An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Oh man the father-daughter bonding has got to be one of the best things from this timeline (Although nothing will ever top The Mad Mahdi and Andreas Angelos the jokester). That A1 reference could be a sign of things to come. At least the Georgian front is finally pacified so the Romans can go back to doing what they do best,

Beating their enemies at the gates.
 
I just realized something, The newspaper criticize Lascaris cousins about the first and second ruse, but the second ruse could not be classified as a defeat ,after all that's the whole roman campaign summed up, trade space for casualties.

Which means there is no way a newspaper will classify it as defeat let alone accuse him of treachery, unless he got a bird eye view of the situation. Which brings me to a realization. Are we the newspaper? I mean there's a lonf debate about lascaris performance a few page back.
If a newspaper baron from Chicago can start the Spanish-American war, Rhoman newspaper barons can create their own failures.
 
If we’re keeping the naming after the Imperial dynasty convention going on so far, they could be the Sideros or Demetrian Islands. I was also thinking the chocolate or sugar islands, to continue with the Roman stereotype I’ve built up. On a more serious note, they could just be the Roman Virgin Islands. The Christian terminology used by the Atlantic powers applies just as well to the Romans. I haven’t decided yet.
Calling it out now, Lizard Island if Theodor decides to retire here

Athena shot again. “B4.”
Top notch update as usual. Loved the little nod in D3 constantly hitting D3. I wonder if the A1 when shooting from the hip was just a coincidence or deliberate reference to Andreas?
A1's military genius insight coming through for D3?
Good eye catching that, D3 - Demetrios III, B4 - Basileus444, A1 - Athena I (of Ethiopia? of Rhomaion?);)

I am desperately curious to know what D3 was mulling over.
Maybe those were the orders of where to send those extra troops?
 
I just realized something, The newspaper criticize Lascaris cousins about the first and second ruse, but the second ruse could not be classified as a defeat ,after all that's the whole roman campaign summed up, trade space for casualties.

Which means there is no way a newspaper will classify it as defeat let alone accuse him of treachery, unless he got a bird eye view of the situation. Which brings me to a realization. Are we the newspaper? I mean there's a lonf debate about lascaris performance a few page back.
I don't know but it would be funny if we were.

On the flip side, all the average newspaper editor knows is that Lascaris and the Allies had a fight at First and Second Ruse and each time Lascaris retreated. That's how battles were "won" and "lost" going back to antiquity - who held the field at the end of the day(s). Under that standard Lascaris did lose Second Ruse.

I doubt however that newspapers know casualty figures to the level that the combatants and us the reader do so while we know that Lascaris inflicted 2.5 times the casualties that he took at Second Ruse all the newspaper editors and their readers know is that he fought a battle and lost because he ran away.
 
I admit that I thought the newspapers were pretty clever references to the debates we had in this thread around the Lascaris cousins' prosecution of the war, which I thought was a nice way to "include" the conversations encouraged by the breadth of this TL in the narrative of the TL. I don't know how we should feel about Demetrios' apparent desire to have our hands smashed though XD
 
Kick
I admit that I thought the newspapers were pretty clever references to the debates we had in this thread around the Lascaris cousins' prosecution of the war, which I thought was a nice way to "include" the conversations encouraged by the breadth of this TL in the narrative of the TL. I don't know how we should feel about Demetrios' apparent desire to have our hands smashed though XD
Have an incredibly shitty and possibly extremely racist omake:

[It's OK, tho. I'm Asian, QED I can get away with somebody mixing up L's and R's every goddamn time.]

FS99: "Ayo my gook basirreus, don't break my fingerus i dinn say shiet! dis not what we finna do."

Vigla 1: "Wait, hold up...when and how did some trashy-looking Korean dude sneak into the Blacharnae?"

Vigla 2: "And last time we checked, there weren't any Koreans working for the newspapers. Or living in Constantinople in general"

Vigla 3: "Like, we'd be super racist if we thought all of those Far Easterners looked alike."

Vigla 4: "At the very least you would need to know some of them make pho, some of them make that raw fish over rice, some of them make kung pao chicken, and, well...they all make dumplings."

FS99: "herro? are you no supposed arrest me not talk about burrgogi? and whassa newspepah?"

Vigla 5: "Why would you mention that we're supposed to be arresting you? Aren't you Koreans supposed to be smart?"

FS99: "why you tink i here and not doing de Yangban shiet? I no do math, Confooshi make no sense, and i no be doctah."

Vigla 1: "Come to think of it, there have been a bunch of random foreigners popping up in the palace spouting shit they couldn't possibly know about the battles at Ruse."

Vigla 2: "Except for that one guy talking about limes, lemons, and other citrus fruits calling it a 'shitruse berry'."

Vigla 3: "Is Showderp even a country? Like is it one of those interior African principalities or tribes north of Mexico?"

FS99: "dey no hanguk sarrams yeah? if dey see dey know i bringgu shame onto my famirry and i haffa jump offa parrass warrs."

Vigla 4: "What? No. You're the only one, AND I've never met a Far Easterner who talks like that. Zero. Not even once. I'm pretty sure they don't exist."

Vigla 5: "Just throw this fucker into the dungeons. Like into the Conventry block, I'm in no mood to deal with this shit today."

Vigla 1: "Keeping a guy like this off the streets is indisputably a good use of tax money, I'd wager."

D3, da big baws: "The fact that people exist who would even dispute this exist means I need to get started on those public schools faster than I planned. Fucking dammit."
 
