The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.
Serpent, We also must not fall into the trap of meta-gaming. I was tryharding too much at the beginning and Czoklet told me off for it and he was right. We are not supposed to be min-maxing, squeezing every last drop out of our resources.
We ought to, and will, have petty fights, decisions based on ideology and hatred of other Senators, and cynical ploys to further a specific Senator's ambitions. We are not automatons.
Influence can be discussed, but the only tree I see us taking over Exploration is maritime, and that only if our navy gets uttrly Rekt by the Aztecs again.
Pisa seeking to reclaim Rome! Glorious!
2.8% inflation? ouch.
That or it rebelled.Arquitaine survived!!!!! Praise iesos kristos.
Dawn, 15th February 1480
Tent of strategos of tagma Armeniakon, Kiev, lands of the Horde
A middle-aged man wearing uniform of the Imperial Army and a thick fur cloak on top of it sits beyond a table almost completely covered with maps and documents writing a letter. The tent lit up in the glow of candles is filled with chests, some of them opened. A armor stand and a weapon rack leave little place for a guest, should come any. Separated from the rest of the tent by a thin veil are a simple bronze mirror and an unmade bed covered with furs. Small fireplace barely manages to keep the tent above freezing temperature. Suddenly a man enters the tent and with him a cold wind and snow; he's also an officer of the Imperial Army but clearly of a lower lank. He takes of his gloves and salutes his superior with his arm hold straight, palm down and fingers touching. His breath is clearly visible in the cold air as he speaks.
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: Ave domestikos! Kentarchos Dimas, 12th kentarchia of 3rd tourma of 97th imperial tagma reporting for..
*domestikos waves at him*
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: We don't have time for this. I've received orders from domestikos of the East, Dimas.
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: I'm glad to hear that, sir! Sir?
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: No questions. We were ordered to listen carefully to abandon the siege and immediately march to the west. Near Polish border we shall meet with other tagmata and regroup, then we shall march towards Kar... Kraków.
*kentarchos opens his mouth wide open*
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: What is it, kentarchos? Are you deaf? These are our orders.
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: B-but sir, abandon the siege? The barbarians have almost surrendered, few more days and Kiev-
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: I know.
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: But surely the-
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: I said no questions. We are leaving, you hear me? No more fighting with the bloody Mongols, no more ambushes in the wilderness, no more frostbite and hopefully no more amputations.
*kentarchos stands with his mouth wide open*
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: But sir... Why? Why now? We can crush the barbarians, we can hit them harder than ever before.
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Because these are the orders from Konstantinoupolis, Dimas. And before another questions leaves your stupid face no, the war is not over.
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: I don't understand sir. Whom are we going to fight if not the horse-lords?
*strategos answers with a grim smile*
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Why, the xenoi of course.
*silence fills the room for a long while*
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: Holy Theotokos...
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Listen Dimas, I need you to do something for me. We're going to be really busy in the next day or two, abandoning the siege and retreating in an orderly fashion is not as easy as those blockhead back in the City imagine. Time is of the essence and that's why I need your help. You are in charge of the captives, right? Dimas, look at me.
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: Yes sir.
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Good, good. How many prisoners do we have?
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: I- probably more than three thousands, sir.
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: By God's nails! Probably?
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: Some of them died yesterday, we didn't have time to count.
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Mhm. Listen Dimas, I want you to take a few man and personally chose the able-bodied men among those prisoners of yours able-bodied, not some damned cripples. I'm interested only in the best slave material. Do you understand?
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: Yes sir.
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Good. When you do this, gather them all and separate from the rest. We should have enough chains and ropes for, uh, five hundred more or less. We will take them with us as we leave.
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: Yes sir. Sir? What about the rest of them?
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: As much as I hate to waste a good slave I'm afraid we can't take more than five hundred males, Dimas. Dispose of the rest.
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: S-sir, I was asking about the women and children.
