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ThetrueColt

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Its time to show the other demes that we are not only "greedy merchants".
Looking forward to that. So far the blues seemed more often than not like "Ships = AYE - everything else = NAY" to me, which is quite disappointing. More diversity can only be good for the blue demes.
 

ParrotGuy

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Looking forward to that. So far the blues seemed more often than not like "Ships = AYE - everything else = NAY" to me, which is quite disappointing. More diversity can only be good for the blue demes.
Well, sea things like navy, exploration and trading are Blue demes things just like the Reds have the army and the Whites have the religion and administration. I don't see how the Blues were/are any different from other factions.
 
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ThetrueColt

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Point taken. Do you have any specific ideas in mind as to how the blues could act differently?

I've entertained the idea of a progressive/innovative white demes (excluding religion), since they are supposedly conservative and all.
 
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CzokletMuss

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I think all three Factions will have to adapt somewhat to the new challenges which the Imperium is going to face in chapter 6 and 7 ;)

Another teaser:

 
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Leandor

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I think all three Factions will have to adapt somewhat to the new challenges which the Imperium is going to face in chapter 6 and 7 ;)

Another teaser:

Wait, what?! What the dying Horde did to get those numbers?!

Edit: Well, that seems like their whole army. Where were the other Imperial Legions?
 
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KingJerkera

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Welp the horde is back that is very surprising. Thank goodness my maimed senator already dead or else he would end up being even more maimed. I hope we don't get spanked to hard.
 

Teutonic King

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That looks slightly terrifying... perhaps it would be in our best interests to strike hard and fast to eliminate this threat, force them to release nations and such.
 

Undead Martyr

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Kill it with fire! I was not expecting that. Poor Poland can't catch a break even in alternate history.

Some interesting happenings here...
 

TheAnguishedOne

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I think all three Factions will have to adapt somewhat to the new challenges which the Imperium is going to face in chapter 6 and 7 ;)

Another teaser:

Sigh... Czoklet, what did you do? I know this is your doing.
 
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Ponce_The_Great

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And Decius is doing back flips in his grave right now

Though clearly there is a reasonable explanation for this sudden revival of the Horde. Obviously the Pisans have harnessed Aztec dark magic and technology and with the help of the traitorous Blues have cloned an army of Mongol warriors to send against the Imperium and their Polish allies.
 
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CzokletMuss

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Alright, here's the last (?) teaser:

 
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Knightofhonnor

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England alive in Wales, the north of it, no less! Now that brought a smile to my face!
 

zenphoenix

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inb4 Nahuatl-worshipping Welsh England protectorate of Aztecs and Caledonia is fighting against Xenoi
 
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CzokletMuss

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Yeah, seeing vanilla Great Powers reduced to OPM Nahuatl states amuses me to no end :)



Also if anyone here knows Greek: how exactly do you say "firearm" in Greek? Is it just pyravlos?
 
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House Doukas

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Also if anyone here knows Greek: how exactly do you say "firearm" in Greek? Is it just pyravlos?
Greek dude here. 'Firearm', being the fancy way of saying 'gun', is like that:

Firearm= Pyrovolo oplo/ πυροβόλο όπλο
Gun= oplo/ όπλο

Pyravlos means rocket. :)
I can post plural forms etc or whatever else is needed if it's required.
 
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CzokletMuss

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Great, thank you very much! There is no need right now but please feel free to correct me if I make any mistake :)

EDIT:

BTW I've heard that Greek of Theodora from Civ5 is really bad - is this true?

 
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Leandor

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BTW I've heard that Greek of Theodora from Civ5 is really bad - is this true?
Uhm... I'm no one to judge (only greek I know are loose words from AoM), but I've read that she is talking the ERE greek, not the modern dialect of greek... I guess.

Edit: Ohhh, you were asking to House Doukas, hahaha!
 
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House Doukas

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Great, thank you very much! There is no need right now but please feel free to correct me if I make any mistake :)

EDIT:

BTW I've heard that Greek of Theodora from Civ5 is really bad - is this true?

If there are any mistakes, I will. Last time I corrected somebody it was in a Vic2 AAR. The OP there wanted to use the Greek word for tanks, but google translate failed him, and gave him the Greek word for water containers. :)

Concerning Theodora, I can't vouch for the correctness of the grammar, but her vocabulary uses ancient Greek and/or Byzantine Greek words. (It's been many years since my Ancient Greek lessons in high school).

What surprised me is that they actually used a Greek lady for the voice recording. Alexander, on the other hand... It looks like they found a random young- sounding guy, and gave him a script with latinized Greek words.
 

CzokletMuss

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Beware the mighty Roman water containers! :D

That's cool :) Sometimes I wish I decided to study history after all - but then I remember that historians have it even harder getting decent job in Poland.

BTW if you want to know how to pronounce "xenos" correctly you should go to the 0:04 of this video. In English it's pronounced "zee-nos" but correct pronounciation in Greek is "kse-nos". Adding to the confusion in W40k for instance "xeno" is a singular form and "xenos" is a plural, while in Greek "xenos" is a singular and "xenoi" is a plural form. Here we obviously use the propre Greek pronounciation, so remember: "kse-nos", not "zee-nos" ;)
 
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CzokletMuss

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Check out „Imperium Sine Fine” on TV Tropes!

