Finally caught up! Very good characters and plotline. Can't wait to see what the future holds!
Finally caught up! Very good characters and plotline. Can't wait to see what the future holds!
Sorry about the double post (stupid phone) but it does give me the chance to give u some rep!
Last edited by Scottish King; April 22, 2012 at 02:30 PM.
Antioch, 1117 AD
Bohemond II of Antioch was ten years old, nine years younger than Andronikos was and it seemed to him that he commanded less respect than Andronikos had at that age, was less intelligent, weaker and also suffered from delusions of importance. That he had to do, surrounded by Franks far from home, far from the hope and scenting the weakness of a boy who seemed only just to have fled his mother's skirts. His uncle Roger di Salerno was his regent, stern and cruel, a seasoned warrior but not one to whom men flocked. Instead, they would flee, bow in his presence and whisper behind his back, in the contested regions that surrounded this rich city. From what Andronikos had seen it was rich, although nowhere near as rich as Constantinople. There was a rich spice and sugar trade, all but monopolised by a few Greeks who had been friendly enough to house their party and clothe them, obviously aiming to sweeten the City towards them. Much of the city was Roman and Andronikos fought himself intrigued by the ancient architecture, although nowhere near so as his brother.
In truth, he was happy just to escape the cloying Vyrennians, in particular the ghoulish Meletios, who had dismembered a rabbit in front of little Strategios simply to prove a point- that he was strong, he was cruel and he was the big man in Cilicia. When Ioannis sat the throne in Constantinople, he would have to be harsh on that one. Today, Ioannis was at the court of Bohemond, while the boys had been left to play together in the house the imperial family were staying, that of Bonifacius Balgiarotes, the richest merchant in Antioch. He, Priskos, Isaakios and Justin Doukas were enduring a Latin lesson foisted upon them by the priest Manuel. A sour man, he doted on Isaakios and lashed out that the rest, appalled by their fumbling tongues. Andronikos passed the time daydreaming of swordfights, of the joust he had taken part in with a Frank the day before yesterday. Jousting a fine idea, far better than Ioannis' beloved chariot-racing.
"What is Latin for 'Romans go home, Justin?'"
"Romanes... eunt... domus...?" Justin offered hesitantly, sweating profusely as was his wont
"People called Romanes they go the house?" the priest snorted incredulously
Justin was not the brightest and looked confused "No... Romans go home, sir..."
"Latin for Romans, boy?"
Leaning across and whispering, Isaakios saved his friend "Romani."
"Good. Conjugate the verb 'to go'?"
Eyes bulging with fear, Justin began to let off a reek. Smiling to himself at his luck at not being picked, for he had no idea how to conjugate any verb in Latin, Andronikos resisted the urge to swing back on his chair as Justin mumbled into his chin hopelessly.
"Romani ite domum!" Isaakios had taken pity on Justin, who breathed out and seemed to deflate like a popped pig bladder into his seat. The priest had a mingled expression of disdain and pleasure at his pet Latin as he turned to Justin
"Good, now write it out a hundred times as Isaakios so kindly told you it for free. That is your lesson for today, my Lords."
When the hawk-like man had left, Justin turned to Isaakios and scowled, grudgingly thanking him. Priskos strode out first, feeling as ever slightly awkward around his uncles, with Justin hot on his heels. Andronikos lingered to talk to Isaakios, nodding at him and noting the quiet smugness on his younger brother's eyes that was only ever there in the realm of academia. As they had grown it had been ever more obvious that their roles in life would be disparate, Andronikos a general and Isaakios a governor and the two had grown closer to it, their relationship full of abrupt short language but with an understanding underneath.
Andronikos checked they were alone then touched his brother on the arm "Wondered why father hasn't married us off yet?"
"No opportune moment, no opportune princess and the goodness of his imperial heart." Isaakios was suddenly more serious "Women are married away, not men. We are men, brother."
"No, John and Dimitra are only married because father needed the money to finance his reconquest of Bulgaria and Serbia and the Bari experiment. He would surely want to make a match for us with princesses each? I heard Bonfacius telling father to 'hold off on the arrangements with the girl because the political situation is... volatile', Bohemond has an elder sister."
