• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

CzokletMuss

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What's funny is that both of you are wrong AND right about it in the same time :) More details in the next chapter which should be done in 2-3 days - I have quite a lot of work lately but it should be over by tomorrow evening (the work, not chapter sadly).
 

Nuka75

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What's funny is that both of you are wrong AND right about it in the same time :) More details in the next chapter which should be done in 2-3 days - I have quite a lot of work lately but it should be over by tomorrow evening (the work, not chapter sadly).
Don't worry, take your time :) It is something you must have fun doing.

Though I can't wait to see :-o
 

CzokletMuss

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CzokletMuss

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CHAPTER 7
1303-1308
THE LAMB OF GOD


[video=youtube_share;H19DIYK39aM]http://youtu.be/H19DIYK39aM[/video]​

The Aztecs have reformed their savage cult.


Huetlatoani Zolin the Fat was celebrating. Not only he managed to conquer the kingdom of England and strengthen his power by imposing harsher laws for all the vassals of the invaders, but he also succeeded where his father failed. Tlacaeleltzin the Antichrist was a savage beast, a monster who killed thousands and was victorious in a thousand battles. As a leader of Aztec forces, he brought only darkness and death to all good Christians. But with all his power and cruelty there was one thing which he didn't achieve – he couldn't make Aztec faith popular. And for good reason – only a fool or a madman would worship the dark demons from the Far West. But a lot of time have passed since the initial invasion and there weren't a lot of people old enough to remember the terror which was brought to Europe by these strange ships. With the sword as the only alternative - if the savages were merciful and didn't want to play with their victims, as it usually happened – more and more of the conquered population were converting. Some of them, especially the nobility, accepted even barbaric customs from the Far West and started to behave like the savages – Nahua, as they described themselves.

But even as thousands of Christians and infidels alike were condemning their souls to the eternal torture in Hell by worshipping the dark gods of the West, it wasn't even nearly enough. As the history teaches us, sooner or later every invader slowly mixes with the common folk, taking their habits as their own and in the end both their culture and religion is no more. Huetlatoani Zolin the Fat understood this and that's why he was so dedicated to the idea of reforming the Aztec cult in the image of European religions. Not only he used some elements of the infidel and heretic ceremonies, he also dared to mimic the True Faith by making his own father the saint. This blasphemous mockery of religion, with a holy scripture now written in Latin and reformed priest hierarchy, was created only to strengthen his rule and to impress the subjects of the Aztec rule. Without a doubt it won't work – not even cursed Catholic heretics would be so insane to believe in this so called “reformation”. It was clearly Diabolos work.

But it was only the beginning of the bad news.


Few months after the blasphemous act of the Zolin the Fat, the Mongol invasion on Arabia has concluded on 13th February 1304. Khagan Belgutei, now called the Great, was victorious – barbarian hordes once again conquered the Arabian Peninsula. After seizing control of Mecca and Medina, this time the Ilkhanate showed no mercy – all Shia inhabitants of the cities of the Prophet were butchered, their property confiscated and their women and children captured as slaves. The once mighty followers of the false Prophet were now reduced to a small realm in Abyssinia. There was also an independent Sultanate of Mali, bastion of Ibadi heretics deep in the jungles of Africa. It seemed that it was only a matter of time before the last muslim is either converted, killed or enslaved. To make things worse, the imperial spies brought puzzling news – an adventurer from the north was gathering an army to attack Basileia Romaion. The revelation of the identity of this lunatic was shocking.


As the agent of the Bureau of Barbarians found out, Arnfinn Eriksson was a pagan, one of the last of his kind, still dwelling somewhere in the wilderness of Scandinavia. The perseverance and endurance of his kind was admirable – after all, not without a reason the members of the Varangiuan Guard were recruited from this wild and harsh lands. But to think that in the first decade of the 14th century there still were Norse believers, worshippers of demons like Odin or Thor? It was truly unexpected.

The pathetic scheme of Arnfinn the Pagan was ended swiftly – Imperial Regent showed him no mercy and soon he was drowned in his own blood. Megistos Basiliakos had other plans to take care of, much important than overambitious worthless pagans.


