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ANGEL OF LIGHT
I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Kristos. For if someone comes and proclaims another Iesous than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (…) For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Kristos.
And no wonder, for even Diabolos disguises himself as an Angel of Light.
- 2 Corinthians 11: 3-4, 13-14
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
- Revelation 14: 6-7
By the end of Anno Domini
1555 more than one third of all Romaioi have died due to the Black Death and yet the Plague continued to ravish the world. The Angel of Death was reaping a bountiful harvest in the Imperium and Europe and beyond, in all lands known to men. Desperate prayers were met with silence of the heavens, no matter what god the commoners were calling upon. Thousands continued to die every day and there was no end of this calamity in sight. As the dead rotted on the countryside and streets of once crowded cities, the same question was asked by millions in their misery– why? Why they were punished so terribly? Whose sins have angered the Almighty God to unleash such devastation upon the innocent? What horrible deed has been committed to earn God's wrath?
Who's to blame?
Collapse of the Imperial Administration
Konstantinoupolis was a smoldering ruin, with over one third of the City districts destroyed during the Plague Riots which consumed lives of more than 200,000 Romaioi. Slowly recovering from the worst outburst of violence in centuries, for several months all communication between the Sacred Palace and the outer world was disrupted. With the very heart of the Imperium wounded so heavily, the gigantic body of the Roman realm suffered a terrible blow akin to a violent stroke. No answers have come to desperate pleas of the local governors, no new orders bearing imperial seals were brought to them by messengers from the Palace. For too long the Konstantinoupolis remained silent and the already strained imperial administration finally collapsed. In some cases local archontes
managed to maintain control over their respective administrative units – alas, without clear orders and with clerks and officials themselves dying from the Plague most of them effectively dissolved. Like water spilling from the broken vase, the power vested in them by the authority of the Throne soaked into the land – local bishops, aristoi
became the real rulers in many themata
but even their reign was effectively limited to their castles and holdings. The God-given authority of the sacred Emperor, once a shining beacon of justice and harmony, was substituted by devilish discord of anarchia
With all pillars of the imperial might crumbling, the possibility of complete collapse of the Shield of Christendom suddenly became real and only by decisive and harsh measures the blessed Autokrator could've hoped to fulfill his sacred duty and preserve the Imperium. Shortly after the Plague Riots ended a session of the Senate was called in Konstantinoupolis to provide His Imperial Majesty with counsel. It was on the same day when the office of megas domestikos
, emptied with execution of Ioannes Laskaris, was given to magistros
Nikephoros Dalassenos. Thus henceforth the members of the Imperial Council were as follows:
- Megas Logothetes Manuel Komnenos
- Megas Domestikos Nikephoros Dalassenos
- Megas Droungarios Georgios Lekapenos
- Ecumenical Patriarch Niketas Dalassenos
- Sakellarios Isaakios Taronites
- Eparchos of Konstantinoupolis Markos Skleros
The nomination caused a lot of tension in the City, for it was no secret that four dynatoi
Houses desired this honor: House Skleros, House Taronites, House Dalassenos and House Komnenos. It was expected for House Komnenos to gain the seat in the Council, for one of the Dalassenoi already was its member after the death of previous Ecumenical Patriarch due to the Plague and other Houses – although wealthy and influential - could not compete with Komnenoi. Wild rumors began circulating in Konstantinoupolis and many were saying that by accepting the honor bestowed upon them the Dalassenoi humiliated House Komnenos. To some it was just another act in repetitive play of Palace politics, another shift of power but according to others is was something else entirely – an open challenge which could easily turn into a feud between two greatest dynatoi
Houses of the Imperium.
But games of the Powerful were the least of the problems the Imperium had to face. The Army was a mere shadow of its former might, unable to protect them from barbarians and enemy within. The Aerarium, although relieved from crushing debt after it was publicy announced that the Imperial Treasury shall not repay any of its creditors, could barely provide enough money for several tagmata
. With the imperial currency quickly losing its value the Treasury was soon forced to yet again seek loans. The situation was catastrophic already and it was clear that if the Aerarium was going to start lending again, it would become caught in a deadly spiral of debt – and there was little doubt that another collapse would destroy the Roman economy once and for all.