Have an incredibly shitty and possibly extremely racist omake:

[It's OK, tho. I'm Asian, QED I can get away with somebody mixing up L's and R's every goddamn time.]

FS99: "Ayo my gook basirreus, don't break my fingerus i dinn say shiet! dis not what we finna do."

Vigla 1: "Wait, hold up...when and how did some trashy-looking Korean dude sneak into the Blacharnae?"

Vigla 2: "And last time we checked, there weren't any Koreans working for the newspapers. Or living in Constantinople in general"

Vigla 3: "Like, we'd be super racist if we thought all of those Far Easterners looked alike."

Vigla 4: "At the very least you would need to know some of them make pho, some of them make that raw fish over rice, some of them make kung pao chicken, and, well...they all make dumplings."

FS99: "herro? are you no supposed arrest me not talk about burrgogi? and whassa newspepah?"

Vigla 5: "Why would you mention that we're supposed to be arresting you? Aren't you Koreans supposed to be smart?"

FS99: "why you tink i here and not doing de Yangban shiet? I no do math, Confooshi make no sense, and i no be doctah."

Vigla 1: "Come to think of it, there have been a bunch of random foreigners popping up in the palace spouting shit they couldn't possibly know about the battles at Ruse."

Vigla 2: "Except for that one guy talking about limes, lemons, and other citrus fruits calling it a 'shitruse berry'."

Vigla 3: "Is Showderp even a country? Like is it one of those interior African principalities or tribes north of Mexico?"

FS99: "dey no hanguk sarrams yeah? if dey see dey know i bringgu shame onto my famirry and i haffa jump offa parrass warrs."

Vigla 4: "What? No. You're the only one, AND I've never met a Far Easterner who talks like that. Zero. Not even once. I'm pretty sure they don't exist."

Vigla 5: "Just throw this fucker into the dungeons. Like into the Conventry block, I'm in no mood to deal with this shit today."

Vigla 1: "Keeping a guy like this off the streets is indisputably a good use of tax money, I'd wager."

D3, da big baws: "The fact that people exist who would even dispute this exist means I need to get started on those public schools faster than I planned. Fucking dammit."
I don't even know what this is but I'm tired of you posting weird garbage in this thread and I can only conclude you're deliberately trolling.

Kicked for a week.
 
What is the political situation in North America? I know that New England is essentially the same as otl, but what about the rest? Also Wasn't there some mention of a Nordic Canada?
 
Arrix85: Thanks. This was a long, but fun, update to write.

Earl Marshal: The elimination of the Georgian war definitely makes things a lot easier for the Romans. Mauromanikos, if joined with Amirales, would double the size of the Army of Mesopotamia.

ImperatorAlexander: The answers to your questions are going to be a big part of upcoming updates.

Lascaris: Thank you for the info. I didn’t think about the naval terminology. That’s a good point. There’ll still be some loan words (fregata is Italian) but far less than IOTL.

InMediasRes: I’m planning for more scenes with Athena. There was a scene back in 1621 where Odysseus, Athena, and to-be Andreas III were playing together in the background. There are a few little interactions between Odysseus and Athena during the Night of the Tocsins. That’s it so far, but the two get along really well.

I haven’t decided the details yet but I’m planning on having Athena be very significant in the coming decades.

I now have the terrible yet awesome idea of firing up my old CK1 game and using that as a character generator for this TL. You think things were crazy before…

Emperor Joe: They do for sniper work. It’s mostly in siege warfare because a muzzle-loading rifle takes longer to load than a musket, which is a problem in field battles but less so in the context of a siege.

Aristomenes: That was not a good day for Ibrahim. And Alexei’s sneaky enough to say “My next Ottoman subsidy arrives on Tuesday, so let’s announce this on Wednesday after I pocket it.”

HanEmpire: Several of the papers were better, but there are always a few that will abuse the system. Hearst was an inspiration for that bit.

What Demetrios and Theodor are thinking will be coming up soon. The armies aren’t going to be marching in March, but in this context it’s definitely best to get the game plan set up early.

I hadn’t given any thought to them until you mentioned them. They’re still an element in the Tauric Peninsula (Crimea), still somewhat prominent there but completely irrelevant outside of that region.

Sceonn: I was being deliberately vague. What’s exactly going on will come up in the near future.

Curtain Jerker: Vlachia’s not a good option (not that you’re claiming it is.) By this point everything more than a day’s march downstream of Vidin is controlled by the Roman river fleet, and the beast is significantly stronger than it was in 1631. An invasion of Vlachia would either be supplied by the Danube River, which the Romans would take issue with, or overland on the northern side. And the infrastructure there is sorely lacking to support that. And even if Theodor did manage to conquer Vlachia, he still would need to then force the Danube at some point and face off against a Rhomania that hasn’t been weakened in any way by his last offensive.

You’re right about the real best option.

It’s amazing how threats to bodily integrity improve reviews. ;)

You’re right that Blucher is really old by the standards of the day. He is modelled somewhat after OTL Blucher, who was quite old when he was fighting at the end of the Napoleonic Wars (although he was actually quite weird by that point), and Marshal Radetzky was in his early 80s when he beat the Sardinia-Piedmont army in 1848-49. Yet having said, his death scene is fully formed in my head and it is set in 1634.

Catconqueror: There’s an evil part of me that now wants to have Theodor invade Vlachia, get smashed at Targoviste, and then discover that the Vlach king takes OTL Vlad the Impaler as inspiration.