Weakened by the war against countless Mongol armies, the last Shia sultanate didn't show much resistance and soon the flag of the Empire was on every castle tower in Hayya. Although poor and distant province, this few counties nearby the border with the sultanate were important gains from a certain point of view. After signing the peace on 23rd July 1304, the imperial propaganda praised the Regent as a wise and fearless leader and conqueror of the infidels. Young Leon VII, easily manipulated as always, was very impressed by the renewed religious zeal in the Imperial Palace after this victory. Soon he himself became very dedicated to the Holy Cross – child-emperor dreamed about becoming a great Christian warrior. He started to spent more time with books, which for the first time in his life he found actually interesting. Basileus was especially fascinated by the hagiographikon, the lives of the saints.


In the meantime, Imperial Regent was struggling to keep his position. There were to many ambitious aristoi to appease, too many distant provinces to control – now the stretched out borders were suddenly a burden to deal with. There was peace, both with the external and internal enemies, but the storm was coming – the regency was soon to be ended and a lot of powerful man were more than eager to manipulate the weak basileus. Still, the Empire wasn't at war for almost a year.

Soon these few relatively peaceful months were abruptly ended by a truly shattering news.


On 3rd April 1305 Zolin the Fat has declared war on Basileia Romaion. Pride Aztec wanted to reclaim counties reconqured by the Empie during long civil wars amongst the savages. This several holdings under the Greek rule were a sanctuary for the persecuted Christians from African provinces of the realm of the invaders. Being a thorn in the side of the Aztec domain for far too long they ought to be destroyed, he thought. And so the invasion began and the barbarians rose like a dark wave, ready to swallow the light of the Basileia Romaion.

But not only the savages rose a sword on the Empire.


In his malice Zolin the Fat in secret ordered his agents to give gold and supplies to the infidels in Egypt, who still weren't accepting the benevolent rule of the Empire. And so the cursed Shia uprising broke out on 1st September 1305. With a strength of more than 12000 armed men, the rabble wasn't a threat to the imperial army – but they were a diversion. Their very presence forced the Imperial Regent to divide the forces sent to Tunisia. Megistos Basiliakos was confident in the army of hardened in battle mercenaries and expected them to wipe out the savages even without the support from the imperial levies.

It was a disaster.


Russians, Bulgars, Turks and other mercenaries fighting for the Empire were slaughtered by the savages. Few survived the battle, even fewer managed to escape from Tunisia. It was after this battle when the Aztec cruelty really showed their face. Triumphant Zolin the Fat ordered all the prisoners no to be sacrificed to the dark gods but rather to be crucified in a blasphemous parody of Our Lord and Savior martyr death on the Holy Cross. And although the battle of Gafsa concluded on 7th November 1305, its repercussions were perceptible for much longer. But it was not a time to bemoan the killed Christians – the Aztec army pushed forward, fighting their way through disorganized Imperial Navy and soon the unthinkable happened.

The savages were at the gates of the Queen of Cities.


Terrified aristoi, senators, priests and ordinary citizens of Konstantinoupolis alike could see with their own eyes from the Walls as the large Aztec army were chasing down the peasants and burning small villages and churches only a several kilometers from the capital of the Empire. In horror their watched the slaughter and soon the small forest of crosses rose nearby the Holy City of Constantine.

But they were safe.

No army have ever captured the Konstantinoupolis and many have tried. Mighty Persians ruled by the House of Sasan together with barbaric Slavs and Avars tried to capture the City in 7th century – and failed. Then came the infidels driven by their false Prophet hadis ordering them to conquer the City – and they failed twice. Then came the Bulgars and Russians and traitorous Thomas the Slav and even the Romans themselves under the command of a rebel doux Leo Tornikios during his revolt against basileus Constantine IX Monomachos in 1047 – and they all failed. The mighty teichos Theodosiakon built by the basileus Theodosius II in 5th century were the strongest fortification known to man, widely believed to be indestructible. According to some even the Diabolos himself wouldn't take the City if it Walls were manned.

Of course, Zolin the Fat knew this and taking the Konstantinoupolis was never his goal. By sending an army so deep into the Empire territory he wanted to create chaos, put a seed of doubt in the hearts of Romans and effectively cripple the Imperial Army by cutting it from the strategos, High Council and the Imperial Regent. Knowing that, Megistos Basiliakos ordered his generals to amass a great army and swiftly destroy the invaders pillaging the country outside of the Walls.