Thus His Imperial Majesty issued a decree whereby the Jews living within the imperial limites
were to be expropriated and removed from offices. Any and all Romaioi marked by a ceremonial mutilation known by the Kristos-killers as circumcision were subjected to this harsh law and although the imperial administration at that point was not able to carry out order of such magnitude, the right to keep 10% of the Jewish wealth encouraged many to help the officials in this matter. Accused by many to be the cause of the Plague, the Jewry suffered greatly losing what little influence they had and many synagogues were seized by the Imperium together with they lands and subsequently sold. Although the imperial decree clearly stated that the Ioudaioi
should not be harmed, many died from the hands of mob or competing merchants which helped the authorities during the expropriation. Attacks on rabbis and common Jews became widespread and in short time as many of them lost their lives as since the beginning of the Plague.
It was a necessary action however. For the price of Jewish blood and bankruptcies of dozens of trading companies and small banks the Imperium gained almost enough gold to repay all its creditors. Hesitant at first, the sacred Emperor decided in the end to sell Roman lands in order to gather sufficient funds – a desperate move, no doubt. And thus
Cantabria was sold to Kingdom of Aragon and thema
Toulouse to Kingdom of Aquitaine, which gladly accepted the imperial offer. Then finally the debt could be paid and the Aerarium, at long last, had not to carry its heavy burden. The Roman currency was still greatly weakened but after painful spending cuts the Aerarium could not only support the Army but also started to slowly fill the imperial coffers.
Alas, what brought joy to tired clerks and eunuchs of the Sacred Palace was of no importance to common Romaioi.
War of the Hoi Polloi
By the end of Anno Domini
1560 the situation in the countryside have reached a boiling point. For years suffering from war, rebellions and hunger, the hoi polloi
– the many – were driven to the edge. Hunted by Mongol slavers and packs of feral dogs, harassed by robbers and servants of the dynatoi
the peasants were struggling to survive another day. Whole villages were emptied and hundreds of fields once bringing plentiful harvest were now covered with thorny weeds and abandoned. The living sought refuge in swelling cities but those bloated with disease and despair offered no relief and soon more and more bodies were filling the streets, for the mass graves were overflowing with the dead. The dynatoi
had their mansions and castles, the rich had their gold and the clergymen had protection of the Holy Church but the hoi polloi
had nothing but their faith – and it too was dying a slow death. For too long the Sacred Palace remained deaf to their pleas, for too long their prayers were left with no answer and many realized that even the Angeloi could not protect them.
And so when Konstantinoupolis recovered from the wounds of the Plague Riot and imperial messengers once again were delivering letters from the Palace, the orders of His Imperial Majesty were met not with obedience but with defiance.
The peasants were rising up in arms in every province of the Imperium. Many of the tax collectors of the Aerarium trying to carry out their duty in themata
and kephanates were brutally killed as the mob directed its fury against them. Like feral animals the hoi polloi
turned against their betters and like a rabid dogs started to bite the hand which for so long kept them safe. In violation of all laws of men and God their began massacring everyone they deemed responsible for their misery – imperial officials, greedy merchants, treacherous Jews, merciless judges, aristoi
, foreigners. The mutilated corpses of the „oppressors” were put on public display and severed heads of imperial officials were defiled by the filthy masses.
Even the men of God were not spared from this eruption of mindless violence. Many churches were looted by the mob and instances of sacrilege to horrible to mention became common. Some priests were lucky enough to be defended by the local aristoi
or even the private armies of dynatoi
, many however had only one choice – to abandon their flock or die. Many chose martyrdom and gave up their life defending chapels and churches from desecration. The bishops' armies themselves couldn't stop the hoi polloi
sometimes, for although they were numerous many of the soldiers were malnourished and undisciplined after being affected by the Plague for years. Many of them joined the starving masses and turned against Holy Church herself – horrible stories were told like this of peasants bringing bishop of Thessaloniki down from his horse and hacking him to bloody pieces. Even thick walls of monasteries proved to be unable to stop the hoi polloi
– across the Imperium on courtyards and in cloisters, in refectories and in chapels, beneath columns of smoke from burning libraries the holy monks were being slaughtered and nuns raped.