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Oh, of course. Get rid of them, Dimas. And by get rid of them I mean make sure they are all killed no escapes, no hesitation, no mercy. *strategos points his finger at kentarchos* We're soldiers of Kristos, Dimas, we're doing God's work. This Mongol bastard with big eyes you spared? In twenty years he's going to kill some poor peasant and rape his poor peasant wife during a raid beyond limes. The pretty Mongol woman begging you for mercy? She will pump more of these Mongol bastards out of her womb like a damned rabbit out of pure spite and she will teach them all to hate us. This is something we can't afford here, Dimas. I want complete extermination, do you understand?
*kentarchos stands still for a while before answering quietly*
KENTARCHOS DIMAS: Yes.
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Good lad. Now go it will take longer than you think, I can promise you that.
*strategos looks at kentarchos as he slowly leaves the tent*
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: Dimas?
*kentarchos freezes at the entrance to the tent*
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: No clubbing, just clean cuts I don't want you and your men to be tired. You'll never know whether we're going to walk into another Mongol ambush or not.
*kentarchos leaves the tent without word*
STRATEGOS MANEDOS: *quietly to himself* Poor bastard. *turns to his right* When his time comes be merciful and give him a quick death, will you?
*a single candle illuminates a small medallion of Saint Markos hanging from armor stand *
9th April 1481
Fields of Szepes, Kingdom of Poland
Two strategoi of the Imperial Army standing on a hill near the tents of the commander of the allied forces look as the battle unfolds before their eyes. Even form a distance hymns sung by the Kristianoi could clearly be heard, mixed with war drums and ominous chanting of the xenoi swarming like a locust on the hills. Tens of thousands of men are marching against each other under rain of arrows while suddenly an immense cavalry force counting at least 10,000 horsemen breaks the formations and charges the xenoi positions.
STRATEGOS ERASTUS: Sweet Lord, just look at this Stylianos! This is the might of
the finest kataphraktoi and hussars concentrated in one moment! There are so many - good Lord, just look at this!
STRATEGOS STYLIANOS: *crosses himself*
STRATEGOS ERASTUS: There is not a force on this world which could stop the might of the Imperium! Just watch, as soon as they reach their lines, the kataphraktoi
*suddenly hundreds of flashes illuminate the xenoi lines Roman kataphraktoi and Polish hussars are falling down from their horses as if swept away by some invisible force*
STRATEGOS STYLIANOS: Did you-
*a loud noise as if a hundred thunders ripped the sky reaches the tents and men gathered around, startling the horses and soldiers alike*
STRATEGOS ERASTUS: What is this hellish noise!? A storm?
*thick clouds appear out of nowhere near xenoi positions, covering the battlefield in smoke*
STRATEGOS ERASTUS: Saint Markos protect the beasts are using magic! The Dark Powers are fighting with them!
*horrified Stylianos points his finger at the suddenly stopped in its march column of Kristian army*
STRATEGOS STYLIANOS: Look, the kataphraktoi they are retreating! God Almighty, they are retreating!
*scattered remains of a force so numerous just a few moments ago flee the battlefield, leaving hundreds of riders and their horses dead or dying*
STRATEGOS ERASTUS: Quickly! We have to-
*suddenly the earth itself erupts below their feet; numerous thunders can be heard, as well as terrified shouts of dying and wounded*
STRATEGOS STYLIANOS: !
*Strategos Stylianos tries to get up but collapses as he falls on the ground he realizes that he can't hear anything. He tries to get up again and once more he falls. The ground is wet with warm blood of strategos Erastus, whose scattered remains are all over the place, including Stylianos' armor. As he finally rises from the ground, bleeding from his wounds and still in a state of shock, he watches paralyzed as the black masses of xenoi warriors charge from the hills chasing disorganized Kristianoi forces, who run for their lives. Stylianos makes a few steps but he trips over something and lands on his knees before him lies horribly mutilated head of strategos Erastus ripped from his body. Stylianos vomits.