Dubious, Isaakios raised a pock-marked eyebrow "Yes, she is twelve."
"We are of high blood, we marry as duty. Marriage and love are separate, have you not experienced a woman, brother?" Andronikos felt a queer rush of spite, as his younger sibling lowered his eyes and looked like a beaten puppy for a moment- ill-becoming of a Komnenos "Then I shall take you whoring on the morrow."
"No... neither of us shall be married and I shall not throw myself away either." he narrowed his eyes damply and marched off, leaving Andronikos pensive for an evening he whiled away with a Frankish knight and his squire, leaning how to hold a lance.
"Andronikos. We are leaving. Now." he was roughly woken by Ioannis, who was panicked. Flopping over with his fringe falling across his eyes, Andronikos leapt up as soon as he saw the genuine fear in his brother's eyes "The Seljuqs are marching on the city, we have to leave. Bonifacius has his ship waiting at the harbour, we have to run, now. Come on."
Five minutes later he was on his horse, trotting down a sideroad as Bonfacius led them "The main roads will be watched. They mean to take you captive so Alexios will join the fight on their side."
Angered, Andronikos dug his heels into his horse and rode up next to Ioannis "We have one hundred men, how could they hope to take us?... Where are our men? We can only have four dozen with us now."
Ioannis turned a steely gaze reminiscent of Alexios on him "Reaching the dock by other means. We must not attract attention. If there is fighting, we gallop. No heroics."
Moonlight cast a spider's web shadow through the thin trees which were still growing their spring clothes as they trotted on hooves which echoed eerily through empty streets. Soon they were out of the city proper and wending their way towards the Orontes river which would lead them home. There was silence as Ioannis rode with his hand on his sword, Andronikos following his lead, as did the guards.
They could hear the progress of the river as it sidled towards the sea when they heard the rustlings, Ioannis drew his sword and beckoned his guards to encircle his family and the merchants, who fled the war with them.
"Drop your weapons and come with us." the voice spoke Greek with no hint of an accent as a dozen men with loaded crossbows stepped out in front of them on the road "There are more of us coming."
Shaking his head, Ioannis shouted "Charge, men!" and all became confusion, Andronikos disobeying his brother's earlier order in favour for the new one, spurring his horse forwards, feeling a crossbow bolt graze at his elbow as he unsheathed his sword and leant down to hack at the man who had spoken. He felt his foot being pulled from the stirrup and distressed whinnying. Falling, he flailed with his sword and was rewarded with a spurt of blood which covered his forearm. Surfacing, he saw only one man was left, duelling with the Captain of the Guard, but succumbing when three more Greeks stabbed him from behind. Ioannis shouted "Remount quickly, we have no time! Ride on!"
A frenetic hour later, they were moving scarily slowly down the Orontes river on a merchant galley, her colours hidden and weighed down with too many men- some of the guards had commandeered a military Frank vessel as a guard mechanism, with others told to bore holes or set light to the remaining ships there if they could not be stolen. Staring out at the moonlight Levant, Ioannis turned to his brother "You fought well, but obey me next time. Three of ours died today, it could have been any of our family. We sail for Constantinople now, I fear our impact on foreign relations is something our father will need to know."
Coin from Bohemond II's Reign in Antioch
Shankbot and Scottish King \/
Spoiler Alert, click show to read:
Thanks for the extra information, and telling me what mawkishness meant
My friend, I am proud to present my finest piece of photo-editing to-date
Spoiler Alert, click show to read:
In all serious I hope you like it, I can make any changes you wish (effects, text etc.) and will endeavour to make it something you envisioned
Also I'll be able to add to it as and when, so just let me know if there are any character's I'm missing, or indeed if any are born, or even if there are spelling mistakes/typos I have missed (which hopefully there won't be ) and it will be update at your command...
A few notes, I left out the surnames of Ioannis' children but I can add them if you want, and the 'unknown' is because Nikophoros and Roman are cousins, so I felt I need to show that
I hope you like it
EDIT: Forgot the update
Very good, although the family seem to be very unlucky of late
I wonder what will happen when they reach Constantinople...
Such creativity!!! Such energy, enthusiasm and thourghness!!!