Second Ruse was a defeat. Laskaris ceded the field at the end of the day. It was a Malplaquet-style victory (that battle was the inspiration) for the Allies, but still a victory. And it’s not like the editor printing a paper a few days after Second Ruse knows what Michael Laskaris’ strategy is.

This is going to be an important point. Our perspective on history is often distorted because we can often take a bird’s eye view of events and we know what happens next. People in the events themselves literally can’t look at those events the same way. What’s history to us is news to them. This “blindness” (not because they’re stupid, it’s just that they lack the information that you and I have) is going to guide the actions of many of the players.

Bergioyn: Thank you. It wasn’t a specific reference to Andreas I, but it was a nod to the previous scene, where he managed to argue himself into indecisiveness, while on the range he “didn’t think” and scored much better. Plus I thought it was funny.

RogueTraderEnthusiast: She was married to Alexandros Drakos to bring that potential dynastic time-bomb into line. One political advantage of her strong personality is that she can definitely keep him in line and loyal to the Sideros dynasty.

Evilprodigy: That scene was such joy to write.

Wolttaire: The major cities of the Empire all have at least 1 newspaper. Major in this context being 40,000 or more people. Some of the smaller cities (20,000ish) may have one. Constantinople has more per capita and is also bigger, so the newspapers there are more prominent.

Duke of Nova Scotia: The Imperial Herald, the government paper, is the only one I’d count as ‘national’, although some of the others will have regional distribution. But you’re right that the time needed for news to travel will mean that day-issues will vary on location.

A likely scenario is the Imperial Herald in Constantinople prints a story on June 1. A copy is sent to the Imperial Herald office in Antioch and gets there June 12, to be printed on Antioch’s June 14 issue. Although at the same time, any eastern news would show up in Antioch’s June 1 issue and only appear in Constantinople on their June 14 issue.

For regional papers printed at only one location, it’d likely be that if you’re in Volos, for example, you get Thessaloniki’s Monday issue on Thursday, Tuesday on Friday, etc.

Demetrios would let newspapers (the well-behaved ones anyway) use the postal service. They have to buy postage, meaning more $. I foresee Roman kaffos houses purchasing subscriptions from the nearest major city that has one, as a draw for patrons. “Buy a cup and hear the latest news.” So for example, a Kyzikos establishment would have a subscription to a Nicaea paper while a Chonae one would buy a Smyrna paper.

An advantage of the Imperial Herald is that given its wide government-backed distribution, a lot of establishments across the empire will find a subscription to it the most economical option. Which means that the government’s propaganda can be distributed more broadly and the government makes a little money from the sale and postage fees.

AmericaninBeijing: No, it wasn’t intentional. I don’t why you people are so suspicious of me. I’m so straightforward and trustworthy…;)

Babyrage: I played CK1 for a while. I tried to like it but never got into it. I kept getting into issues such as commanding a large empire that somehow had no male courtiers so no generals, meaning my armies kept getting smashed. So I can’t comment on this.

JohnSmith: To be honest, I was surprised when I saw that too. I figure he died while still a kid a few decades back. I think what happened is that he was originally going to be “Demetrios III” but then I ended up pushing all this back (I was originally thinking the war would be in the 1620s) so I needed a character born later.

TheWanderingReader: This was a fun update to write with all the character moments. Demetrios and Athena bonding over blowing stuff up was the most fun of all.

Boa: There are some stories of unusual shipboard “pets” from OTL that I really want to incorporate into this TL. They’d make Theodor seem tame. Maybe on a “Rhomania in the East” update.

Minifidel: The discussion was the inspiration for that whole bit with the newspapers. But there were a couple different reasons I did it. 1) It was a good way to incorporate TL discussion into the TL narrative; there will be more of that coming up. 2) It was a good way to flesh out Roman culture a bit more. 3) It was also a character moment for Demetrios III. He can be indecisive and weak-willed, but there are also points where if he’s mad enough, he’ll take a decision and ram it through to the bitter end. Which is going to be important soon.

It should be pointed that Demetrios only wanted to smash the hands of the most annoying ones… ;)

Viciosodiego: Someday…

Prometherion92: I’m planning on doing an update which does more of a focus on what’s going on in North America. It may be in a 1634-west update (comparable to the 1633 Caribbean one). If not I’m planning a series of updates based on either topics or geographical regions so it’d show up there.
 
Charalambos Caldonridis
So this is a special extra update. I didn't write it except for some small additions. It is the creation of @Duke of Nova Scotia so he deserves the credit. Hope you all enjoy.

Charalambos Caldonridis
By: Duke of Nova Scotia
The Sweet Waters of Asia, March 4, 1634:

A muffled ‘Thud’ of a gate being dropped between two posts of a paddock fence seemed to accent the quiet of the morning. A man scratched the back of the last draught horse sleepily trotting past him to the fresh clover shoots, dandelions, and grasses at which the other three were already contently grazing. Watching the beasts enjoy their breakfast though was a fleeting reprieve from the headache it was to convince his superior, one Amenas Gabalas, “Chief Park Steward and Administrator of The Sweet Waters of Asia”, to import Arlesian Percherons. A mouthful of a title for a contrary man with always a lot to say. The arguing it took to bring in these four animals was enough to leave the young man near breathless. Luckily, he knew his boss well enough; he’d developed the patience and stamina to wear him down. He just wished it didn’t take so damned long every time he had an idea!