CHAPTER 6
1540-1555
BARBAROI AT THE GATES


”In the land of your origin, I will judge you. I will pour out my anger upon you, breathing my fiery wrath against you;
I will hand you over to ravagers, artisans of destruction! You shall be fuel for the fire, your blood shall flow throughout the land;
You shall not be remembered, for I, the LORD, have spoken.”

- Ezekiel 21: 35-37


Imperium Sine Fine
The arrival of the Anno Domini 1540 witnessed the might of the Imperium reaching its new peak. Victory of the Romaioi in the Great Aragonese War seemed to be the turning point in the history of Europe and Christendom, for with the end of the devastating eight-year-long conflict between the Imperium and the invaders from the Far West the illusion of the uncontested dominance of the Westerners was shattered once and for all. The restoration of Kingdom of Aragon and further territorial losses of the xenoi proved without a doubt that despite their dark magic, daemonic powers and seemingly endless numbers the Soulless can be defeated. On the high seas the Romaioi managed to defeat Western warships in battle of Finisterre Bay and the wooden fortresses spewing fire and death, once thought to be invulnerable, were destroyed by the Imperial Navy. The fall of the Latin Reich ended the misery of the abomination created by Charles the Usurper and false bishop of Rome which brought so much conflict and death to the Christendom – the Reich was finally wiped off from the face of the earth, never to tempt the hearts of the ambitious Kristianoi with false promises of power and authority.

Over three centuries have passed since Saint Markos Isapostolos of the Great House Angelos ascended to the Throne and saved the Imperium from the devastating Sunset Invasion. At long last it seemed that his half-forgotten vision of Pax Angelica could be achieved. The dominion of Huetlatoani - the Lord of the Far West - was crumbling, torn apart by rebelling tlacateccatlani, each of them trying to carve out his own atleptl from the colossal realm of the xenoi. The Horde was still licking its wounds after the complete defeat it suffered from the hands of the faithful and the attention of the sons of Timur, wisely deciding to abstain from challenging the God's Regent on Earth, has turned to the East. The imperial limites were safe and the Imperium was strong with the power of Iesus Kristos, stronger than ever before.

But even at the zenith of its power there were cracks in the very foundations of the Imperium.


Debasement of hyperpyron (1540)
Wars are expensive, whether they are successful or not, and the great victories of the Imperial Army and Navy had their price. The cost of constant conflict was immense and even after the introduction of new taxes and subsequent revolts of 1524-1526 the Aerarium often had no other choice but to take loans. The Pisans were glad to provide them, with a hefty interest of course, however every debt had to be paid eventually. The imperial administration was strained and inefficient, especially in newly established themata, and could not provide the Imperial Treasury with sufficient income. The new laws proposed by the Senate and issued by blessed Autokrator could only alleviate the financial burden but not solve the underlying problems of the imperial economy.

Deteriorating economical situation together with increasing debt of the Aerarium demanded action. And so in his wisdom sacred Emperor, heeding the advice of the Imperial Council, decided to mint new hyperpyron. Already debased in 1524, the coin was to be henceforth made of gold in five parts out of ten, in silver in one part out of ten and of copper in four parts out of ten. It was believed that by minting the new hyperpyron the expenses of the Imperium could be greatly reduced. Furthermore the raids conducted by the Imperial Navy on xenoi ships transporting precious metals and other goods to the Far West proved to be immensely profitable – income from the intercepted vessels was sufficient to finance almost half of the expenses of the whole Navy. Captured Westerners were branded as imperial slaves and sent to the deepest mines to work for the glory of Kristos, while some of them were to row on the imperial dromonoi until the end of their lives.

Alas, profits from the raids were but a drop in the ocean and despite best efforts of the Throne the economical situation continued to worsen until the unavoidable crisis took place.


Internal conflicts (1540-1547)
With tens of thousands of young able-bodied Romaioi drafted every year to serve in themata to replenish losses of the Imperial Army more and more fields and villages were abandoned. Overtaxed peasants often were forced to choose between selling or renting their fields to the aristoi and starvation. Many among them, especially women and elderly, decided to take the third option: leave their hamlets and move to the town in hope for better fortune. Soon the streets became crowded with beggars and vagabonds - crime and disease became rampant. To make a living some of the women sought employment in tabernae or became servants, alas for the majority of them the only viable option was to trade with their bodies. Disorderly houses swelled with prostitutes from all corners of the Imperium, spreading indecency and sinful behavior among the Romaioi. The poor districts in the imperial cities became bloated with constant influx of vagrants, cripples and thieves, especially in Konstantinoupolis where by the decree of sacred Emperor Basileios III Angelos the right to free grain and olive oil for every Roman was renewed to celebrate the great anniversary of three hundred years of Angelid rule. It was said that in desperation some of the young widows, unable to feed their children, sold them as slaves to the aristoi and rich merchants to be castrated and used as eunuchs.