It was exactly what Zolin the Fat wanted.


Forces which invaded the countryside nearby the capital on 30th December 1305 were just a diversion. Thanks to them and with the half of the Imperial Army occupied by the Shia revolt in Egypt, he had the whole Basileia Romaion opened before him. He decided to concentrate his armies in Tunisia, Peloponnisos and Ionia. This last army was dispatched to capture Rhodos, island with a strategic significance – controlling it, he may use its ports to continue the raiding on all the coast of Asia Minor. What was even worse, he knew that Ionia with its capital Smyrna were the old lands of the House Angelos and were in the possession of the Angelois for more than 200 years. Without a doubt, he wanted to show everyone that Imperial Regent can't protect nor the City nor the basileus domain.

But it was no longer Megistos Basiliakos concern.


The regency was over and on 23rd January 1306 basilues Leon VII Angelos finally began the rule in his own name. Cruel fate wanted the intronization ceremony to be held at the same time when the Aztec army was hunting down the last alive Christians in the countryside nearby City, just a dozen kilometers from the Hagia Sophia. Imperial Regent didn't oppose nor he tried to influence now adult Leon VII – he was more than happily to give him all the power, confident that the inexperienced ruler will fail dramatically which may finally gave him some right to the throne.

Leon VII Angelos surely wasn't a statesman like his father or his father before him. Lazy and shy, still depressed after the tragic deaths of his mother and sister and with a predisposition towards men it didn't seem that he will become a great basileus. But with all his flaws he knew one thing – he realized his own incompetence. That's why he asked his uncle, grandmaster Leon Angelos, to become the strategos and advice him in this harsh times. As always completely loyal to the throne, Leon Angelos was more than happy to do this – being removed from the Council years ago, he was waiting for this moment for a long time.

And so the Empire striked back.


Battle of Constantinople was short and on 13th February 1306 it was over – kataphraktoi tagmata left no survivors. Basilues himself was watching the battle from the Walls together with courtiers and eunuchs of the Imperial Palace as well as the other high officials of Basileia Romaion. Quickly dispatched to Peloponnisos, imperial forces under the command of the Brotherhood generals defeated the savages one more time on 23rd March 1306 near the city of Naupaktos. Victorious strategos Leon even managed to take some captives, among them Aztec lords, which were punished for their crimes and sent back to Spain to show the others what is the fate of those who dare to attack the Empire.


But the main Aztec army was still intact and Rhodos was under a siege. It was obvious that the frontal attack was impossible – mountainous terrain and attack after crossing the strait - or even worse, after amphibious landing – made it very risky. It was as if the Aztec army was surrounded by a natural Theodesian Walls, confident in their invulnerability. There was no doubt that if basileus even heard about plans on attack on Rhodos, even he would overcome his shyness and forbid his uncle from doing this. It surely could end only in a slaughter and with Imperial Army broken, Mongol attack would be inevitable.

But grandmaster Leon Angelos didn't tell his Emperor anything.


Amassing a giant army from joined forces from Egypt and Peloponnisos, he ordered a frontal assault. If he had lost the battle, he would have surely be remembered as the man who virtually destroyed the Imperial army in the desperate hour of need. But thanks to his tactical genius, the assault was a complete success. On 3rd June 1306 this decisive battle was fought and on the rocky shores of Rhodos Basileia Romaion was victorious. All the savages were slaughtered and the few survivors were either executed or castrated to serve as an exotic servants to the Brotherhood commanders.

Leon VII didn't have a choice but to pretend that was his idea and he sent his uncle a congratulatory letter. But the whole Empire knew the truth – as he was since his father died, Leon VII was still nothing more than a puppet ruler. To give him justice, he was doing it for the good of the Basileia Romaion, as the future events showed.

The campaign in Tunisia marked the turning point of the war.


Brotherhood together with new mercenary units, tagmata and imperial levies on 23th August engaged the second Aztec army, bigger even than the one defeated on Rhodos. This time however the savages weren't protected by the rocky shores of the island and they were mercilessly slaughtered. Justice was served and the good Christians death was avenged. After the battle of Monastic which concluded on 26th August 1306, triumphant grandmaster Leon Angelos divided his forces, sending them to siege the castles and cities of Aztec Tunisia.