Siena, Firenze, Antiocheia and even holy Hierusalem: one by one they were conquered from within by the masses and blood of their betters filled the gutters of the convulsing cities. The monster which now ruled over many imperial settlements was called by the scholars with the name of ohlokratia
– the rule of the mob – as cruel and unnatural as the demokratia
, rightfully condemned by both the philosophers and the Our Mother the Church. For it is written in the Holy Bible:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.
Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
To respect the God-given authority of His Imperial Majesty is a duty of every Christian and every Roman. To disobey the sacred Emperor is to resist God's Regent on Earth and thus the God Almighty himself – truly the hoi polloi
condemned their souls to hell by committing this grave sin. For it is said that whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.
But not only Romaioi rose against the Throne.
In every corner of the realm the barbarians and slaves were up in arms. The first to fight were the Mongols, starting a massive uprising in mountains of Caucasus. After the primitive brutes from the steppes rebelled the enslaved xenoi
, overwhelming their masters and killing them with their own chains. Then in Aegyptus rose the Timurid slaves calling themselves the Mamlukes, for the second time challenging the Throne since the Mamluke revolt of 1525-1526. Then the treacherous Germans and many more. Heathen or Christian, it seemed that all the peoples of the Imperium were revolting against the Throne. With almost all tagmata
gathered before the Walls, the imperial provinces were helpless to stop the rebel forces and although with the help of dynatoi
private armies some of the local authorities managed to push the hoi polloi
back, the better organized armies faced no opposition. With the Imperial Army protecting distant Konstantinoupolis, the savage Mongols and Mamlukes unleashed carnage unseen since the war with sons of Timur and many of those who survived the Plague died. The situation was only worsened by an unusually harsh winter and it was expected that, come spring, even more will die out of hunger for the dead could not sow the fields.
But even during this bleak days there was one place apart from the Queen of Cities which was not consumed by anarchia
and where order was preserved – Smyrna.
There, in the same city in which Saint Markos himself was born centuries ago, ruled Sophia Angelos. Called Lady Angelina or simply Angelina by her followers, she established a firm control over the city. She knew it well, for before the Plague arrived her father Niketas Angelos ruled over it as a doux, which certainly helped her gain trust of local elites. A lot has changed however since the day she received permission of His Imperial Majesty to open an almshouse. Thanks to her efforts and strict quarantine enforced by militia she created the city was spared the fate of Thessaloniki or other towns in which the Plague consumed half or even more of the population. Loss of her husband, as well as both of her sons and daughter, certainly had an impact on her. Always in the shadow of her father and strategos
Anthimos Balsamon to whom she was married, Sophia Angelos never became more of an object of interest in Konstantinoupolis than any other Angeloi – and she was a frequent guest in Queen of Cities, often visiting Great Pandidakterion. There, having mastered trivium
like all other dynatoi
noblewomen, she studied law, theology and medicine.
Now however it was as if the old Sophia has died together with her children. Her sermons attracted thousands and were a source of great concern for the Church even before she formed Excercitus Dei
– God's Militia – and effectively took control over Smyrna. With the worsening situation in the Imperium and the Plague still causing death of thousands of Romaioi, her authority grew. Together with the so-called Sisters of Mercy, recruited among noblewomen and commoners alike, she was a sole ruler not only of Smyrna but also of neighboring towns and villages. In her increasingly fervent sermons she attacked Holy Church herself, accusing Our Mother of being guilty of corruption and worldly desires. She also criticized the rich and powerful for exploitation of the poor, attacking not only the sinful merchants or aristoi
but even the powerful dynatoi
Houses, citing innumerable cases of their injustice towards the „little brothers of God”.