Shortage of slave labor only worsened the situation and despite high prices offered by the Imperium neither Pisan nor Mongol merchants could satisfy the increasing demand. Douloi were a vital part of the imperial economy, tirelessly extracting iron, copper, lead, sulphur and precious metals in mines and harvesting crops on extensive latifundia. Although a lot of them were property of the dynatoi and the Holy Church, both the mightiest of the noble Houses and the clergy were largely exempt from taxation. Huge quantities of wood, iron, food and other resources were needed to supply both the Army and the Navy, bulk of which was bought by the imperial administration from the dynatoi who were making new fortunes. Imperial slavers could not keep up with the demand even despite organizing more and more hunts for Negroes and other barbarians in Abyssinia and beyond. Some of the Roman merchants began even importing cargo from distant Ceylon, which was quickly becoming a new hub of slave trade in Hindustan.

Drought of year 1543 destroyed most of the crops in eastern provinces and soon many were dying from famine and pestilence. More and more peasants were fleeing to the towns, leaving the countryside depopulated. This led to even greater food shortages, which in turn motivated even more peasants to abandon their fields. Unlike the Holy Church, most of the aristoi lacked gold or armed servants who could force the peasants to stay and soon many of them found themselves to have empty villages in their possession. While some were trying to stop the peasants, the dynatoi welcomed the drought for finally even the wealthiest among peasants were hard-pressed to sale at least some of their fertile fields. With many of the pauperized aristoi seeking wealthy and influential benefactors willing to provide for them in return for service, the dynatoi found themselves growing even more powerful. In effect their latifundia in Syria, Armenia and Anatolia greatly expanded and tens of thousands of farmers became tenants, renting from the dynatoi the very land they sold to them. This even further eroded the tax income of the Aerarium, which could not collect as much money from powerful Houses and Holy Church as from the commoners or aristoi, many of whom were now working for their patronus. Nevertheless many of the overtaxed could not carry their burden and in desperation rised against the Throne, only to be swiftly defeated by the tagmata and punished for their crime, either by expropriation or by involuntary servitude for a certain number of years.

One of the wealthiest province of the Imperium – Italia – was by large spared the devastating effects of the crisis.


While in southern themata of the province the noble Houses had as much land and power as in other parts of the Imperium, in the north the aristoi and dynatoi alike were much less influential. Since the Liberation of Rome in 1249 by Saint Markos himself and during the subsequent Pisan Wars, one by one villages and cities of Italia were reclaimed by the Imperium. However centuries spent under rule of Lombards, Germans, Pisans and other Latins changed Italia forever. The land was ruled not from the castles but from the cities and place which by the right of nature belongs to the aristoi was occupied by a patchwork of various types of city councils, powerful families of merchants, guilds or in same cases dictatores elected by the burghers. Due to its location between Republic of Pisa and Latin Reich trade and commerce flourished in Italia and her cities thrived. Fertile lands allowed for substantial migration from country to settlements, which together with waves of refugees from the realms which fallen to the might of the xenoi after the Sunset Invasion caused emergence of huge cities unlike in any other part of the Imperium. Germans, Pisans, Poles and Aragonese occupied whole districts and the largest Jewish quarters in the Imperium were found in Ravenna, Firenze, Milan and other Italian cities

Despite its immense population, the largest contribution of Italia was not her sons but her riches. Great wealth was concentrated in the hands of men of lowly origin who deemed themselves to be equal with the aristoi in everything but blood. Almost one third of all imperial trading companies and more than half of all merchant banks were located in Italia, as well as two out of five greatest cities in the Imperium, Venice and Rome. Especially Venice was a crown jewel of the province, being the second greatest center of the slave trade in the Imperium after Alexandreia and the third most important trading hub. The extensive complex of shipyards and armories known as Arsenale di Venezia, rebuilt and massively expanded during the reforms of megas droungarios Javier Espinosa, was of the utmost importance for the Imperial Navy for it was there where more than half of all the dromonoi were built.

Unlike Romaioi from provinces like Abyssinia or Armenia, constantly threatened by Mongol raiders, the Italians were safe from harm, protected by extensive mountain range of Alps from the north and seas patrolled by the Imperial Navy from the west and east. While other Romaioi faced the barbarians and bled on the battlefields, they preferred to provide the Imperium with gold, weapons, ships and goods. Alas, just like the accursed Pisans, many of the Italians suffered from the same vices as the merchants of the Republic. Greed, envy, gluttony, lust, slothfulness – these are fertile grounds for weeds of heresy. Numerous times the Athanatoi had to be sent to Italia to help the Holy Church in saving the souls of the faithful from mortal sin and seat of eparchos of the province was frequently emptied. Many false prophets spreading blasphemous lies had to be cleansed in fire but it seemed that for every heretic burned two more took his place. Forbidden plants from the Far West intoxicating minds and body were becoming more and more popular among the rich, as well as Pisan fashion and – if the rumors are to be believed – xenoi slaves. These and many other horrible sins like sodomy or impiety were becoming increasingly common and some of the natural philosophers living in Italian cities were even accused of studying black arts and worshipping Dark Powers. It seemed that Italia was slowly rotting from inside, being corrupted by the Pisan influence, which was of great concern to both the Throne and the Holy Church.