Zolin the Fat, forced to regroup, was furious. He still had tens of thousands of bloodthirsty warriors but this recent defeats meant that the certain – from his point of view - victory in war was now more distant and the war itself would surely prolong. Knowing that he can't beat the Imperial Army just yet, he decided that if the sword can't bring him swift victory, at least dagger can bring him swift revenge.


The Varangians quickly killed the assassins saving basileus life but alas Leon VII was wounded by the Aztec blade. The rumors about the royal blood spilled by the dagger from the Far West in the Imperial Palace alone, together with the recent attack on the countryside nearby Konstantinoupolis, gave birth only to darkness. Despite victories on Rhodos and Monastir, fear ruled over the streets of the capital and always ambitious factions in the Imperial Palace started their petty plots and schemes, hoping for the death of Leon VII.

Basileus himself was terrified.

In his eyes, the blade was much more than just a tool of revenge. Obsidian knife or tecpatl as the savages called it, was a ritual blade used in the blasphemous ceremonies of the dark gods cult. Being pious man he was, Leon VII believed that the blade was cursed. Even worse, he treated the wound as a punishment for his sins, still after all these years being influenced by the terrible execution of his sister. And though he was then merely a manipulated child, the mortal sin of killing his own kin was now terrifying him like never before. In his mind all the misery which Basileia Romaion suffered was caused by this act against the divine law – he even blamed himself for his mother's death. Always of weak health and deep in depression, now wounded and with broken spirit, he was awaiting the God's judgment and punishment in Hell. To save his soul from the damnation he not only ordered to build several new churches and gave big donations to the Church and the still fighting in Africa Brotherhood – he also decided to beg for forgiveness his own sister.


Imprisoned at the age of 16 on 1294 year, after 12 years of being a prisoner in her own palace, Martha Angelos, the last living children of basileus Valerios Angelos, was set set free on 27th October 1306. Not only that, but Leon VII gave his sister the title of sebastokrator and immediately ordered the eunuchs of the Imperial Palace to find her a suitable husband. A grand ceremony were held during which sebastokratorissa married a distant relative of the douxes from the House Doukas and was officially recognized as the heir to the Basileia Romaion. Feeling that the secured the throne for the descendants of Saint Markos, Leon VII was spending most of his time praying to God for forgiveness and fasting. Horrified by the vision of eternal torture in Hell, Leon Angelos was slowly loosing the little strength he had – the wound wasn't healing properly. Blaming the dark demons from the Far West for this, he was praying with even more dedication, leaving the matters of state to the High Council – and his sister, who after years spent in a house arrest, was finding great pleasure in discussing the matters of the realm with high lords.


In the meantime the imperial expedition was continuing the slow conquest of Tunisia. Siege after siege, castle after castle, slowly the whole coast was under the firm control of grandmaster Leon Angelos. Just like the savages to Christians before, he showed them no mercy – every man who wasn't a Christian or spoke in Nahua was put to the sword. Whole villages were razed to the ground, cities were destroyed and the bodies of Aztecs and their Shia or Catholic subjects alike were burned in thousands for there were not enough cemeteries in the whole Tunisia to contain them. Dedication and zealous fervor of the Brotherhood was described by some as needless brutality and ruthlessness but grandmaster Leon didn't care about it – he was executing the God's will. Wherever his army set foot, the savage, infidel and heretic blood was flowing like a river. Leon Angelos was pleased – justice was served.

The civil wars which broke out in 1307 in both the vast Aztec realm and the kingdom of Aragon were worrying. By this moment Zolin the Fat understood that he can't win both wars but he was still refusing to surrender, hoping for the soon death of Leon VII. In Aragon however, the revolt against the young king Markos Angelos was completely unexpected. Staying neutral during the conflict between Basileia Romaion and the savages, young Markos in his ambition dreamed about the imperial throne and didn't wish well nor for his brother-in-law nor his sister-in-law.

Finally, after long months of struggle, Zolin the Fat was ready to accept the terms of grandmaster Leon Angelos.


