It was the first battle for Meletios Vyrennios, aged only 13. Nikophoros had been taken into battle by his father at the same age and he did not doubt that Meletios awaited this baptism of blood with the same nervous, eager trepidation. Although Meletios suffered from a weak speech pattern, he certainly impressed in the yard and his understanding of military tactics was very impressive. As far as a man like Nikophoros could dote, he doted on Meletios. Riding next to him in battle filled him with a buoyant feeling of pride. It had taken only a day to find the peasant host, who were somewhere on the Cilician plain. A place with no name that anyone would remember, but it would be doused in blood nonetheless.
Curiously, Nikophoros had felt only a disinterested numbness as his cavalry had clattered into the brave - far too brave - charging peasants. Perhaps as these opponents were no true worthy foes for him and Ashot doubtless a fool of a demagogue, he went through them like a farmer does wheat. Meletios first kill was a messy business, as he tried to behead a brutish man with a sickle, but his blow was only strong enough to open his throat and the boy had had to beat him over the head to down him. The western-style lances of his household brothers took hundreds of deaths that day.
The rhythm of murder was relaxing, Nikophoros reflected as he drew out his mace and hacked peasants down as they fled. Although Ashot was not dead, he had become yellow once he had seen how the first half of the peasantry had fared against real warriors. This mob was now a screaming mass of men, the cavalry merely cantering as they slaughtered or captured the peasants according to personal inclination. Among Nikophoros' hundred, there was much more murder than mercy.
And now Nikophoros was a part of the deadly dance, of the chase. In the distance he could see the rearguard of the peasants taking heels to run to the hills, where rocky terrain would disrupt his horsemen- in truth it astounded him that Ashot had been on the plan at all. Stupid peasants. And Cilica was paying for it with another large amount of the Armenian population, this time of young angry men- farmers, Nikophoros knew, but you could always advertise for land in the overcrowded cities in Europe.
That evening, they captured Ashot, a roughly-spoken peasant with only the barest Greek. He was, Nikophoros had to admit, very recognisable though, with high lordly cheekbones a deep powerful voice and an aura of command. Not with anything to back it up though, once captured and tortured a little by Thelonius and the boys he agreed to do anything- anything! Nikophoros wanted of him. Meletios had watched that too- it had been disturbing even for Nikophoros to see quite how engaged he was in the burning of this man's private parts and the boiling water that scalded his thighs.
For two weeks, he was dragged all around Armenia, from Tarsus, to Sis and Adana, to all the market towns and made to confess his crimes and pledge allegiance to Nikophoros Vyrennios. He was taken by Meletios, as Nikophoros retired to his own castle to spend more time with Anna, who was compiling her histories of the Crusades, and his own burgeoning spider collection. The news that Meletios, having finished his tour of Cilica with Ashot, had hung him from the battlements of Tarsus, swinging blue flanked by his two dogs, his most treasured possessions. When he had received that news in the middle of his chess game with Anna, she had turned to him as soon as they were alone and spoken, each word as dry as an Egyptian tomb.
"The wind is blowing due Vyrennios, and it brings the heady stench of blood."
Cheers Gandalf, Boustro and Shanks - wait until the Komnenos boys visit Cilica