Polish conquest of Chernigov (1543-1544)
It was in Anno Domini 1543 when Kingdom of Poland declared holy war against Tengri worshippers of Chernigov. Save for the Khanate of Lithuania, this small chiefdom was the last remnant of the period in which the Horde fragmented into dozens of petty khanates before it was unified again. The campaign was short and bloody – Mongol barbarians stood no chance against Polish knights and although queen Eufrozyna Angelos did ask the Throne for support not a single Roman soldier died in this war. The wooden statues and temples of Tengri were burned to the ground and Chernigov was no more. The Cross was victorious.

It is said that because of this swift campaign the magnaci – Polish dynatoi – grew arrogant and started to look to the East with greed. The devastating defeat of the Horde in the war of 1516-1523 was still a vivid memory for many. With the attention of the Mongol khan occupied by wars and feuds with other tribes living on the Great Steppe some thought that perhaps the time has come to push the barbarians beyond Ural mountains from where they came. Strong Kingdom of Poland stretching hundreds of miles to the East and encompassing lands once belonging to Ruthenians and Russians would be a powerful ally of the Imperium, they argued, a second pillar of the Christendom.

However the blessed Autokrator was determined to abstain from waging another war – internal issues of the Imperium were of growing concern and bloody conflict, even if victorious, would only increase the financial burden of the Aerarium. And truly it was a wise decision, for there is nothing of interest or value n the endless steppes covered by seas of grass. Why should the Roman blood be spilled to conquer the barren and wild lands where barbarians dwell and graze their horses?

But there was also another reason for which the Throne desired peace.


Artisans of destruction
The Dark Powers - daemons whom the Soulless serve - granted the xenoi with horrible powers. With black magic the Westerners wree able to turn metal statues into fire-breathing hellish monsters whose roar was louder than a thunderstorm. Aztec cultists carrying enchanted iron staffs could kill a man from a hundred paces with a flash of light and thunder, creating clouds of suffocating smoke. It was with these terrifying powers the beasts from Beyond the Sea won a hundred battle and killed thousands of good Christians. Many were eager to discover the secrets of these weapons but to do so meant to dealt with daemonic magic – a mortal sin punishable by death. Nonetheless there are always some men willing to put their very souls at risk of damnation in mad pursuit of knowledge and power.

Pisans were the first to start using cursed xenoi weapons, like before eager to mimick their former masters. It was in the Republic of Pisa where the strange plants from the Far West were cultivated for the first time by Kristianoi. There the godless natural philosophers began studying the forbidden xenoi knowledge and using what they learned began using the dark arts. The Pisans were able to concoct terrible poisons intoxicating mind and body, like the bitter drink known as xocolatl causing horrible abscesses or the devilish leaves called tabacco which when burned create acrid smoke, dangerous to the lungs and causing insanity.

Many were the crimes of the sinful merchants but the apelike aptitude with which they were able to emulate devices of their masters allowed them to built warships similiar to those from the Far West, unmatched by any vessel in the Imperial Navy. It was only after decision of megas droungarios Javier Espinosa when one of these mighty ships was captured by the Romaioi the scholars of Great Pandidakterion could study it. This enabled the Imperium to build new Roman warships, stronger than any dromon and capable of facing the fleets of the Westerners. Glorious victories of the Imperial Navy proved that Pisan trickery could be used for most noble cause. It isn't surprising than that some of the scholars began to think about adapting yet another Pisan invention so that it could be used by soldiers of Kristos – the fire-lances.


Despite great concern of the Holy Church fearing for their immortal souls, His Imperial Majesty in secret allowed selected group of scholars to study the terrible weapons from Beyond the Sea. Under custody of the vigilant Athanatoi the best alchemists, natural philosophers, engineers and craftsmen of the Imperium began their work. Not much is known about the process save for the fact that many paid hefty price for dealing with the forbidden secrets, losing their sight from poisonous vapors, hearing from devilish roars or in some cases even whole limbs. Many slaves were lost during the experimentations. Despite the initial setbacks, the work continued and soon the scholars of Great Pandidakterion made a surprising discovery – the fire-lances didn't depend on black magic. Nor blood nor xenoi glyphs nor even blasphemous prayers to the Dark Ones gave them their power. It was an alchemical substance, a volatile and poisonous mixture black as the hearts of the Soulless called blasting powder which allowed the fire-lances to bring death from hundreds of paces. Therefore it was not a sin to use those weapons against their creators, they argued, for the black powder was a product of nature and not daemonic powers and as such resembled greatly the ancient war-fire of the Romaioi.

Armed with this new knowledge, with blessing of the sacred Emperor and no fear of their souls, the scholars continued their work until years later they achieved mastery equal to this of the Pisans. Soon the Imperium was able to produce fire-lances as big and deadly as what Pisans called bombarde and serpentino. The Pandidakterioi called the huge fire-lances kanoni because their resembled large tubes, while the smaller ones were called by them pyrovolo oplo – the fire-weapon. Seeing how devastating effect they had in the hands of the Westerners during the Great Aragonese War, the sacred Emperor ordered to create whole tagmata equipped solely with these terrifying weapons. Soldiers carrying the new weapons, called pyrotechnikoi or fire-artisans, were not numerous for even a single canna cost as much as two imperial dromonoi. Although prohibitively expensive, the pyrotagmata were to become the vital part of the Imperial Army despite huge strain they had on the Aerarium, as it was ordered by His Imperial Majesty.