To be fair to his boss, Gabalas had to deal with the army requisitioning a good portion of the Sweet Water’s stock last year, so these four had been quite generous once Charalambos had talked him around. Still, he wouldn’t complain if there was less cajoling needed in the future.

Charalambos Caldonridis turned and headed up the path that rounded the paddock on its left, ascending towards the trout pond at the top of the low rise. Reaching a bench beside the pool, he paused and turned east. The sun broke over the far hills, a wave of warmth and life flooding the valley below, the Potamion river glimmering like a lazy snake shaking off the sleepiness of the night. Charalambos scanned over the grounds before him, low hanging orchards stretching along the riverside, with groves of trees dotting the landscape with an almost checkerboard pattern. ‘For all his stubbornness, Megas Pronoetes Gabalas knew his trees,’ he thought.

On one of the hills at the southern end was a small pavilion, which held the finest lookout in the whole estate. Reportedly it’d been a favorite spot for both the Empress Helena I and one Eparch Demetrios Sideros. And in earlier, more evil times, the red tents of Sultan Bayezid III had been posted there, visible from the White Palace itself.

Thinking of happier things, his eyes drifted further behind that hill to where he couldn’t see, save for memory. He had taken propagations from Gabalas’s apple and pear trees, without the curmudgeon knowing, and planted them in a little pocket beside his modest cabin. His boss had sowed clover and onions beneath his own trees, which looked neat and organized, and to be fair, also helped with keeping the soil refreshed and pests down.

Meanwhile Charalambos had planted mint, rosemary, peas, and gourds in addition to the clover and onions. To the untrained eye it looked like a mess but to Charal there was a layered structure of defence and fertilizing, his “tourmai and Vigla” he would joke to his fellow wardens. Every warden on tour was granted the right to tend a personal garden on patches of imperial lands, size varying depending on level of seniority, while on contract with the park. The park even paid for the tools to build and tend vegetable beds which was a perk. Although if the Emperor wanted your garlic for his dinner rolls, you’d better provide it without complaint.

The trees however on each warden’s personal patch were a different matter. The trees themselves were still Imperial property, regardless of the planter, so a warden would be liable for damages to them but their fruit was the direct property of the grower. However a tithe of all the fruit from the Sweet Waters, both Imperial and the wardens’ personal, had to go to the Monastery of St Mary of the Mongols, a bequest from Demetrios II. And then taxes were owed on the sale of the remaining fruit. Charal figured when the time came and fruit could be harvested, he would just give it to the Pronoetes discreetly.

There were better opportunities for money-making; the physicians of Nicaea and the capital were always in need of herbs from the gardens. The wardens were also granted a permit to sell any excess (non-fruit) harvest tax-free to local grocers, which was gratifying for his money bag. An Imperial park warden earned respect for his necessary duties, including overseeing the great Pontic forests that still provided a sizeable portion of the navy’s stores. But a warden’s pay wasn’t so respectable; one needed to make Pronoetes (Supervisor) for that to change.

But he couldn’t complain too much. The harvest sales had been very helpful for his father and youngest brother. From the profit Father had bought four of the war popes, which had been most handy when the Optimatic press officer had come rolling through the village. They’d left Michael alone.

Charal was a different sort from the other wardens who typically hailed from Bithynia or Thrakesia with a smattering of Cilician Armenians. His grandfather was a Scot who made his way south after being sent away due to a blood feud, became a Varangian, and retired to a small village in the Optimaton theme not too far from here. His father would lecture how ‘he and his father’ didn’t build a (moderately) successful trading company by putting their money into other people’s hands. Business was never something that interested him, all the pluses and minuses made life look zero sum to him.

Thankfully his father was pragmatic enough to see that his younger siblings had more of a taste for the family business. His brother and sister have been growing their networks a little more each market day, as their father handed off the responsibilities. The biggest inclination he ever had was the goods they imported; they brought in one of the widest varieties for only having 6 stalls in the surrounding area, one in Nicaea to his father's pride, and finally their own warehouse on the Nikomedian docks. They were comfortable to say the least, and his father was able to indulge Charal’s hobbies and inquiries. When he showed a desire to want to garden, his father had the east lawn of the family estate tilled and his choice of seed stock from wherever it could be reached. That was when he discovered the potato.

This mystical plant from beyond the Atlas, further away than Rhomania-in-the-East, in the almost mythical Kingdom of Mexico. Potatoes were still viewed with cautious eyes, from ignorance, and the fact few had used them. It didn’t help that apparently Dutch traders had introduced them into Germany recently and, on the instigation of Lady Elizabeth, former Empress of Andreas III no less, were being used to help provision the armies of her brother.

Charal understood the unsavory association that gave the potato; he also found it irrelevant. Latins ate wheat and barley bread, and were huge consumers of malmsey wine, one of the common items in his father’s inventories. Romans used them as well, so why not the potato too?

After planting the two varieties his father gifted him, and the subsequent second planting the following season, Charal could see the potential for this plant. Resilient to moderate drought, it grew in hills and mountains, and so far after testing in the kitchen, could be baked, boiled, or mashed. On top of its different flavour, which to a latin’s palate could be described as non-flavour, but to him it was subtly sweet, and nutty.

He would have liked to have a conversation with the people who grew the tuber in the New-world. Nothing beat experience; alas though any who had made the journey to the Old-world either died of illness, or were such high profile they never left the courts of the nobility.