The war was over on 3rd February 1308 and Basileia Romaion was triumphant. The Empire have survived yet another trial but it paid for it in blood – and the price was high. In Konstantinoupolis the citizens were celebrating and even the factions of ambitious aristoi seemed to abandon their schemes. The savages were defeated – for now. It was obvious that sooner or later the barbarians will return, fueled by their desire for vengeance.

Ill, exhausted and in constant pain from the infected wound, when Leon VII heard the news the same day the peace was signed he smiled for the first time in months. He ordered his sister to be brought to him and after short conversation he asked her to prepare the ceremony for their victorious uncle, soon to be returning from Africa, for which she agreed and left the Emperor's chamber. After that he ordered his servants to leave him because he wanted to pray to God and thank Him for His mercy. Martha Angelos was the last one to speak with the basileus.

His body was found by the eunuchs few hours later.

 
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Stuyvesant

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I sure hope Martha married matrilineary... :)

Another bruising conflict with the Aztecs, but you won - did you gain anything besides the peace, or was peace enough for you?

I like the story arc you created for Leon. He didn't really achieve anything, but by taking the events and creating a narrative out of it (depressed, zealous, wounded, burdened with guilt from the earlier actions in his name), you made a story that was interesting. Not sure if he's resting in the Lord's arms after committing suicide, but that's not for me to know. ;)

Did you release Martha because you knew that a wounded/depressed/homosexual Emperor was not likely to live long enough to get an heir, or did it just work out that way by happy accident?
 

CzokletMuss

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I sure hope Martha married matrilineary... :)
Find out in the next chapter :p
Another bruising conflict with the Aztecs, but you won - did you gain anything besides the peace, or was peace enough for you?
I've lost almost 3 years (because I couldn't wage another war during this conflict for obvious reasons)and I gained nothing. So yeah, Empire lives for another day thanks to the thousands who died on a battlefields of this pointless war.
I like the story arc you created for Leon. He didn't really achieve anything, but by taking the events and creating a narrative out of it (depressed, zealous, wounded, burdened with guilt from the earlier actions in his name), you made a story that was interesting. Not sure if he's resting in the Lord's arms after committing suicide, but that's not for me to know. ;)
Thank you! Well, this last thing will be adressed in the next chapter :)
Did you release Martha because you knew that a wounded/depressed/homosexual Emperor was not likely to live long enough to get an heir, or did it just work out that way by happy accident?
With weak, wounded, depressed homosexual Leon VII it was obvious he can die at any moment so yes, I released her because of that. Plus knowing his luck, his wife would propably gave him syphilis or drive him crazy - or worse.
Oh my God, 62k... poor Aztecs..
Well, it was all I have and both them and Mongols have much more than this, though AI isn't that good at concentrating all its forces for a critical battle as a player is. Still, battles on an islands are especially destructive :)
 

mike the knight

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Despite my prediction he saved the day ! I can tell that it was the best chapter until now ...
 

Nuka75

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Poor Leon, I really liked his story and hoped he would achieve more. But the good of the Empire should always prevail. At least, he understood what would be his final act and prepared the empire for a new ruler. May God forgives his final act...

For now, I am worried... With the king of Aragon as pretender to the One Christian Throne, I hope the true Christians won't start a pointless succession war in such dire times!
 

CzokletMuss

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Despite my prediction he saved the day ! I can tell that it was the best chapter until now ...
Don't worry, it'll get better worse :)

Poor Leon, I really liked his story and hoped he would achieve more. But the good of the Empire should always prevail. At least, he understood what would be his final act and prepared the empire for a new ruler. May God forgives his final act...

For now, I am worried... With the king of Aragon as pretender to the One Christian Throne, I hope the true Christians won't start a pointless succession war in such dire times!
Poor Leon indeed - raised without his parents, forced to commit a terrible deed and finally when he couldn't take it anymore he decided to just let it all go.
And yes, king Markos is a threat but there is a very easy way to neutralize him :)

BTW this AAR have just surpassed my previous one in number of views - thanks for support and reading guys! More chapters will come soon :)

 
Last edited:

Nikephoros II

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This is certainly quite the grimdark world. If only there was a Δρουγγάριος Indrikios Borialos of the Imperial Τάγματα to lighten the mood.
 
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unmerged(271387)

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This is great! I absolutly love it!
 