As it turned out, the pyrovolo oplo were to be put to a test sooner than expected.


Holy war against the Horde (1545)
On 13 September 1545 during audience before His Imperial Majesty plenipotentiaries from Kingdom of Poland brought an unexpected message from Kraków. After several years of preparations and in no small part due to the influence of magnaci queen Eufrozyna Angelos decided to declare war against the Horde and with fire and sword bring Mongol barbarians and their Ruthenian slaves under the reign of the Cross. Although hesitant and, if the rumors are to be believed, visibly irritated by the actions of his cousin, sacred Emperor answered for the call of arms against barbarians – the Double-Headed Aquila and the White Eagle were about to face the Steppe Wolf together.

And so thousands of Romaioi marched once again, walking the same roads to the East their father and forefathers walked before them to face the barbarians. Although some of the imperial officials and aristoi in Konstantinoupolis believed that the decision to go to war was reckless and foolhardy, the Roman soldiers were saying their goodbyes with no fear. Even before the Horde could not stand against the combined forces of the Christendom and now with new terrible weapons with which the Imperial Army was equipped it was believed that the Angel of Death would reap a bountiful harvest. The orders were not to destroy the enemy however – domestikoi and strategoi were to capture Mongols if possible. Whole dromonoi sent by the Navy to accompany the Romaioi soldiers were stocked with chains with which the captives were to be binded and transported to the Imperium to serve as slaves.

But the enemy acted quicker than anticipated.


According to reports of imperial agentes in rebus, the combined armies of Christendom had superiority in numbers over the Horde, however it was going to take months before all of the tagmata from distant provinces, as well as auxilia from Bavaria or Aragon, could be gathered near the eastern limites. The Mongols on the other hand were able to mobilize their forces much quicker and move much faster – soon all of the tribes which swore allegiance to the Great Khan descended upon the Kingdom of Poland and imperial province of Taurica. Local themata were flooded by waves of bloodthirsty barbarians and thousands were slain. By the time regular soldiers reached Taurica it was overwhelmed by the wild tribes from beyond the Ural.

The subjects of Polish queen shared the fate of Roman citizens.


The Horde amassed enormous army counting over 100,000 steppe warriors which invaded Kingdom of Poland, smashing every castle and regiments on their way like an unstoppable wave. The bulk of the Polish army together with two imperial tagmata were outmaneuvered, encircled and destroyed in battle of Podolia in March 1546. Although the Mongols suffered heavy casualties, the Kristianoi were now forced to retreat. Later that year the advance of the Horde was stopped in mountains of Caucasus during battle of Adyghe in which for the first time the pyrovolo oplowere used against the enemy by the Imperial Army on huge scale and with great effectiveness. All hope for the quick and decisive victory had to be abandoned however.

His Imperial Majesty realized that the costly war may last for years and thus ordered only small part of the Imperial Army to directly engage in conflict in hope that the attrition and exhaustion caused by war will weaken the enemy instead. This strategy proved to be very effective in saving gold and reducing expenses of the Aerarium, alas it caused the war to last even longer than expected. Preserving Roman blood and gold the domestikoi were ordered to make use in battles mainly of Bavarian and Aragonian auxilia, as well as fearsome tagma ton Moldavon, and let the bulk of the burden of the war be carried by knights from Kingdom of Poland.

And so the war dragged for another year and then another and then the one after that. When the Anno Domini 1550 came it seemed that the slow drain of manpower of the Horde was finally coming to a fruition. The Mongol warriors are not surrendering easily however – the barbarians are primitive brutes but they are also fierce in battle and tough, hardened by the Great Steppe where they dwell. It was only when imperial agentes in rebus brought news from the north when it seemed that the tide has turned. For on 14 February 1550 the khan of Lithuania suddenly attacked the Horde, once against acting like a vulture, circling above the wounded beast in hope of carving out flesh from its still living body.

Alas the sacred Emperor was not destined to see the end of the war.


Long live Theodoros I Angelos
Sacred Emperor Basileios III Angelos, basileus basileon by the Grace of God, king of kings and rulers of rulers, Caesar Augustus of the Romaioi and all Men, Autokrator of the Holy Church and Protector of the Christendom, died in sleep in his bed in Sacrum Cubiculum at a ripe age of 63 years on 29 March Anno Domini 1550. Death of blessed Autokrator left the Romaioi mourning, for during almost forty years of his rule the Imperium and all Christendom were greatly strengthened. Heir of Basileios III was to take his rightful place on the Throne, however the succession was complicated by the fact that Basileios III had three sons: Claudius, Konstantinos and Theodoros.

