great men gathered around. Yes, tremble! Shake! I am Megas Komnenos! I rule! I don't need du Roche, my mother, Guillaume, or any of you!
“All of you, listen!” Andronikos roared, leveling the blade at each and every man present in the council. “The next person who openly disagrees with me in my own council will find this dagger in their eye, their children flayed and their wives thrown in the Marmara! Are there any questions!?” he snapped. “Does this concept elude any of you?!” He felt his blood pumping, roaring in his mind. His fingers twitched hungrily twitched around the steel hilt. Please someone, please say you don't understand!
A terrible silence fell over the room—not even the servant's dared breathe.
“Good,” Andronikos sighed. They won't give me the satisfaction... “Now,” the Emperor seemed to visibly deflate, “back to business. Roland, I think the burden of Megoskyriomachos and Archeoikos has proven too much for you. I think the excess duty and responsibility has... dulled...your senses at times.” The Emperor cast a judging glance up at the second most powerful man in the Empire. Du Roche's lips quivered, words no doubt jostling just beyond, but the Megoskyriomachos looked down and said nothing. Perhaps my mother's experience has taught you sense? Andronikos wanted to snarl.
“So, I'm raising your secretary Skalites to Archeoikos,” the Emperor went on. “He'll take over all of those duties, and report directly to me. You will still retain all the powers and responsibilities of Megoskyriomachos, but no more.”
“I... Yes, Majesty,” his head sank even lower and bobbled in acceptance.
“Does this change meet with the Council's acceptance?” Andronikos asked dangerously.
Several throats bobbed, and heads nodding soon followed.
“No questions? Good!” Andronikos smiled fiercely. They've learned. I am their master, as things should be! ! “Next item. Megos Domestikos, I want you to begin preparing plans for an invasion of Italy. 80,000 men, including 20,000 of the Taymiyyites.” Scale it back some... without Guillaume, there won't be as much cash available... “To all in this room, this is an utter secret. No words shall be spoken of this. I am also declaring that, until such time as the imperial standards are raised from Cordoba to Damascus, there will be no more triumphs, period! I declare, here and now,” he continued, “I will rebuild my father's empire. Every last province, every last castle, every last peasant will kneel before the banner of Romanion!”
Amidst the nods and voices of assent from the suddenly pliable Council, Andronikos heard one voice in particular--Metropolitan Kosaca.
“God willing, Majesty,” the plump servant of God beamed stupidly.
“I will it!” Andronikos shot back, smile gone. “God has nothing to do with it!”
So ibn Taymiyya finds a new calling in the city he dreaded to see, while Andronikos finds his closest friend has changed, and takes his frustrations out on hi Small Council. Can, or will, Sbyslava retaliate? Will promoting Skalites break up du Roche's power? Will Andronikos' behavior come back to haunt him. A new chapter next time... and only three (maybe four) narrative chapters left!
Wait, only 4 narrative chapters left?! Is that set in stone? Daaaaym, I always thought it'd be more But I'm quite certain that, now that BT has utterly dominated the CK in narrative writing, with what's probably the longest running well-written AAR, it's only natural he'll expand into the historical update market as well. We expect many, many more maps though
Also, Andronikos really is brilliant! Before his clever scheme, that fool Taqi had 40 000 Muslims in the Levant willing to follow his command relentlessly! Now, he has a mere 35 000 Muslims in the Levant willing to follow his command relentlessly, and a meager sum of 10 000 Muslims in the very heart of Konstantinopolis who are now his disciples! Truly, Andie's plan has reduced Taqi to a...err, wait, what?
Sigh. Why can't rulers ever be content with the size of their territory? Andronikos Psychokomnenos only rules everything from Belgrade to Jerusalem. What the empire really needs is a Diocletian, who recognizes that the empire is too big, not a Justinian I and II combined. It would have been interesting to see how a certain gardener would have dealt with this whole situation.
I do have one question. The sentence that mentions the Aionite occupation implies that it takes place in the late EU3 period or even later. Was that intentional?