CzokletMuss

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Congratulations, milord!
This is certainly quite the grimdark world. If only there was a Δρουγγάριος Indrikios Borialos of the Imperial Τάγματα to lighten the mood.
Awesome update! Looking forward to the next one. Poor Leon!
This is great! I absolutly love it!
Thank you all for these kind words! :) I wanted to release the next chapter today but alas the Christmas laziness distracted me from it a little bit and although the next chapter is almost ready it won't be released today. But to sweeten the waiting, here's the current ruler of the Basileia Romaion, basilissa Martha:



Thanks once again and expect update during this weekend :)
 

VILenin

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Fantastic AAR! The title certainly delivers as advertised: I can't recall a crazier CK2 game! This is why I enjoy Sunset invasion, for the apocalyptic insanity that can result in the 13th Century from all of those invasions. Here's hoping the Roman Empire will weather the storm and drive back the barbarians.
 

CzokletMuss

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CHAPTER 8
1308-1312
MORE PRECIOUS THAN JEWELS


[video=youtube_share;lW2jYRrMK0w]http://youtu.be/lW2jYRrMK0w[/video]​

He died like his mother, in a pool of blood in his own palace.

His veins were opened, but apparently Leon was in too much pain to endure this slow agony. That's probably why he tried to cut his throat. But weakened by the loss of blood he wasn't' strong enough to do this and the dying emperor had to struggle with his own body to finally put an end to his misery. This suicide marked the end of the short reign of the young Leon and caused a lot of confusion amongst the priesthood. After all, suicide was a sin and a grave one. Although unlike the Catholic heretics the True Church don't judge whether the persons who have taken their own lives are condemned to the eternal torture in Hell – only Almighty God may pass such judgment and the Church should pray for every sinner. On the other hand, Leon was not an ordinary man – he was porphyrogennetos, grandson of Saint Markos and supreme ruler of the Basileia Romaion. What does a tragic death like this tell about the condition of the Empire? What should the common folk do if even their leader and defender gaves up all hope and is consumed by despair?

One thing was certain though - Leon VII was dead. The fate of the Empire lied now in hands of his sister, Martha Angelos.


It was obvious that things weren't looking good for her. Married to the member of a powerful House Doukas with ambitious cousin and king of Aragon as her heir, new both to the world of politics and to her people after spending years in prison, Martha Angelos ascended to the Throne surrounded by power hungry courtiers and powerful aristoi. And to make things worse, she was a woman – the first basilissa since Euphrasia Doukas who died more than a hundred years ago. History teaches us that the reign of women isn't the best time for the Empire – sadly, there were always more empresses who resembled Irene the Athenian who blinded and banished her own son Constantine VI, than those like the Saint Theodora. But in those harsh times the Empire didn't need neither ruthlessness nor sainthood – it needed peace and stability.

As it soon turned out, there wasn't a better suited person for this task than basilissa Martha.


One of her first orders after the intronization was to send the Imperial Army still standing in Tunisia after the recently ended war with the savages to Aragon, to help her cousin king Markos in an ongoing civil war against his reign. This was completely unexpected – after all, why should one help the claimant to his title? There were whispers in the Imperial Palace that it was the first and the last mistake of the Empress and soon the ambitious Markos Angelos will claim the Imperial Throne, betraying clueless basilissa. Being the grandson of Saint Markos and a strong, capable ruler he could count on a support from the army, always distrustful of women rulers. They say that the powerful House Doukas was already conspiring with king Markos against the Empress.

But what nobody suspected was that behind the mask of a naive and trustful woman were hidden determination and keen intellect.

For basilissa Martha sent to Aragon not only the majority of the still standing imperial forces but, more importantly, grandmaster Leon Angelos. Being one of the most influential man in the Empire if he was to support the rebellion against her, she would surely lost the crown for her cousin. She needed to ensure that he was loyal to her – but for the time being by sending him and the Brotherhood forces to the distant Aragon she at least delayed the threat of the uprising. Her next move was equally cunning – she decided to raise the taxes in Egypt and at the same time order the Brotherhood to execute this new law. Knowing their religious zeal and tensions between the good Christians and Shia, she expected the new tax to cause great unrest in the province.

And it did.