Claudius Angelos, the oldest one, died in a tragic accident on 25 April 1523 mortally wounded by a great boar while he was hunting with his younger brother Konstantinos in forest nearby Nikea. Porphyrogennetos Konstantinos was thus named as a heir to the Throne several days later. Over ten years later, after the assassination attempt on His Imperial Majesty which – thanks to God's Providence – blessed Autokrator survived but which took lives of many of servants of the Throne, Konstantinos Angelos was sent to to Princes' Islands, to be guarded by Varangians and Athanatoi in old palace of the House Doukas. There he was safe from obsidian blades of the Westerners. However, several months later on 6 September 1535 Theodoros, the youngest son of the Emperor, was born in the Porphyry Chamber. To protect him from the Enemy, His Imperial Majesty ordered him to be taken as soon as it was possible to Angelokastron, the seat of the Great House Angelos on Chios. Together with his mother the young porphyrogennetos was transported to the mighty castle, away from schemes of Konstantinoupolis and daggers hidden in the dark, and there under protection of Varangians and Athanatoi he spent his childhood.

It seemed than that due to being firstborn son it was Konstantinos who was to become the Emperor – after all he was not only named by Basileios III as his heir but was also older than Theodoros and thus more suited to become God's Regent on Earth. However as it was revealed by His All-Holiness the Archbishop of Konstantinoupolis and Ecumenical Patriarch, who was chosen by sacred Emperor as the executor of his testamentum, Basileios III Angelos in his last will chose Theodoros to be his heir. Before the young porphyrogennetos could reach Konstantinoupolis to be crowned in Hagia Sophia and in order to ensure order in the Imperium, Basileios III ordered the Imperial Council to carry out duties of the Imperial Regent, thus breaking with ancient tradition. The Council as a collegial body was now put in a position of the Regent, for centuries reserved for only one man, and although the megas logothetes Mikhael Komnenos as the president of the Council was the one to carry the Regent's ring this was still a drastic change in rules of succession otherwise unchanged from the time of Saint Markos himself.

The regency, shocking as it was to some, didn't last long and before half a year passed porphyrogennetos Theodoros arrived in Konstantinoupolis. There on 6 September 1550 he ascended to the Throne as sacred Emperor Theodoros Angelos, first of his name, basileus basileon by the Grace of God, king of kings and rulers of rulers, Caesar Augustus of the Romaioi and all Men, Autokrator of the Holy Church and Protector of the Christendom. Even before his arrival in the City many wild rumors were surrounding the young Emperor. Aristoi whispered about absurdly long time it took to transport His Imperial Majesty to Konstantinoupolis from Chios, which lies just several days by sea from the City. Consumed by curiosity and mystery surrounding the porphyrogennetos who spent almost all his life on Chios they spread gossip and lies about the Emperor and his brother who since the death of Basileios III was never seen again. The Athanatoi spent great amount of time trying to stop the false rumors from spreading but vile lies like a fire burned through minds of men and soon the flesh had to be burned too in order to stop the disease.

Their curiosity was never satisfied. During the coronation in Hagia Sophia apart from the ceremonial robes the Emperor wore a golden mask covering his face and purple gloves on his hands – such great was his piousness that he decided to cover himself completely in the presence of The Body and Blood of Our Lord Iesus Kristos. This further encouraged the wicked to spread blasphemies concerning His Imperial Majesty but as God's Regent on Earth he was above such lowly matters.


Ascending to the Throne at the age of sixteen, the first concern of Theodoros I was to marry a suitable wife – the line of the Great House Angelos had to continue. As per the ancient custom the Bride-Show was organized and the most beautiful, pious and virtuous maidens from all corners of the Imperium were called to the Sacred Palace. The Bride-Show, beauty of the candidates and political position of their Houses were the most common subjects of discussions for the Romaioi in the following weeks. Finally the decision was made and sacred Emperor offered the golden apple – a token of his affection – to beautiful Zoe Komnenos, who gladly accepted this great honor. And thus once again the Great House Angelos and House Komnenos were joined by marital ties, which became a subject of heated debates, for in eyes of many ambitious dynatoi from other Houses who hoped to see one of their kin as basilissa the signs of growing influence of the Komnenoi were deeply worrying.

The marriage was concluded quickly and after a splendid holy mass in Hagia Sophia the whole City began celebrations which lasted it for seven days, feasting, dancing and praying for their Emperor and his wife. The Imperial Treasury would have troubles with financing the ceremony and subsequent celebrations but in a gesture of generosity House Komnenos offered to cover all expenses of the Aerarium. After the celebrations His Imperial Majesty focused his entire attention to matters of the state and despite the dire situation of the imperial finances began planning grand and daring expeditions beyond the uncharted seas, leaving war against the Horde in the hands of the Council. It was not before baptism of his son, porphyrogennetos Chrysogonos Angelos who was born on 7 June 1551, that the blessed Autokrator made another public appearance and honored the inhabitants of Konstantinoupolis with his holy presence. The baptism took place one month after birth of porphyrogennetos on 8 July and the celebrations were scheduled to last five whole days.

But on the third day one of the agentes in rebus brought a horrible message from the West.


Xenoi invasion (1551)
Without any declaration of war the beasts from the Far West suddenly attacked imperial forces on 11 July 1551. The celebrations in the City were abruptly ended – the Imperium was now facing two of its mortal foes at the same time. There was no time to continue the limited war in the East – the Horde had to be crushed swiftly before innumerable armies of the xenoi descend upon the Imperium like a swarm of locust. All imperial tagmata save for those stationed in southernmost parts of Abyssinia were mobilizied against the Archenemy. Without a doubt the Westerners decided to attack to make use of the young age and recent ascension to the Throne of His Imperial Majesty. But God was with the Romaioi and even the daemonic magic of the Soulless could not help them this time – during the Great Aragonese War it was proved that the servants of the Dark Powers can be defeated.