Her teachings and the fact that order was preserved in Smyrna was attracting more and more people to Angelina. Although nobody dared to openly accuse Sophia Angelos of heterdoxy, for she was one of the Angeloi, it seemed that the chaos of Hoi Polloi' War was the only thing which allowed her to spread such unorthodox teachings unopposed. According to rumors circulating in Konstantinoupolis, there were people – among them allegedly some members of the Imperial Council – sympathetic towards Angelina and her cause, at least to some degree. Ecumenial Patriarch however was avoiding the delicate subject, although some say that during a meeting of his advisors he categorically rejected any proposals regarding reform of the Holy Church, however small they were. His Imperial Majesty remained silent on this matter but the Throne could not give full attention to what was happening in Smyrna, for the Imperium faced – as it seemed at that time – much more pressing concerns.
The Many and the Powerful
By early June 1561 the western provinces of the Imperium were almost completely under control of the rebels. More and more uprising were erupting every month and both Italia and Dalmatia were effectively cut off from Konstantinoupolis. The withdrawal of the Imperial Army was met with anger, as the Italian patricians were left to face the rebels alone, and many considered this to be the last straw in a long sequence of events perceived by them as affront or outright „betrayal”. It wasn't before long when the imperial agentes in rebus
brought the most shocking news – some of the Italian cities started to organize themselves in some kind of a league, without a doubt preparing for a massive rebellion against the Throne.
There was little what could be done however: the Army, still suffering from the Plague, was in a terrible condition and was barely able to fight. Only thanks to the efforts and generosity of megas domestikos
Nikephoros Dalassenos the tagmata
were spared from dissolving into an undisciplined mess. Despite numerous calls from the Queen of Cities, in blatant disobedience of the sacred Emperor's will the Bavarian prince refused to sent his army to deal with the treacherous Croatians and only small Aragonese forces were trying to stop the disorganized masses of hoi polloi
rebels. Alas, Aragon itself was collapsing, torn apart by massive uprising of xenoi
slaves and it seemed that the days of the old kingdom are counted.
The situation was catastrophic.
Even accounting for the devastation brought by the Plague, Italia was the most populous imperial province with one out of every five Romaioi living in it. Together with Aegyptus it constituted almost one third of whole population of the Imperium. And so when it became known in the Sacred Palace that Alexandreia herself fell to the Mamlukes on 23 August 1561 it became clear that both provinces could be lost. That would be a crippling blow for the Imperium, not only greatly weakening it but also meaning loss of territories liberated by Saint Markos himself – an irreversible setback on the road to Pax Angelica envisioned by him centuries ago.
It could not be allowed to happen.
His Imperial Majesty ordered all governors who could still be reached by imperial messengers to stop the rebels no matter the cost, for the very existence of the Imperium seemed to be at stake. The hoi polloi
were treated as any enemy of the Throne was, that is without mercy and peasants' blood flew like a river. But even massacres performed by private dynatoi
and whatever was left from provincial forces could not stop the mob – starving to death and suffering from the Plague the hoi polloi
had nothing to lose and thus knew no fear. The worst outbreak of violence however took place in Konstantinoupolis.
On 2 December Anno Domini
1561 the hoi polloi
rose again in the Queen of Cities. The rabble overwhelmed regiments stationed in the City and tried to storm the Sacred Palace itself, murdering and burning everything on its way. Twice they attempted to break through the Chalke Gate before the rest of the tagmata
stationed beyond the Walls arrived. Acting on the orders of megas domestikos
Nikephoros Dalassenos, the Roman soldiers attacked the hoi polloi
with the full strength of the Imperial Army. Kataphraktoi
charged against the peasants, crushing their skulls under the heavy hooves of the war horses and bolts fired from a thousand crossbow pierced their bodies. It was not until the pyrotechnikoi
arrived however and unleashed the horrible power of cannoni
and fire-lances when the mob finally was forced to flee. Dispersed in the burning districts of the City and panicked, they were no match for the heavy infantry of the tagmata
The slaughter lasted for two days before Konstantinoupolis was pacified.
Granted permission by megas domestikos
to do whatever they please with the hoi polloi
, the tagmata
committed unspeakable atrocities on the dwellers of the City. Not only the poor suffered from their hand and a lot of innocent died during these days, trying to protect their property or even their daughters and wives from the drunk soldiers. A great part of the Platea district was looted and when the horror finally ended much of Konstantinoupolis was in ruin – it is said that almost one third of the City was destroyed in effect of the Plague Riots, the December Massacre and looting together. The Sacred Palace was saved however and the Throne was secure.