Here his Rhoman ignorance arose, figuring the nobility of the Inca would be as invested in their land’s production as those of his home. Andreas III in his surveys had invigorated the desire of the nobility to improve the productivity of their holdings through the sharing of farming pamphlets, court incentives, and all-around browbeating to be loyal providers of The Empire. It was a matter of growing concern. Repeated bad harvests in Syria had been a serious problem during the Eternal War and the Empire’s population had grown over 50% in the last eighty years. Scythian and Egyptian grain could only be relied upon for so much.

The sounds of some of the other wardens and a seriously irritated mule brought his mind back to more immediate concerns. There was a hustle around the communal hall a day before; the Emperor Demetrios III and his daughter the Princess Athena were going to be stopping through Sweet Waters. The wardens were posturing amongst themselves how their own tulips were going to be picked for the imperial table. Charal rolled his eyes at these conversations. He knew from reading about the man that Demetrios III was not one for fancy decor and expensive flowers. “Function is the form” was Charal’s favourite quote from him, and said volumes about his mind.

He found he was feeling, while a loyal Rhoman, and a private fan of the Emperor, apathetic. His cynicism had told him that there was not a chance to be in his presence, let alone see him, while he was visiting. Pronoetes Gabalas however would be the Emperor’s guide which made Charal green with envy however. If anything were to be picked it would likely be his prize horses; they were arguably the strongest in the park and would make a fine addition to the imperial stud ranches. His quiet pride however knew the emperor would be drawn to the secret experiment Pronoetes Garabas and himself were working on. The Pronoetes had lent him a pamphlet on a technique from the Far East months ago. That in itself wasn’t a shock; for all his cragginess the man shared everything he could with his subordinates. It was the secrecy with which he shared this with Charal. The conversation between the two made him smile still. ‘The old man played me like a lyre’ he thought.

Ten months ago:

“What do you know about cocoa, Charalambos?” Garabas asked nonchalantly over the lunch of pickled beets, smoked fish and salad.

“It is from Mexico, has invigorating properties, is the Emperor's favourite treat, and impossible to grow here.”

The aged Pronoetes chuckled into his cup. “What about Kaffos?” An inquiring glace over said cup at the young man made Charal sit up a bit. This wasn’t simple conversation about the park and exotics.

Charal took a settling breath. “Ethiopia's biggest export: it grows well in its warm climate and acidic soil, but not so much on the Aegean islands. Markos Tyrinos nearly bankrupted his sugar empire trying to grow it in Krete. From what I’ve read the climate isn’t stable enough temperature wise and he used lime at the wrong times. And like cocoa, impossible to grow here. Not to mention it fuels the White Palace.”

The last comment made Pronoetes Garabas laugh out loud now.

“A quick tongue tends to mean a quick mind, I always appreciated that about you Charal,” he said through smiling eyes.

His boss had never been so informal before. While it was routine for him to dine with his wardens, he despised sitting and reading reports, and he had never called him Charal before. The personal compliment was the hammer blow to the bull for him. It wasn’t rare for Garabas to say ‘Good Job’ when there was a good job done, but this was far closer to an uncle enjoying the company of a favoured nephew. For once he was completely disarmed by the old man he argued with so much with.

The Pronoetes saw this and attacked. “I’ve read about some ideas from the east. It involves heating similar to a hypocaust system, in a wattle and daub structure. Its roof however is made of oiled cloth to let light through.” On the last bit, he pulled a small pamphlet from his inside pocket. “I’d like you to read this, but please, please, do not share this with anyone. I know you are not a braggart or a loner, yet you relish in being aloof at times, so I know that it isn’t going to be hard for you to do that.”

Receiving the booklet Charal started to flip through, noticing the writing and diagrams were all hand drawn, causing him to raise an eyebrow subconsciously.

“I got it from a friend in New Constantinople, who translated it for me. It originally was in Japanese I think,” the Pronoetes mentioned noticing the young man's piqued interest. “Take the week to read it; we will be building one starting this Saturday coming. The clearing near ‘our’ apple trees, beside your cabin I think, would be the perfect spot. Good sun, minimal wind, and able to be under your daily watch.” Charal became very quiet at the mention of the trees, and tried to act like he was absorbed by the gift. He was never much of an actor.

“Relax Charal, they are healthier than mine and their yield heavier. The only part that annoyed me was you not sharing your notes on their ground covers. I never thought of mint and rosemary before.” Feeling the tension leave his shoulders he looked up, as a child would after being told they did the right thing just the wrong way about it.

“I was experimenting, and would have preferred to share the successes,” he replied sheepishly.

“My boy, how can we figure what it is that went wrong with the failures if all we discuss are our successes? You are one of the few who sees the greater picture of our job. Yes the navy has its supply of materials, yes the White Palace has its ornate gardens, but it is in our beds that we discover new ways to feed our countrymen, new flowers and herbs that can help treat illnesses. What we do here is secure our empire’s ability to be an empire for her people. I truly believe that. I didn’t get my posting because of family, or favours. Andreas III, God rest his soul, chose me because while working in the White Palace, I had started to plant vegetables and herbs in the Garden of Helena. Not because the kitchen needed them, but the plants did. The man was on a leisure and noticed the brassicas and enquired. I explained they protected the soil and how that was important for the water in it. Next thing I knew we were on a bench having wine and food brought, having a discussion on the foods of the empire. It was shortly after that he made me Chief Park Steward and Administrator. Charal, if I were to drop tomorrow, the only person my soul would be content with taking over my life's work is you.”