Soon the Romans learned their mistake.


When the first transports of xenoi warriors disembarked on the shores of Aragon the imperial domestikoi quickly understood that this time they face a different enemy than the one they came to know. The Westerners who set their feet on European soil wore strange armor and had faces painted in an unknown symbols than the xenoi Romaioi used to fight against. Almost everything about them, from their vile tongue and color of their skin to their tactics was unfamiliar, and even their weapons were similar but distinctly different from the ones used in the decades before. Their discipline and ferocity was unmatched and even in the battle of Vizcaya, where for the first time Romaioi encountered this breed of the soulless beasts, they managed to inflict heavy casualties.

With the Imperial Army facing both the Westerners and the Horde the imperial tagmata were stretched thin, deployed both in the east in Taurica, Armenia and Kingdom of Poland and in the west in Africa, Aragon and Italia. The Bavarian auxilia set xenoi possessions in lands once was known by Latins as Bohemia on fire and flames once again engulfed the Christian world. The Aerarium was unable to finance both wars at the same time – more and more loans had to be taken from Pisan merchants. With tens of thousands of brave Roman soldiers sent away from home to fight against the enemies of Kristos and with thousands more conscripted to take their place in themata, the economical situation of the Imperium was rapidly deteriorating. The faithful remained hopeful however – it was believed that the fall of the Horde was unavoidable and that as soon as imperial tagmata fighting in the east will be transported to face the invaders from the Far West they could be defeated, just like in the Great Aragonese War.

Yet malice of the Diabolos knows no bounds and it's the slow knife that cuts the deepest.


Pisan treason (1552)
On 3 July 1552 the treacherous Pisans attacked. Their sell-swords turned against the Romaioi, their sailors burned Roman ships in Pisan harbors and many of the imperial officials and officers of the Army stationed in Italia were assassinated on this day. The armies of the Republic crossed imperial limites in Italia and Aquitaine and marched against the same Roman merchants and patricians with whom they shared bread and wine mere days earlier. Pisan treachery reached deeper than this however – the Republic waged her wars not only with poison and stiletto but with the hands of unwitting tools they called their allies.


An unholy alliance including Sunnis, Catholic heretics, Negroes and even independent atlepemeh who broke away from the dominion of Huetlatoani was forged, all united in their hatred of all that is holy. From the arid wastes of Abyssinia to mountain passages in Italia and from harbors of Taurica to the Pillars of Hercules the Imperium was besieged by its enemies. The forces gathered by Pisa were not to be underestimated – although African tribes posed no threat to tagmata, the Pisans themselves had access to weapons from the Far West which together with their own inventions made them a dangerous adversary. Upon hearing of the treason of the loathsome merchants, the Throne decided to collect a new tax in order to finance the war effort of the Imperium, now with greatly limited access to loans and mercenaries.


Although during the battle of Ansbach on 22 November 1552 the initial advance of the Pisan armies was stopped by combined forces of Romaioi, Poles and Bavarian auxilia, to the surprise of everyone in City according to the report of eparchos of Abyssinia the imperial tagmata were massacred in an ambush in distant Mombasa. Now equipped with weapons and armor taken from the corpses of Roman soldiers, the army of Sunni savages posed a real threat to rest of the Abyssinia. The Imperial Army was stretched thin, unable to repel the enemy on all fronts, and so it was decided to transport bulk of the tagmata to Italia in order to defend the province from both xenoi and Pisans. At the same time tens of new tagmata were formed out of thousands of best soldiers serving in themata while common Romaioi were conscripted to take their place. Sell-swords were recruited from all corners of Europe, including Mongol chieftains who could be bribed with gold to turn against the armies of the Great Khan and tribes of Negroes from depths of Africa whose task was to slow down the advance of the enemy in Abyssinia. The numbers of swords fighting in the name of the Throne swelled quickly but with them grew the expenses of the Aerarium.


With majority of tagmata transported to Italia, the Imperial Army began an offensive against the Republic of Pisa in attempt to crush her forces swiftly in order to quickly sign peace. Unlike barbarians from the steppes the merchants were willing to fight only as long as the war was deemed by them as profitable. With no hope for victory they would surely surrender – at least such was the opinion of the Council.


One bloody battle after another, the Romaioi were pushing the Pisans and their allies back. Soon southern parts of the Republic were occupied by the Imperial Army and even the city of Pisa itself was under siege. With huge part of the Pisan forces trapped on Sardinia and Corsica together with almost whole fleet of the Republic it seemed that soon the abominable coalition will be crushed.

It was a vain hope alas - no matter how many foes of the Cross were slain, more were taking their place.


Imperial Army and Navy, forced to wage war on three continents, were unable to coordinate their operations. Instead of a single united force the Imperium faced many enemies at once, each of them using different tactics and strategy. The chaos led to many unnecessary and avoidable defeats due to lack of communication or bureaucratic incompetence. The imperial fortress in Granada was taken by xenoi after siege lasting more than year and a half despite numerous calls for help brought by messengers to Konstantinoupolis and by the time reinforcements could be sent the crew was long dead, sacrificed on the altars of the Dark Powers.