Not everyone survived however – as it turned out, Ecumenical Patriarch Niketas Dalassenos was killed during the riots by the enraged mob. However some were saying that not the mob was to be blamed but rather imperial officer and his men who were assigned to escort him from Hagia Irene church to the Sacred Palace – an officer who, according to rumors, was a bastard of the House Taronites, an ally of the Komnenoi. The fact that it was bishop Samuel Taronites who was chosen as the new Ecumenical Patriarch several days later probably caused these speculations – the truth of these events was to be revealed much later. Many more noble Romaioi perished during these terrible days, including even some of the Senators.
Konstantinoupolis was devastated but with the December Massacre the Hoi Polloi' War reached its peak. In the following months the peasants' masses were either wiped out or forced into submission and when on 29 August Anno Domini
1562 His Imperial Majesty issued a decree giving tax relief to all peasants in the realm for two years the bloody conflict was already over. The hoi polloi
uprising took a heavy toll on the Imperium alas – growing decentralization and fragmentation together with the authority of the Throne weaker than ever before meant that the complete collapse of the Christendom's Shield was still a real possibility.
Not many realized however that this was not the greatest threat the Imperium was about to face.
Left to her own devices, Sophia Angelos was rising in power and influence with every day. Before soon themata
populated by her followers of stretched from Nikea to Rhodes. Alas, with her growing authority her sermons were becoming more and more heterodox and even borderline heretic. Quoting the Apokalypsis
– the Book of Revelation – she claimed that the End Times have finally arrived and that the Plague is a punishment for sins of the Romaioi. The details of her teachings were not known or well understood in these days, there was also a lot of misinformation due to the chaos consuming the Imperium. As it later turns out, great many things which have been told about her were not true and on the other hand great many things which have been hidden from the eyes of the wise were later revealed. And truly a great darkness can be hidden under the disguise made of light and great light can be hidden in the darkness.
What was known at this time is that Angelina vowed to cleanse Smyrna from sin. She passed laws against sodomy, adultery, drunkenness and other immoral deeds which were enforced by her Excercitus Dei
, who were patrolling the streets to curb immodest dress and behavior. It was during these days when the word „Angelodoulos” was heard for the first time in Konstantinoupolis, although nobody understood what it really meant. Some suspected that the Angelodouloi were committing sin of idolatry by worshipping His Imperial Majesty, some thought that Angelina wanted to free slaves from their chains but all of them were mistaken as it later turned out. However her followers called themselves, it became obvious that the situation is getting out of hand quickly. But it was not before rumor reached Konstantinoupolis according to which Angelina claimed to have visions in which Iesus Kristos was talking to her when His Imperial Majesty decided to act decisively.
sent to Smyrna to apprehend her returned to Queen of Cities empty-handed – Sophia Angelos managed to escape. This alone raised many questions in the Sacred Palace, for it seemed impossible for her to know of the arrival of the Black Tagma beforehand unless she was warned by someone from Sacred Palace – and not that many officials had access to such information. This caused wild rumors to circulate the City, especially since it was at the same time when Alexios Taronites, an officer of the Imperial Army who according to baseless accusations was partially responsible for death of Ecumenical Patriarch, fell from the Walls and died.
Of course there were some who said that she knew of this because her visions were true but it was unlikely to say at least, because for if this was the truth it would meant that her teachings were correct. This in turn was inconceivable, especially when it became known what exactly she was preaching to the masses after several of her close advisors captured in Smyrna were interrogated by the Athanatoi
. For the time being however Angelina escaped, disobeying will of His Imperial Majesty and thus committing a grave crime and sin, which alone should be enough to condemnt her in the eyes of every Romaioi. Soon however the Throne was forced to concentrate on another matter entirely.