Constantinople, 1117 AD
For the return of the Komnenos boys, the council table had attained a special tense aura and air of expectation that lingered like elephant dung in the summer heat air, mingling with the light dust motes that shimmered in the window slits. Alexios with Taticius at his left and a space at his right waiting for Ioannis' imperial rear, and clockwise from there Michael Phillipus, the new Quaestor Philip and the incumbent Patriarch, a sneery man from Nicaea who had a harsh reputation. Mikhail's informers had hinted darkly at some of his unsavoury habits, just as they had brought happier news that Philip was epithet-ed as 'the just' among the Roman people of Anatolia. Himself, Mikhail had not had the greatest few months, following the collateral caused by Ioannis Komnenos, symbasileus and future Emperor on his tour of the East. Today he was due at council, having cut short his scheduled trips to Jerusalem, Alexandriya and Cairo in order to return to the City. The news had only come yesterday, but Mikhail- and thus Alexios- had known that Antioch was about to besieged before that, even. News travelled so slowly.
"Will we show the Catholics that the centre of the faith is at Constantinople, imperator?" the Patriarch had a high wheedling voice with an undercurrent of undeniable nastiness, a quality entirely necessary to reach high office in the Church, Mikhail would admit. Although his proneness to a militant stance on anything other than Orthodox Christianity showed a worrying trend among the clergy.
Alexios scowled, and was beating to the cut by Taticius "Does your faith not preach peace to all men? Would you declare war on all Moslems like the last Pope?" his floor-shaking voice held a sarcastic undertone but also one that begged for antagonism. Since the Patriarch had become an intermittent attendant of council, tensions had run significantly higher
"Peace to all men, but not to infidels, heretics and those who..."
"Enough." Alexios raised a palm, his authority damping any noise in the room. It was at that moment that the doors slammed open and Ioannis Komnenos, in his official co-emperor robes of Mediterranean azure, walked in and knelt before his father.
Dismissive as ever of the formality, Alexios spoke quickly to the son he showed no emotion to see "Rise, symbasileus. What news of your... adventures in the east?"
Ioannis sat at the seat at the right hand of his father "As you will know" he glanced at Mikhail "There is a new Sultan in Iconium, who himself marches on the Boy Prince of Antioch and will besiege the city by now, while his forces move south as far as Acre. Both desire a continued trade with us and the Turks believe our alliance of necessity must continue. Nikophoros Vyrennios we left behind, but judging from our visit he has not the strength in arms enough to do any more than hold our land- although he must have allowed Mesud to march through his land for the Turk to move so quickly."
"Vyrennios does not have complete control of the northern hills." Mikhail could only whisper, he had found speaking loudly would make his fits harder and more frequent. His days were passed now in silence almost, interspersed with news from his informers.
Ioannis turned to look at Mikhail "His son is a monster, did you know that? My sister Anna is mad and Nikophoros is just as Nikophoros as before."
There was a silence. It did not really feel like war loomed so close. "Antioch will fall into infidel hands?" the Patriarch breathed with a whistle as he spoke
Taticius laughed "I thought your Catholics were infidels too?"
"No. They keep only one wife. Until your... people."
"Stop." Alexios raised a hand. "Does anyone have anything of import to say?"
"If I may, emperor." Michael Phillipus spoke with his calm, deep drawl "We are already permanently teetering on the edge of war with the Italians, it would not do to upset the Seljuqs and the Crusading Franks. Let them have their fight and we may pick the victor. It would make no sense to rush headlong in this war. It would no do for Gabras to think it was even a possibility, for example. And we must restrain Vyrennios, I would order him back to court...."
"Michael. You know I disagree. War is coming because Alexios Komnenos says it is coming. Next year we are taking steel to the Sicilians, steel to the Venetians and fire to them all."
"Father...?" Ioannis sounded intrigued, Mikhail watched like cat hunting. Alexios' voice had been full of the strength which made him the most respected man in the Empire since the Bulgar Killer and Phillipus had all but quailed at the power resonant there. "War?"