On 1st June 1308 another Shia uprising erupted. With most of the imperial forces still in Aragon and most of the levies disbanded after long war with western savages, Empress knew that this particular revolt won't be crushed easily. It didn't take long before the rebels gathered enough forces to start wreaking havoc to the whole province. Churches were burnt, loyal citizens of the Empire slaughtered and priests hunted down and executed by a bloodthirsty mob. The situation soon became severe enough to pose a threat to the very imperial presence in Egypt - all according to the plan. With Basileia Romaion rule in Egypt endangered and the whole province in fire, all eyes of the powerful aristoi were on the Shia rebellion. At the same time, grandmaster Leon Angelos and king Markos Angelos as well as all the Aragon were still occupied by a slowly burning out civil war. With all here potential enemies distracted, Empress decided to act.


On 21st August 1308 tragic news reached the City – wife of king Markos, heir to the Imperial Throne, was found dead in Royal Palace in Barcelona. Obsidian dagger used to carve out her heart was clearly an evidence of the Aztec involvement. The whole kingdom was mourning this tragic loss, especially the king himself for he truly loved his wife, his devotion to her being well known even beyond the borders of Aragon. It was shortly after the funeral when trusted eunuchs delivered to him a secret message from the Konstantinoupolis.

Empress in her wisdom proposed a marriage between her and king Markos. It was very beneficial to both of them. Basilissa Martha was going to gain a powerful ally against all the internal foes, one which she desperately needed during the first years of her reign. What's even more important, at the same time she would eliminate the greatest threat against her rule by marrying the very ambitious claimant she feared so much. King Markos, on the other hand, would not only become the imperial husband and gain a title of emperor, but also would get a guarantee that his children will inherit both Aragon and the throne of Basileia Romaion. It would also eliminate the threat of Empress intervention – after all, basilissa Martha also had a strong claim to the Aragonese crown. Moreover, this marriage would secure the alliance between two Christian realms, as well as guarantee that the House Angelos would remain in power in both of them.

Although still full of grief after a tragic loss of his wife from the hands of the Aztec agents, this was an offer which ambitious Markos simply cannot refuse.


A glorious wedding took place on 31st August 1308 in the City, with streets full of flowers and dancers. Ceremonies took several days during which the whole Konstantinoupolis celebrated this important event, which was expected to bring peace and prosperity to both Basileia Romaion and Kingdom of Aragon. After the news reached the leaders of the Aragonese rebellion, they surrendered almost immediately – they knew that they can't oppose the might of Basileia Romaion, now led by a wife of basileus Markos against whom they were fighting. Shortly after that the Shia rebels were finally destroyed by a joint expedition of Aragonese army and Brotherhood forces. Thanks to her cunningness, basilissa Martha in just several months not only increased her authority to the point that nobody dared to oppose her but also secured for her House Aragonese crown and de facto layed the fundaments for the future integration of the whole kingdom with the Empire.


Next two years were, finally, peaceful. After the long period of stagnation Basileia Romaion was at last led by a true statesman, wise and just yet merciless for all the enemies of the Empire. Soon the authority of the Throne was rebuilt to the point when basilissa could – thanks to the support from her husband – enforce reforms which put an end to the deepening decentralization and took the power from the aristoi back to the Empress. Unfortunately, the price for this was a Tax Exemption for all the noble lords, a fair price for the basilissa in her wisdom was always planning in the long term. She knew that in 10 or 15 years weakened aristoi won't have a choice but to accept harsher terms and the gold will once again flow like a river to the City.

Unfortunately, she wasn't the only visionary ruler.


Terrible news from the East reached the Imperial Palace on 23rd June 1310 – khagan Belgutei not only won the long and devastating civil war but he also completely eradicated all opposition to his rule. Belgutei the Great, as the barbarians called him, was now a true tyrant with absolute power over his vast realm. Merciless khagan was treated almost like a god by his subjects, who believed he's the champion of the Sky-Father, destined to bring glory to Tengri. Even after the ruthless pogroms of Jews and persecution of good Christians in the vast Ilkhanate his appetite for blood could not be satisfied. United by the will of their khagan, barbarians again turned their eyes to the west. The war was only a matter of time.

However even wise Empress didn't expect it so soon.