The old man softly shared with damp eyes looking out the window. Then with a clearing of his throat and in his usual gruff voice, “Be well rested, I expect you to be familiar with the diagrams and principles by this coming Saturday Charalambos Caldonridis, we have serious hard work ahead of us, and I’m 72.”

Present:

He was finishing his breakfast of a smoked ham monem, still in his mouth as he put on his warden’s apron of leather and canvas, and looking out the window at the indigo and saffron tones splayed out from the horizon. He thought, ‘this is going to be a beautiful day’. He glanced over his shoulder to a shelf on the north wall. A fine hand-beaten silver vessel sat upon it with a matching percolator. The canister was impressive compared to the usual contents of his modest, if one was polite, two room cabin, but its value was still paltry compared to what was stored inside the canister.

It was a present for his recent 30th birthday from his father. He’d joked this was easier as he was terrible at wrapping, which was true. Inside was the real gift, a thin leather bag with the Royal seal of Ethiopia stamped into it with red dye. Only two items found their way to Rhome from Ethiopia with such a seal; he had an abhorrence to slavery, so that only meant Kaffos. And with the red dye, Imperial grade Kaffos. Grown on plantations owned personally by the Negusa Nagast, it was the only brand of kaffos that could be served in the palace at Gonder. In Rhomania, only dynatoi, Nea-Aneres (New-Men), and the Emperor could afford it. He would open it now and then just to breathe in the aroma, as intoxicating as it was.

‘Best to save it’ he thought to himself with a wolfish grin. ‘Maybe I’ll run into Barbra next market day, and invite her to enjoy some the morning after.’

Monem still in mouth, walking out his front door, and making the turn to the clearing where the ‘new manure shed’ he and Pronoetes Garabas had joking called it in its construction, he came to a complete stop. He saw a man he did not recognize, wandering around the greenhouse. With consternation building, he took a bite of the monem he forgot was in his mouth and marched over to the interloper. He had chased poachers away before, having been proficient with a bow, and blessed be his grandfather's training, murderous with a dirk. As he reached the man, he noticed that he was exploring more than lurking. That was odd as the latter was the perfect activity for this time of day, more than the former. His pace slowed with his chewing as he tried to figure this stranger out. The man wasn’t very tall, perhaps Charal’s height, and had the build of an erudite. ‘Strange fellow to be lost in the park’ Charal pondered, finishing his last bite. He came up to the side of the man, noticing his hand flinch a bit.

“Can I help you sir? Are you lost? It’s a big park I can understand.” Charal offered the man, who was obviously not a poacher. None he ever encountered would wear such garments. And he didn’t want to accidentally insult a Logothete.

The man didn’t seem to hear him, but spoke. “This greenhouse, it doesn’t look like the others. It’s smaller, and its roof is oiled cloth and not glass. It was either the first, or you are very industrious,” he said, waving his hands, not taking his eyes from the building.

Charal had stopped and turned to the greenhouse, his pride bumping his curiosity out of the driver's seat. “You are correct on both counts good sir. I built it under the tutelage of Pronoetes Garabas. His age kept him from a lot of the heavier tasks, so his experience was his muscle.” A small grin crept to the corner of his mouth thinking back to the five days it took him and his boss to build it.

A chuckle rose out of the man, “Funny how men of advanced years can have advanced ideas that need a back of a man half their age. What do you have growing in there?”

Charalambos straightened a bit; the new greenhouses that were built were being used to nurture seedlings for planting. His however had become the unofficial experimental grow-op between the Pronoetes and himself. No one has ventured in, mostly because few knew about Charal’s greenhouse, or were smitten by the newer buildings, and wouldn’t be caught dead in the ‘tester’. “A little of this, a little of that, flowers mostly,” Charal offered, hoping to dispel any more curiosity.

“So nothing useful is what you are saying,” The man casually tossed.

This comment made Charal stand upright and faced the man, his pride firmly grabbing the reins.
“There is more worth growing in there, than your opinion is, Sir.” He said with ascorbic resolve.

Again the chuckle, “So more of ‘this and that’, than flowers.” A twinkle flashed in the man’s eyes. He quickly turned to Charalambos with a mischievous grin and raised his eyebrows. “Let’s have a look then,” and before Charal could stop him, the man had made his way to the door and inside. He caught up to the stranger in three wide strides only to nearly walk into him. The man had stopped almost within the doorway, with his mouth agape, staring at the range of plants that would have made the Hanging Gardens look utilitarian in its greenery.

“You’ve grown all of this here?” the man asked with a touch of genuine wonder. The 12x12 room was literally covered in vines, dwarf shrubs, flowers, and herbs, save for the most southern facing bed where a bush was dominant, a walkway circulating the room, and finally a bed in the centre playing host to a dwarf tree.

Hearing the man’s voice Charal snuck beside him into the room, “For the last few months, this has been my refuge from people, yes.”

The man smiled at Charal’s reply. “That I understand. I imagine the conversations in here are a bit better. Where did you acquire so many?”

“My father has an import/export business, mostly with foodstuffs, and seeds. Naturally he sends me stuff he wants to know is a bust or not.”

“Clever man, shame I can’t do that with my...” He muttered the last part under his breath as he started to casually wander, stopping and smelling the odd flower. “I can see what you mean by the worth. I don’t think there is anywhere in the empire where these are all growing in the same room, if even they can be.”