Invasion of Bahmanis
On 8 July Anno Domini
1562 grave news arrived from the East – the Sultanate of Bahmanis launched an invasion on Ceylon. With barely enough soldiers to keep the Queen of Cities safe and no ships to transport imperial tagmata
to distant Hindustan across the sea, His Imperial Majesty could do nothing but read more and more concerning reports of agentes in rebus
describing the invasion. All of the Ceylonese lands on Hindustan proper were overwhelmed in several months and before soon tens of thousands of fanatical Shia warriors attacked the island itself.
Imperium, separated from Hindustan by the Great Eastern Sea, was thought to be safe. As it turned out, this was not the case – Muslim tribes of Ajuuraan and Kilwa allied with the Bahmanis sultanate started raiding Exarchate of Abyssinia and Exarchate Africanus, with impunity. And thus worshippers of the false Prophet enslaved many Christians living in these lands. The exarchos
of Abyssinia sent his tagmata
to deal with the raiders but they were avoiding a pitched battle, burning villages, poisoning the wells and harassing the Abyssinian army in the mountains. Still, the war in distant exarchates was of no concern for the Throne for the very core of the Imperium was falling apart.
With no Imperial Army to protect them, more and more themata
were found under control of the rebelling Mongol and xenoi
slaves. Unlike the hoi polloi
, the thirst for blood of these beast could not be satiated and even slaughtering whole settlements was not enough for them. Some say it was revenge on their former masters and indeed they suffered the worst fate, but the truth is the Mongols are barbaric brutes, not capable of any higher feelings or thought, unable to organize into something more refined than packs like those of the wolves or hordes like swarms of locusts, destroying everything on their way. The most affected were the villages in Caucasus where by the end of Anno Domini
1563 over 40,000 of these vile beasts were roaming the land. The devilish deceit of the Mongol was revealed as thousands of those who allegedly converted to Faith were openly praising Tengri the Sky-Father, abandoning Iesus Kristos whom they were pretending to worship as their Lord and Savior.
But even in Caucasus one could try to flee from the horse-lords – no such possibility was given to those who lived on Balearic Islands. Hacked to pieces and devoured by soulless xenoi
or tortured and sacrificed to the Dark Powers, almost whole population of the isles was eradicated. This and even more disturbing reports were brought from lands on both sides of the Pillars of Hercules. But it was the silence which was most horrifying, for from many of the westernmost themata
no agentes in rebus
returned and it was unknown what was the fate of the Romaioi who lived there. The last report from Canary Islands mentioned an immense xenoi
fleet sighted near the coast but what was its destination and whether it was reached was not known. The reborn Kingdom of Aragon was dying its second death, even more brutal than the first one when thousands of xenoi
were pillaging the realm unopposed. The authority of the Aragonese extended only to the walls of Barcelona and from the pyramid erected by the Westerners in the ruined city one could allegedly see columns of smoke from destroyed settlements blackening the sky.
And then in the darkest hour, when it seemed that there is no hope for the Christendom, God Almighty showed mercy to His children.
Heresy of Angelina
Having killed millions of Kristianoi and barbarians and after causing untold devastation on the scale comparable only to the Great Dying and Sunset Invasion, by the end of Anno Domini
1564 it seemed that the horrible Plague finally ended. The devilish disease was still tormenting huge parts of Europe and even the lands of the Horde were not spared from calamities it bring but apparently it left the imperial borders for good. The death toll was catastrophic and it was estimated that even half of all Romaioi died due to the Black Plague. If the Imperium was to survive it would take decades or more before the population could rise to the levels in the days before the Plague and even more time before the Throne regains complete control over all themata
. Yet the greatest impact the Plague had was not on body but spirit.
Sophia Angelos reached Alexandreia safely and although it was controlled by the Mamlukes at the time she not only managed to earn their trust but also to gain her leaders as her followers. As perhaps the province most devastated by the Plague, war and famine, Aegyptus found sermons of Angelina very appealing and in less than a year her teachings were widely accepted and she herself was considered to be speaking on behalf of God Almighty. It was at this time when the disgusting truth of her teachings was finally revealed, in no small part due to testimony of those of her desciples who were captured and interrogated by the Athanatoi
. For as it turned out although in her sermons she spoke against corruption of the Holy Church and those of noble birth, the true message of hers shared with the initiated was much more revolting.