But often the forces of the Imperium simply couldn't be in two places at the same time. Huge fleet under command of droungarios Tryphon Helias managed to trick the Pisans into leaving their harbor and completely destroy their navy – alas the dromonoi could not reach Gulf of Valencia in time to save the imperial ships transporting over 10,000 soldiers from being sunk by small detachment of the colossal fleet of the Westerners on 20 October 1553. This was a huge victory for the xenoi: the tagmata fighting in Africa were now effectively trapped there with no means to transport them across the sea. Dozens of new ships were ordered to be built – with great expense and with first of them being ready not earlier than months after the battle.

Then, when Anno Domini 1553 was almost over, came the most devastating blow.


Revenge of the Timurids (1553)
On 12 December the eastern limites in Syria and Anatolia were breached – Mongol mugahidun marched against the Imperium carrying the green banners of Islam. Sons of Timur descended upon the Romaioi like a desert storm, bringing with them death and destruction. Although not as numerous as forces of Christendom, immense armies of mugahidun were more than capable of overwhelming the tagmata stationed along the easternmost limites. If they were to face the full might of the Imperial Army, the barbarians would surely perish – but with majority of Romaioi soldiers fighting in Italia and Africa there was no army which could stop them.


Once more the descendants of the Iron Khan led their subjects from Mesopotamia, Persia and beyond – a ragtag patchwork of tribes and peoples molded into one by their faith in the false god and whips of their masters, sometimes referred to by scholars of Great Pandidakterion simply as „Timurids” - against the Holy Cross. As it quickly turned out to horror of Romaioi, their vast armies were not marching to the west to Antiocheia and holy Hierusalem as they did so many times before. This time the Timurids marched north – towards Konstantinoupolis.


With only private armies of dynatoi to oppose them in just a few months the Timurids reached the shores of the Euxine. At the same time on the other side of the sea the armies of the Great Khan continued to ravage Taurica with impunity. With the City itself endangered, all available tagmata from Italia were called back to protect it from the enemy. Likewise imperial soldiers in Africa were ordered to march to Syria immediately – but with no ships to transport them Romaioi were forced to travel by land and it would take months before they reach their destination. To prevent Westerners and Pisans from advancing in Italia domestikoi were ordered to hire even more sell-swords to make up for retreating tagmata.

By the end of August the stream of gold from imperial coffers run dry.


On the verge
The finances of the Imperium were on the verge of collapse. Despite harsh methods used to collect more taxes the Aerarium was quickly running out of options. Almost every month the Imperial Treasury had to borrow gold, taking whatever loans were available to finance the war effort or - in a rapidly accelerating manner – solely to repay previously taken loans. In desperation Aerarium started to force some of the merchant banks and trading companies to give loans to the state. Those of imperial merchants who tried to oppose the will of the Throne were branded traitors and expropriated. This quickly enraged many of the Italians who above all else value their wealth and property. Mood of the hoi polloi was quickly deteriorating in huge cities of the Imperium as well due to the shipments from Aegyptus to other cities becoming more irregular, with huge quantities of grain being requisitioned by the Imperial Army.

The situation demanded decisive actions.


It was obvious that the Imperium is unable to defend itself against all its enemies at once. The strain of the war was so great that the threat of complete collapse suddenly became a reality. There could be no peace with xenoi unless it was enforced and the Imperial Army lacked strength to defeat the Westerners quick enough. It was possible to sign peace with Pisa if the pressure on the Republic continues, however the sons of Timur who became suddenly the biggest threat could not be negotiated with mere months after the invasion started. Only the Horde, exhausted by the long and devastating war, wanted peace.


The emissaries of the Throne were sent to the East but the conditions offered by the Great Khan were harsh. Despite the fact he was losing the war the barbarian was bold enough to demand Romaioi to abandon all castles and fortresses occupied by them and leave his lands immediately, thus effectively returning to status quo ante bellum. To do this meant not only a disgrace but also to abandon Kingdom of Poland in an hour of its need. This in turn would violate the alliance between the Imperium and Kingdom which for so long prevented the Horde from expanding to the west. This sacrifice had to be made however, for if the Imperium falls the Christendom falls with it.

On 7 November 1554 the humiliating peace was signed. The Polish knights watched in silence as the Roman soldiers turned away and marched south to protect the City from innumerable armies of sons of Timur. In the following weeks queen Eufrozyna Angelos was found dead in her bedchamber. Magnaci gathered quickly in Kraków and called for wolna elekcja – „free election” during which a new ruler of Polish kingdom is chosen – and soon the crown went to Wszemila III Leszczyńska.

***

And so another year passed and came to the end. At the beginning of Anno Domini 1555 the situation of the Imperium was grim but not desperate – if the Pisans could be defeated quickly and Timurids repelled back to the desert there was hope for victory after all. Mongol barbarians or even soulless beasts from the Far West are no match for holy warriors of Kristos fighting in His name and for His glory. No man nor daemon nor even the Dark Powers and Diabolos, the Great Serpent, can defy the will of God or withstand His anger.

There is no salvation for those on whom He passed His righteous judgement.

 
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