Charal matched pace with his now guest. “You seem to have a good grasp of flora sir. That far corner...” He pointed to the SE corner. “...you could find those in the more opulent gardens, mostly centerpieces. These two however...” Now they were standing between the two beds that were home to the solitary bush and the dwarf tree. “...are the only two of their kind in all of Europe, the tree maybe even the entire Old World. I named this one...” Motioning to the tree. “...Veronica”.

With a hint of mirth, the guest smiled, “You named them?”

“Well of course sir. Plants grow better when you talk to them, and I would feel ridiculous talking to plants and not have a name for them, Theobroma Mexcoco is a lot to say.” The sarcasm was not missed by the man. A smile appeared, only to vanish with his brows furrowed in thought. “This is a cacao tree?”

Proudly Charalambos nodded, “First guess, have you studied at the University of Nicaea? Few know the scientific name.”

“No, I’m afraid I have not, but have been known to read anything, even missives I don’t want to.” The man replied, now turning to the bush to Charals right. “And what is this pretty lady's name?”

“Pretty is one word. It should be fuller, and with more berries, and I can’t get the same flavour, but her name is Jahzara.” Charal answered in a wistful voice, looking at its bright ruby berries.
His guest became still, looking at the young man before him with a hard stare, only to relax, recognizing a love in the eyes of his host as he gazed on what looked like a very ordinary plant. He turned to join him in his appreciation.

“A rather regal name for such an unassuming bush. What’s it called?”

Charal knew he was treading on thin ice. Pronoetes Garabas and he planted these two with great secrecy. ‘Alas the ram has touched the wall’ Charal thought.

“Jahzara is a Kaffea plant.”

Silence hung over the room with the weight of a water logged fleece. The two men stood there in the greenhouse, it slowly warming with the caress of the now early morning sun. Both in thought about the same thing, and in entirely different directions.

The guest cleared his throat dramatically to drawn his host back. “Could I trouble you for a drink? The heat while welcoming, has raised my thirst.”

Coming back to reality, he slightly shook his head and put a hand to his guest’s back. “Of course, please this way sir.” Charal noticed the man stiffen when he touched him, but chalked it up to unfamiliarity. Guiding him out of the greenhouse Charal walked him to his cabin around the corner, the man's hand twitching again. Entering the humble structure, the man scanned with pleasant surprise his host’s neatness, though noticing the austerity of the accommodations.

“Ceud mìle fàilte, please have a seat.” Charal waved to a chair by the sole table, under the shelf. He started to draw a cup of water from the basin in the opposite corner, then stopped, looking at the urn on the shelf. For a second he thought and then shrugged. “Have you a taste for Kaffos sir?”

His guest, taking his seat, nodded with a smile, “I’ve been known to enjoy a warm cup on a cold day.”

With that Charal grabbed the urn, pestle & mortar, and the ornate percolator from the shelf, and began the process of grinding the beans, his guest watching him with interest. “You must hold your kaffos in high regard, to keep in such a vessel, and use such a perc.”

“It was a gift for my birthday recently, well more so the kaffos beans themselves.” Charal was never one for putting on airs but he could not help himself, gently plopping the bag down in front of his guest. “This is not the usual Kaffe House blend, this is Imperial grade. It was the real gift my father gave me. I am a bit of a kaffos fanatic. He used the urn because as he said, ‘wrapping isn’t my thing’. Really though, I imagine he was just trying to figure out some way to spend on me. I am not one for fancy accoutrements, or useless decorations, ‘Function is the form’.” His guest raised an eyebrow, then leaned in over the bag breathing in the luxurious aroma. “He must have wheeled and dealed some serious favours,” the man mentioned.

“He is a cagey sort. I don’t think he has ever walked away from a deal without profiting some way, and at times favours have more weight than gold.”

The perc was shaking on its hanger in the hearth, drawing both their attention. Charalambos removed it and took it to the table. He reached up for a small lidded clay pot and two spoons. “Sugar?” He offered to his guest, who nodded and scooped what Charal would diplomatically call a healthy helping into his cup. Stirring with the second, the man then offered it back to Charal.

“No, thank you. I rarely go in for sweets though, and have developed a ‘plebian palate’ for it as is. The blessings of living economical I guess,” he chucked the last bit with self-deprecating humour.

The two chatted in peaceful commonality over their hot drinks, his guest taking control of the conversation. “You said a phrase I’ve never heard before, when we came in. What was that?”

Charal grinned into his kaffos. “It’s Gaelic. My grandfather was a Scot who joined the Varangoi after leaving Scotland under circumstances his pride would not let go. He was quite accomplished as well. He was never one for the axe but wielded a claymore, fighting beside The Scourge of Mesopotamia himself, Theodoros Sideros. He retired just a few months before Dojama.” That had been one of Iskandar’s greatest victories. Theodoros Sideros, injured after a fall from a horse a week before, had been too dosed on opium to command during the battle itself. Yet the humiliation and disgrace had been too much to bear, and so he’d remained on the battlefield to be cut down by Ottoman timariots.

“He laments that day at times. He always says that his soul will be judged harshly for leaving his comrades and commander, and not dying with the greatest men he ever knew.” Realizing he was rambling, he pulled the conversation back to the original question. “But back to Gaelic, it was something he found hard to give up so we still speak it around the house. His Greek was weak to say the least except numbers and reading, until he fell for my grandmother who brought the giant to his knees, and taught him more than army commands and the usual business interactions of a soldier. He had converted shortly after joining the Varangoi so her father did not object, I think out of fear of my grandfather as much as respect, so they married and being a proud Scot, he took the family name Caldonridis. The Gaelic helps when he and father are at market day. What I said was ‘a hundred thousand welcomes’. ”

“‘A hundred thousand welcomes’, I like that, it’s disarming,” his guest mused.