Angelina taught that the world we live in was created not by the Holy Trinity but by Great Serpent. Also called by her „Satanas”, „Diabolos”, or „Samael”, which in Aramaic means blind god, this entity is a malevolent creator who ruled over this world with help of his daemonic servants – archontes
. These evil spirits are presiding over the material world, and, according to Angelina, they were the daemons worshipped by xenoi
as their gods. All people, even xenoi
, have souls because all men are in reality angels of the true God, trapped in the material world. As angels they were all pure and genderless spirits but as men they are bound by flesh, condemned to experience pain, illness, misery and decay. It was by the order of the Serpent, blind and insane, that his archontes
were guarding the material world, ensuring that all souls are bound by the Cycle of life, death and rebirth, endless and inexorable.
are equal and thus are men are equal as well, for there was no differences between souls of men and women. However according to other testimonies Sophia taught also that although most people have „divine sparks” of common angels, some of them are souls of angels from higher in the Celestial Heriarchy. And so there were as many types of souls as angelic Choirs: Angels, Archangels and Principalties in the First Sphere; Powers, Virtues and Dominions in the Second Sphere; Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim in the Third Sphere. According to one of disciples of Sophia, she also claimed that Saint Markos himself was an angel of the higher hierarchy who thanks to Grace of the true God awakened in the material world.
This and many more were the true teachings of Angelina which I will not mention here for it would be a grave blasphemy to repeat them. For any scholar or theologian it was obvious that what Sophia Angelos preached was nothing more but a poisoned apple from the accursed tree known to the wise as gnosticism. Like Paulicians and Bogomilists and Cathars before them were the Angelodouloi
following the path leading to perdition and eternal torture in Hell for to reject God and speak blasphemies against Holy Spirit is the most grave sin which will not be forgiven.
It became clear that what Angelina was preaching as message from God was in fact heresy.
Incoherent and self-contradictory, although perhaps in part due to the fact that the Sacred Palace learned about them from testimonies of the interrogated, nevertheless her vile teachings quickly became popular among the commoners. Tempted by Angelina, they soon proved to the world who's message she was in fact spreading and whom she was serving commiting many atrocities. Although it remains unclear whether massacres of Jews and burning of books from libraries in Alexandreia were commited on her orders or orders of the Mamlukes, according to reports of witnesses she did not speak against them.
Preaching ascetic practices to the starving and rejecting Holy Sacraments she claimed that the Logos which expressed itself in the Holy Bible is the only source of wisdom not corrupted by ever-changin matter, the only source of Divine Light in the darkness and that prayer and is the only way to reach out to eternal Kingdom of God for common people. For there was another way called by her „the Union of Light” in which through deep meditation one could achieve communion with God Almighty. But only those of pure spirit could do such thing and in order to achieve pureness of the soul one had to reject all vices and pleasures of this life and serve his brothers and sisters, even giving his life for them in an act of highest compassion.
Such was the mystical nonsense preached by Angelina which consumed minds and hearts of Aegyptus. Like vile Katharoi
centuries ago the Angeloduloi
were quickly growing in numbers and it was clear that if not stopped in time this heresy could threaten the very foundations of the Imperium and the Holy Church, thus threatening the survival of the Christendom. But even not accounting for Angelina's heresy and with Angel of Death no longer reaping his harvest the situation of the Romaioi and all Christians was grim.
On the ragged edge
With the remnants of the Imperial Army still gathered nearby Konstantinoupolis and no means to stop the decay of the gargantuan body of the Imperium, the Romaioi were helpless against the immense armies of their former slaves. The Horde, sensing weakness like a steppe wolf smells blood from the wound, without openly invading the collapsing realm seized several themata
, effectively taking control over them. Caucasus and Taurica were scourged by the barbarians and only because of its thick walls and recklessness of the Mongols the great city of Chersonesus was still standing. Still, it was only a matter of time before it would be conquered by the barbarians and many Romaioi living there were trying to escape their fate by sailing to Konstantinoupolis. But the waters of the Euxine Sea were not safe anymore. Using their primitive monoxyla
– boats made from a hollowed tree trunk – Mongols managed to catch up with the refugees and capture a lot of them, taking them as their slaves. Recognizing the desperate situation of the Imperium, blessed Autokrator sent envoys to distant Hindustan in November 1564 to negotiate peace with the Bahmanis sultanate – alas, they never returned, most likely executed on the spot by the Shia snakes.