"Yes, son. You shall lead our army into Italy, to take Naples and everywhere south of the Pope and then our navy shall have secured Sicily for you to pick off. Meanwhile, I shall be taking our northern friends with aid from the Orthodox Russians and taking Dalmatia back from the Venetian usurpers. War is coming."
Ruins of the Blachernae Palace- seat of the Komnenos, by the Golden Horn, home of Alexios' court
That's wonderful Shankbot! +rep for you when I've spread some around will add to first post and inform you when I've sorted out my genealogy word doc. Also, 'descendant of the Komnenos' may feature a bit into this AAR... (maybe another 50 updates in ) edit: Yaroslaw isn't technically a legitimate son of Mikhail, just been named his heir in absence of any true heirs
And thanks Mega, you flatter me
Another great update! War is coming indeed!
Antioch? Anatolia? Naples? Sicily? We wait god know how many updates for a single battle and then suddenly war is happening as far as the eye can see!?
Bring it on I'm looking forward to the next few updates, should be very interesting
About the family tree, I'm glad you like it, and let me know when you have the genealogy doc sorted, Ill add the extra characters. I'll change the bit about Yaroslaw, thanks for pointing that out. There are some more changes I want to make as well, first I've spelt Ioannis' name wrong and I don't like how close 'Unknown' is too the border. Update version will be up tomorrow
I'm eagerly awaiting the day when Alexios' descendant features in this AAR
EDIT: Shall I add Ioannis' children's surnames?
Campania, 1118 AD
King Roger of the Normans sat astride his destrier as the banners fluttered in the winds. His men were outnumbered by three to one, the war in Africa had stolen the greatest part and quality of his soldiers. Left were flighty youngsters, men too old to fight and those he had been able to bribe to his cause more money that Alexios had to buy them to the Roman Empire. From a mile away, Ioannis Komnenos smiled and ordered his troops into motion to enclose the enemy host in a Greek grasp.
Only a half of the Byzantine force had crossed the Adriatic, his father having mustered support and besieged the fortified towns of Zara and Ragusa in Venetian-held Dalmatia. His half was made of men from Asia Minor, lead by Gabriel Gabras and nine-tenths of the Greek heavy cavalry, vital to combat the famed Frank knights.
First though, his spearmen marched down the narrow incline to meet the Italian spearmen. War was simple, Ioannis thought, smiling with a grimness as crows circled above them and the first thwocks of arrow fire were heard. There was a moments eerie silence, then both sides began the warchants. And charged. From his hill Ioannis watched, sending occasional messengers to direct his subordinates. For some reason some knights had charged into the back of some of their spearmen.
The infamous Norman knights threw the Romans off the peninsular, can they throw them back again?
All became simply became a broiling mass of confusion and death as knights, swords and spears became part of a human nightmare
The melee was violent, brutal and could be heard across many acres of seemingly idyllic countryside as the bodies danced the deadliest way
The line was reinforced as Greek hippo-toxotae worked their way around the Norman flanks, the rest of the cavalry massing out wide.
And enclosing the Normans, many of whom abandoned their futile resistance, fleeing the field of battle.
As the stench of corpses filled the air and crows circled, Ioannis threw his head back and lamented the loss of the days when he would have fought. It was no fun simply watching. He needed to be among the fighting, to taste death between clenched teeth. Today showed he was a capable general, having effectively subdued all of Italy apart from Naples. But he was not content with that. Being known as a warrior was not the same as knowing you were a warrior. Yaroslaw had been a warrior today, and he rode up now with a knowing smirk on his face to bow before his symbasileus.
"Rise." the formality bit at the back of Ioannis' throat, but it was a necessity now to the man who had been his closest friend and now commanded his right flank
"The King escaped us." Yaroslaw gave him a brief moment of eye contact then walked off, leaving Ioannis sat on his horse flanked by his guard, feeling at a loose end. One day he would not have his father to send orders to him, one day this would be it. The fleet had secured all of Italy separate from Sicily and Africa, all that was left was the plan.
"We march to Naples."
War. Bloody war. As he trotted north, watching the pyres of burning men, he hoped a bright future would rise from those macabre ashes.