The unintelligible but ominous chant of xenoi warriors is becoming louder and louder.*
Dusk, 30th July 1482
The Porphyry Chamber, Sacred Palace, Konstantinoupolis
The Purple Chamber is in the form of a perfect square from floor to ceiling ending in a pyramid. Its walls, floors and ceiling are veneered with the imperial purple. The chamber is empty save for an icon of Saint Markos hung on the wall to the right of the huge bed with a single candle beneath illuminating it and incense sticks burning in the corners of the room. Markos III Angelos lies alone in bed in purple apparel, his skin rippled and sickly yellow. Although the sacred Emperor looks incredibly tired, his eyes are as bright as ever. He tries to rise his thin arms as he greets his son Belisarios who enters the silent chamber.
MARKOS III ANGELOS: My son. *his voice is hoarse, his breath wheezy* Come to me.
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: Father.
*Belisarios approaches the Emperor and kneels by his bed holding his hand*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: Do you know how many Angelid emperors were born in this chamber? Hmm?
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: Most of us.
MARKOS III ANGELOS: But not everyone. You were born here. Your brother was born here. But not my father, he.... *starts coughing* He... he was not born here. I was. And now I'm going to die here.
*Belisarios tries to hold back his tears*
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: You can't... you can't die.
MARKOS III ANGELOS: My time has come. Yet... I know I don't deserve this.
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: You don't. Not you. Only-
*Markos with visible effort raises his right hand to silence his son*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: I don't deserve this. A first of the Angeloi to die of old age since Saint Markos. Why? I should've... *starts coughing* The xenoi blade should've killed me. I did a lot of evil things, my son. A lot of evil. I sentenced thousands to death. Children. Innocent. More died because of me than I can count. But if I had a choice... I would do this again. Because it was necessary. For the Imperium... to live.
*Belisarios starts crying silently*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: We are not allowed to cry, my son. The burden is heavy but we cannot. For if their emperor is weak, to whom your people will turn... in the hour of need? You must be strong, Belisarios. For them.
*Belisarios' tears drip on his father hand*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: The Angeloi protect. This is what we do. Whatever happens, do not forget this. These people... *starts coughing* They are weak. Frightened. You have to guide them. Protect them. Even from themselves.
*with shaking hands and with great effort Markos III Angelos removes his ring - the Imperial Seal from his right hand and gives it to Belisarios*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: Protect them, my son. This... *Markos points his finger at the walls of the Porphyra Chamber* This is all they have. All you have.
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: No. Father, this is not true. We have Him.
MARKOS III ANGELOS: Ah... I regret the day I told you...
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: Father, it's not to late. You can still save yourself. Please, I beg you! Before... before you meet Him, renounce your sin. Accept Him. Ask Him for His mercy.
*Markos III Angelos starts coughing violently*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: His m-mercy? *coughs* Mercy? *coughs* If I meet Him, He should ask for my mercy. *coughs* So much needless pain, suffering. *coughs* So much death. *he looks at his son with sadness* No, my son. If He exists, if He really created this world... then He did this to torment us.
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: Father, for the love of Almighty God-
MARKOS III ANGELOS: Don't...! *coughs* Don't. *Markos III Angelos lays back* I'm tired. Very tired. I shall rest soon. *he looks at Belisarios* Take care of your brother and mother. You are their basileus now. And... forgive me Belisarios.
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: For what? *with tears in his eyes* For what, father?
MARKOS III ANGELOS: For everything.
*Markos III Angelos breaths slower and slower*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: The hour... has come. Leave me.
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: Father-
MARKOS III ANGELOS: Leave... me.
BELISARIOS ANGELOS: Why? *tears dripping on purple floor* Why do you want to be by yourself?
*Markos breathes with great effort*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: Because... we die... as we dream...
*Emperor smiles faintly*
MARKOS III ANGELOS: Alone...
As the door upholstered with purple silk closes, a gentle gust of wind puts out the feeble flame of the candle.