When on 11th March 1311 first reports of the Mongol armies crossing the borders reached the City, they shocked everyone. The second invasion of Armenia began – but this time the Empire wasn't completely unprepared for the barbarians. With the full treasury and internal stability Basileia Romaion was in such a good condition, that basilissa even decided one year before that to attack Shia caliph in hope of regaining some of the holdings near the Holy City. The Brotherhood and the mercenary army was already fighting in the East for quite a long time when barbarians attacked.


Feeling confident in the power of his forces, grandmaster Leon Angelos, who didn't set his foot in the City since the beginning of the war with the savages from the Far West, decided to attack. Reports about a huge Mongol army with 15,000 men spotted near Jerusalem only made him glad. Always eager to spill the blood of the infidels, full of religious zeal and with superior forces, grandmaster Leon Angelos once again disobeyed orders from the Capital.

But, as they say, pride always comes before a fall.


Despite superior forces, imperial army suffered a staggering defeat on the fields of Arish on 4th June 1311, loosing most of the mercenaries and almost half of the Brotherhood knights-monks. Basileia Romaion lost not only a good chunk of its forces, but also lost any hope for a quick victory in a war against cursed Shia caliph. Furious Empress was forced to sign a humiliating treaty with the infidels on 11th June 1311, earning nothing more but a return to the status quo after long and bloody campaign. To make things worse, grandmaster Leon Angelos disappeared in the thick of the battle and many thought that he was slained on this disastrous day in the desert of Sinai. Seizing the occasion, basilissa announced herself as the acting grandmaster of the Brotherhood in an unprecedented act.

But even in the deepest darkness, there is always a light of hope.


For our Almighty Lord and Savior blessed the Empress with a child – basilissa was pregnant. This blessing came however in a very bad time, for Martha Angelos had to dedicate all her energy to the matters of state, spending many sleepless nights on the long meetings with the High Council.

Thanks to her determination, it didn't take long before the whole Empire was ready for war.


Leaving the logistics and almost all the mundane matters to the imperial strategos and his domestikoi, Empress actively participated in long-term strategic planning. There was no place for personal bravado or insubordination, not after battle of Arish. The Empire if to survive the invasion of the barbarians had to work like a flawless automaton, one of these toys of the philosophers of old. But even perfect automata are worthless without a bright thought behind it, steering it to work for the benefit of man. Luckily for Basileia Romaion, the Empress was blessed by exceptional intellect.


And so when the news of the enormous enemy forces gathering in Armenia came to the City, basilissa in her wisdom decided to concentrate all the forces on this front. Having read the great Strategikon she knew that this mountainous region will be a perfect place to repel the Mongol hordes. But not only brave Armenians were to participate in the incoming battle – soldiers from all the provinces were gathered for this titanic struggle.

And when all the orders were given and all the ships set sails, exhausted by months of hard work Empress finally release her body from the grip of her iron will.


On 6th January 1312, in the Porphyry Chamber in the eastern wing of the Imperial Palace, porphyrogennetos Markos Angelos, the heir to the Imperial Throne and Crown of the Aragon, was born. The line of the Angeloi was secured – basilissa, looking at the waters of Bosphorus Straits glittering in the sunlight, for the first time in years let herself forget for a moment about the Empire and, for a brief moment, be just a mother and wife. Few days later another good news reached the Palace – grandmaster Leon Angelos was found alive and well. His arrival in Antiochia was interpreted as a sign from God – after all, his loyal servant not only survived the slaughter on the fields of Arish but also traveled through he whole Levant swarming with the barbarians and emerged unscathed.


Few weeks later, on 11th February 1312 reports of the first engagements with the Mongol patrols in Melitene came to the City. It was only a matter of time before the two gigantic armies collide in a crucial battle, one which is going to decide the result of this war. In her weakened state and in a distant Konstantinoupolis the Empress couldn't do anything but to wait for this titanic battle to resolve.

And during those nervous days, full of tension and anxiety, with the fate of the eastern provinces of the Empire being decided in the valleys of Melitene and with young Markos at her breast, basilissa Martha began writing the work which was going to immortalise her name forever – the illustrious “Chronicle”.
 
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Ia sure that Empress will be the salvation of the realm ! With Brotherhood's sword shall slain the infidels!