Norman main force in Africa, only foothold left in Italy is Naples. The Turks besiege Antioch. Due to the general Italian alliance between Venice/Normans it seems likely Bologna will be taken with the new Casus Belli. An uneasy truce in the east leaves the west in the balance for Alexios, who is attacking Venetian Dalmatia. The response of the Pope is awaited.
War. I hope this was worth the insane amount of build-up.
At long last, war has come! I think the build up to it was terrific, a slow simmer that eventually reached its boiling point. With the Turks scheming in the East, and the Catholics showing resistance in Italy, it shall be interesting to see how Ioannis and his family fares in the wake of a true war. Can't wait to see what happens next!
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Great battle, I wonder what political mayhem you will conjure up in the aftermath of this
I'm sorry to disappoint but I want be able to do the family tree for tonight, I've been busier then I expected
Ragusa, 1118 AD
Ragusa. A month ago he had been told by Alexios that he would be marching east to make war on Venice. And now here he was, with the best part of the levied spearmen and toxotae his still unsteady rule in Bulgaria could offer, being somewhat short of fighting age men due to the obvious aftermath of the war in Bulgaria. The march had brought them to rolling hills leading to this fortification by the sea.
He and Flavius were in the Imperial Guard for this day, on horseback in the reserve. Alexios and his general Taticius had ordered two siege towers and a ram to be made for the steep incline of the castle hill. Flavius was ecstatic to be so honoured and had spent the night before in the Dalasennos tent trying to eke all of Roman's war stories out of him. Thankfully, they were none- until today.
The Varangoi and imperial swordsmen were to be the brunt of the assault, hulking Scandinavians and the bravest and best of the Empire mounting the hill with covering arrowfire from Roman's archers. The deadly thwock and thunk of bow and crossbow frightened Roman, but he had learned never to show that kind of thing and sat astride his horse, watching.
On the eastern wall, the Roman troops had a clear advantage in short spaces with their swords, ducking and diving inbetween the Venetian spearmen. There was a decent sized garrison- it seemed Dalmatia had been scoured and Venice had put all of her Most Serene eggs in this basket. However, Roman did not sense this to truly be the case.
Across the way on the west, it was a harder time as more experience and better armed Venetians crowded the ramparts, the winged lions emblazoned on their chest as a roar of war greeted the newcomers. "Reinforce the walls!" he heard throaty Taticius shout, his golden nose clacking in the winds. Late afternoon was setting and a fell breeze tickled them, a dire omen?
Watching his own spearmen clamber up the siege tower as reinforcements, he hoped his brave men would not die in too great a number, he had plans for his Bulgaria which would need as many men as he could muster. There was much shouting for the emperor, much shouting for the Empire, then the gates fell and the true carnage began.
"Norse cries curdle the heart and harden the soul." he remarked to Flavius, who nodded and gave his father a brief look as he turned his eyes away from the battle, before being fixated once more like a rabbit at a chariot race. Roman sighed at the folly of youth- Flavius had never been taught the hard lessons a Dalasennos had to earn.
"The battle is not going well, Taticius."
"We must take our horse in, too quash and frighten these Frank scum."
"Quite." the Emperor raised his voice and rode out in front of his men, rearing his white stallion, who kicked his noble hooves "We fight this day for the Empire. Take this city and we shall be able to take Italy. For Rome!"
War makes beasts of all men, of noblemen, of Greeks, Romans, Venetians. The gates fell, the walls fell and the press of man and horse pushed on, the Imperial cross and the Venetian winged lion pushed against each other in a futile march to their dooms. Flavius was an enthusiastic but guileless warrior, Roman emotionless but methodical.
_________________________________________________________________________________________Ragusa fell to Alexios I Komnenos in early 1118 AD, the Venetian might in Dalmatia crushed as Roman influence expanded across the other side of the Adriatic too. However, the news that the Venetian Doge had made the Croatian nation his protectorate in return for leaving a debt unsettled was greeted with consternation by the marching Emperor, who had taken a spear to the leg and was left partially crippled and ill high in the keep of Ragusa, fighting his pain daily. His ill health was protected news and did not pass beyond a few trusted men, but time would show the true effects of this, with Ioannis Komnenos, his ambitious symbasileus, asking for more men in order to conquer Sicily. And then, as Christmas approached and Alexios was making his slow return back to his capital, news from Rome shook Europe once more.