Then the Horde attacked.
On 4 April Anno Domini
1565 thousands of horse-lords poured into the lands controlled by Moldau. And although the people who once formed tagma ton Moldavon
were tough warriors they could not hope to overcome the invaders alone and were quickly defeated. It became obvious what the plan of the Great Khan was – with Caucasus and Taurica almost completely under his control the last obstacle blocking the way into the interior of the Imperium was Moldau. By conquering it the road to Konstantinoupolis itself would be open and with the Army still in no condition to face tens of thousands of horse-lords from all Asia and be victorious this new threat became all too real. Fall of Konstantinoupolis would mean the end of the Imperium and thus the end of Christendom – no price was too high to prevent this from happening.
And so a heavy price was paid for peace.
The negotiations were short, prolonged only by the distance separating Queen of Cities from Hindustan, and on 21 December Anno Domini
1565 the peace treaty was signed. The Bahmani took control over all Ceylonese lands save for the island itself and moreover demanded huge concessions to the benefit of the imperial enemies. Disgraceful as it was, the imperial envoys had no leverage to use against the sultanate – the Horde was at the doorstep to Graecia herself and if the reports of the decimated agentes in rebus
were true, the sons of Timur were amassing their armies in Mesopotamia. Huge fleets of the xenoi
were spotted by the Italian coast and the longer the conflict with Bahmani was bleeding the Romaioi, the greater was the threat of another invasion to be launched against the Imperium. It was hoped that peace would buy some time during which at least partially the Imperial Army could be prepared to face the inevitable.
But even the Westerners or Mongols could turn out to be less of a threat than the enemy within.
Valley of the shadow
Safe beyond the reach of weakening Throne and having sailed across Mare Nostrum, now a battlefield between xenoi
and Pisans, false prophet Sophia Angelos reached Italia. There she was preaching in dens of scum and villainy in which turned Italian cities. Accompanied by Sisters of Mercy and followed by growing numbers of followers tempted by empty promises of justice, purity and salvation, she burned books of accounts, bank notes and other instruments of Mammon in a campaign to rid Italia from sin. Calling her the Mother of Harlots, she vowed to save the Italians from corruption and purify their souls. There she started to burn the holy icons, condemning veneration of saints as idolatry and trickery of Diabolos, claiming that the material world is just a mere shadow and mockery of the God's Kingdom and thus all icons and paintings as shadows of a shadow are an abomination in the eyes of Kristos. And many patricians were listening to her sermons and many joined the ranks of her followers.
It was known that if she suceeded in planting seeds of her madness in Italia, already on the verge of open war against the Throne, she could single-handedly deliver a fatal blow to the Imperium. His Imperial Majesty knew he must act now lest the damage could be irreversible. For such grave problem there was no easy solution however. According to some members of the Imperial Court, many of whom were associated with the House Dalassenos, a synode of Our Mother Church should be convened to pass judgement on Angelina with guidance of the Holy Spirit. The others however argued for Angelina to be brought before the Throne in order to be branded as heretic along all her followers and executed. Among them was Ecumenical Patriarch Samuel Taronites whose House was an ally of the Komnenoi.
Such potent is the poison of heresy that even in Konstantinoupolis it could still seed discord among servants of God's Regent on Earth. However already by the end of Anno Domini
1565 most concerning rumors of a silent war waged with dagger and poison at the highest levels of imperial administration between two powerful factions were becoming more common. Whatever forces were acting behind the scenes, a moment in which masks fall away and strings of the puppets become visibile was approaching quickly. Having experienced the horrors of the Plague unleashed upon the world by God as a punishment for some terrible sins, many Romaioi realized however that the Imperium may not be able weather the incoming storm.
Save me, o God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me.
I am weary with my crying;
My throat is dry;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.