Thanks Thokran and no worries Shankbot, whenever you can do it is a wonderful compliment for you to at all
Nice two updates! I wonder what Rome is up to now!!!
Another battle? You're soiling us
One line got me thinking:I can't wait to see what those plans arehe had plans for his Bulgaria which would need as many men as he could muster
Keep it up, and here is 'Family Tree' version 1.2
Spoiler Alert, click show to read:
Just copy the URL and you'll be sorted
I've just made it a bit more 'compact' whilst increasing the gap between 'Unknow' and the border, oh and I've correct Ioannis' spelling
Keep it up, and I wonder what's going to happen next - I mean surely Alexios is on his last campaign?
LIII."The Crusaders are coming. Alexios has granted Henry V, the Holy Roman Emperor, safe passage through to Antioch, provided all lands conquered are returned to Constantinople's rule. Should the Holy Land fall, German lords shall be instated in Outremer. The French King is set to sail from Genoa, who have agreed to remain impartial in our Emperor's war on the provision that Bologna does to Genoese hands. Meanwhile, Istvan of Hungary is reportedly massing the Magyars and set to march south. What does Nikophoros Vyrennios do?"
Cilicia, 1118 AD
Smiling grimly at his wife in the dark chamber on the castle wall, Nikophoros stroked the goatee he had been cultivating and pondered. There was no real reason for him to do anything, he had sent a few troops to aid the war effort and re-garrison Constantinople. Alexios was returning to the City while Ioannis mopped up Italy and cast eyes on Sicilia. But his hands, clad in cloying black leather, itched for action. Everyday he ruled with his fist and tried to curb the excesses of his son Meletios Vyrennios. A part of him did indulge the playing of his son though- it was only natural to be so... curious. He moved his knight to take Anna's bishop and lightning quick lost it to her own knight.
"No plan, darling?" Anna was always steely, always spiky, always pressing. Nikophoros loved that more than he had loved any of his unofficial partners in his younger days. He hoped Meletios would outgrow his desire for such prodigious amounts of... pliable women. She countered his overly casual pawn advance with the seizing of his last castle.
Scowling, Nikophoros voiced his innermost suspicion "This Crusade comes too soon after the first. Antioch will fall soon. The Seljuqs are too strong and will surely win all of the Levant back. The King of Jerusalem desires Cairo and to defeat the Fatimids but overestimates the Antiocheans and underestimates the Seljuqs. The religious split can only deepen unless Alexios has a plan." he blew a breeze out of his dry lips "This new Patriarch seems militant and so does the Pope. East versus West beckons, and not with the Muslims." he boldly took his queen forward and checked his wife.
"You presume too much." in a quick succession of four moves she took his queen, his bishops and checkmated him "You worry because you are on the edge of the world. You should return to Constantinople."
Piqued by his defeat, Nikophoros felt the sweat of defeat creep through his thick black roots on his temple "I shall not. I like the East and with the war it is important I am here. I shall send word to the Palailogos on Crete and also to Trebizond. The Seljuqs are busy with the Crusaders and shall need our attention soon." he stood, knocking over the chessboard will ill-grace "And I do hope I presume too much. Should war with the West beckon our New Rome wields little power with Old Rome. The Holy Roman Emperor may be our friend, but he is not ours."
"My father could still defeat the Pope." he heard Anna whisper it and felt a twist in his heart that this younger woman still believed so much in her father
"And I am the man of the east, I could defeat the Caliph." feeling heady, he strode out, his cloaks swirling at his back like the thoughts in a maelstrom within him. Once out, the first thing he told Thelonius, in tones of old blood and steel, was "Bring me Pazzini."
The Levant, end of 1118 AD- war looms in every corner, where goes Rome?
Cheers Scottish King, it is finally getting frenetic! Will update the first post Shankbot, thanks and will send you a full version of the tree if you would like once I have written one.
Indeed, where goes Rome?
And I wonder what Nikophoros plans to do - he doesn't seem like the kind of guy to take a back seat in things
That's brilliant about the tree, send it me when it's done and I'll get to work
Great work mate
This will only end in bloodshed when u have Rome on one side and Nikophoros and Ioannis on the other.
Now I caught up with this finally. Very good writing, excellent character development and your pictures are nice too.
Not to mention the dedication and the consistency... Keep up the great job!
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Following the footsteps of Hesus de bodemloze and bringing Robin de Bodemloze along
Constantinople, 1118 AD
They entered through the Golden Gate in an imitation of the ancient triumphs. They prayed symbolically at the Hagia Sophia as the Patriarch proclaimed Alexios a hero of Christendom. They rode back to Blachernae, the Basileus refusing to use the refurbished Imperial Palace. Andronikos and Alexios Komnenos went to the Council in the Komnenian Palace, all men bowing before the purple-clad emperor, who strode strongly through the city- albeit with longer strides than usual- maintaing his composure to hide the legwound which had troubled him so badly since Ragusa. Even though his grey hair had degenerated swiftly into an eery mass of white, which matched his stallion in a stylish silver lining to his cloud, he still had the aura of immense command that inspired awe among his subjects, including Andronikos.
"Rise, men." the Phillipus brothers, the new sinister Patriarch, Quaestor Philip, Gabriel Gabras, Taticius and Andronikos stood and took their seats. "Doubtless you have heard the news. The Pope has called a Crusade as Seljuqs besiege Antioch, tens of thousands of hairy Franks shall descend on us, doubtless, unless the Italians feel like extricated themselves from their ill-advised war against Rome to ferry northern scum across to the Levant."
"Antioch has fallen." Gabras stroked his thighs as he spoke, his once great jet black beard now flecked with grey snowmarks "Tortosa has too. Tripoli, Jerusalem and Edessa still stand, but it shall not be long before they fall unless the Franks reach the east quickly. It could be faster action is needed. Vyrennios is in the east."
Alexios raised a hand resplendent with rings "No. Henry of the Germans has asked permission to cross the Bosphorus, which he shall receive in return for fighting on our side should things with the Seljuqs turn nasty and for us against the Italians if the situation continues on his return."
"Good, Emperor." Mikhail Szekeres looked ancient, Andronikos was worried to note. When the spymaster died- as much of council would- another man would replace him, another spider from that web, full of eaten flies and in all likelihood without the Kievan's affability "However... we have news from Hungary. The Magyars are massing and the general Istvan is rumoured to be marching south under the Holy Cross."
Inflating his snake's nostrils, the Patriarch whistled "The Magyars fight a Holy war, we should let them pass."
"Tell that to Dimitris Axuches, priest." sagging and jowly as he aged, Taticius elderly voice croaked like a bullfrog, still offended and still making the furniture vibrate
"The borders may be strong, but we cannot hold the Magyars until they reach the Bosphorus without too great a loss of numbers. It would be politic to let them pass, ameliorating our relationships with both them and the Pope." Alexios brooded, stroking his temples
Flicking his dry tongue over cracked lips, the Patriarch inclined his head "Wise, emperor."
"Yet..." Iakovos Phillipus spoke, another member of council Andronikos judged would drop like a fly all too soon, outlived by his brother Michael "Istvan... has a fell... reputation... all too ambitious and desires... a crown he is... not born to... have... good... leader... of men... cruel... cunning and unscrupulous... it would be unwise... to allow him into the Empire..."
Alexios smiled, or at least tweaked his lips "You misunderstand me. Istvan may pass the Danube, but I did not mention him passing the Straits."
Uncontrollably, a grin spread across Andronikos' handsome face and a devilish laugh broke through the gates of his mouth "You are wise, father."
"He had better be lucky too." Taticius growled and spat out his chewed cloves into his wine goblet, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes "The barbarians come to the gates. Let Henry come first and Istvan die in Hungary. Let the Axuches build more river castles and the City grow wider. Please, all Gods stop this killing."
Smirking, the Patriarch leaned across the table to the Moslem and raised his glass, "Amen."
The Crusaders are coming once more, with steel swords, eyes of steel and
hands to bloody
Cheers Shankbot and Scottish King- so sure Ioannis and Nikophoros would take the same side? And thanks Thokran, I do wonder if I should at least rudimentarily border my pictures in paint though!
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