“I must confess sir, my rudeness, this entire time I never asked you your name, nor introduced myself. I am Charalambos Caldonridis of Nicomedia, son of Dunkeld, son of Donald Morrison.” Silly as it was to add the last two parts, but he took pride being a son and grandson of them, even if they sometimes raised eyebrows amongst the more pretentiousness neighbors.

A knock at the door drew both of their attentions before his guest could reply. Charalambos’ face become one of inquiry, his guest’s one of resignation. “This was a lovely break from life, my good man, but reality knocks,” the stranger sighed. Not understanding, Charal rose to greet his newest visitor at the door. Upon opening he took a step back from the over six foot man crowding the doorway. ‘He is almost as big as grandfather,’ thought Charal.

With a polite nod, the either soldier or horse juggler, Charal wasn’t sure, spoke in a measured tone towards the guest at the table. “M’lord the sun is nearing the ninth hour, and your daughter will be rising soon. She will wonder about your absence at the breakfast table if we linger any longer.”

“I suspect she would not phrase it so diplomatically,” the man replied. The soldier did not respond.

His guest sighed again and rose, “There are somethings a father should never be late for if he is around. Charalambos Caldonridis, it was an honest pleasure to make your acquaintance. Please have the Pronoetes forward any news on ‘Jahzara’ and ‘Veronica’. I am intrigued by their development.”

He turned to what was now obviously his bodyguard and asked for his seal and wax. “Have you any parchment and quill, Charalambos?” Charal nodded, and went to the second room, returning with parchment, ink, and quill in hand, setting them down on the table. His guest sat down and started to write on the leaf, then wax sealed it at the bottom. Standing and reaching into a pocket in the arm of his coat, he drew a small sack out and handed it over to Charal. “You are a genuine sort, and equally as hospitable. Please take this simply as a gift in return for letting me be just a man.”

He now handed him the leaf. “And this for sharing your most prized possessions with me, both in the garden and at the table.” With that he turned to leave, only to stop in the doorway and turn back. “Where are my manners? I am Demetrios Sideros, Son of Theodoros, Son of Timur II, in respect to your introductions. That missive should set you up with a lifetime's supply from my Kaffos supplier, now that I know we share similar tastes.” And with that, the Emperor and his guard made their way back to the imperial villa for breakfast, leaving Charal standing there dumbfounded.
 
I simply loved this update, great work Duke of Nova Scotia!
Imagine the economic benefits for the Empire if they would be able to grow cocoa and kaffos in greenhouses, even if the quality is bit lower than the original seeds!
 
I liked it. I hope we can see more of such fleshing out updates on obscurer topics by @Duke of Nova Scotia or other volunteers.

Can you get significant production at economical levels in greenhouses? I would think the initial overhead is quite significant as glass is probably not cheap in that period. I have to imagine it's hard to compete with the naturally suitable climate of Ethiopia, even accounting for export/import duties and transport cost. Still, if it helps to push down prices of Ethiopian kaffos that would already be something for Roman consumers. Not to mention beneficial for the trade balance, as kaffos gets more popular across social classes. The Negusa Nagast, however, will not be happy about losing this quasi-monopoly of his country. But with more and more new world possessions it was inevitable anyway.
 
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Cryostorm

Monthly Donor
I simply loved this update, great work Duke of Nova Scotia!
Imagine the economic benefits for the Empire if they would be able to grow cocoa and kaffos in greenhouses, even if the quality is bit lower than the original seeds!
Yeah, just the fact that they will be able produce enough for the middle class or even rural areas to have coffee and chocolate regularly this early in time, even if lower quality and not used by the upper class, will go a long way to providing that feeling that even the common people can have some luxury, especially when combined with sugar. Add in potatoes and tomatoes from the west, both of which grow really well in Anatolia, and spices from the east and you have the basis for a nation that takes France's place as the culinary capital of the world.
 

Arrix85

Donor
I don't really think it's about growing kaffos or cocoa on large scale. You would get lower quality with higher prices. Maybe it's more about what you can learn while trying to? scientific and technological discoveries do sometimes happen by chance.
 
Cheers, I was having fun with the idea of the monks stealing the silk worms, and some home front duty mentality.

Coffee is tricky, because the flavours people love are tied directly to the soil it's grown in, more acidic, and volcanic soils have produced the more popular beans. You are not getting sumatra, or blue mountain flavour without it growing there. It is also in almost every gardeners inclination to want to add lime to their soil to neutralize it. Coffee is an exception in this case, hard to know if you are new to the plant and its nuances. Temperature consistency is key on top of it all, it likes it warm, a slight cold snap it can handle, but you only get one. There's been no mention of it being grown in the Far East yet, and I feel that because Ethiopia has many features geographically, tropical jungles it has not, so why would people think coffee can grow in tropical jungles. It's grown on it's highlands, which is why the sugar magnate figured Krete. However with the temp swings the area has, only the very south of Krete could support cultivation, and quality is another issue. Not that much for not very good. To maintain a root stock however is very important to any aspirations of plantations in the future. If someone could get enough soil to 'flavour' their beds at home, they would have a good plant base to clone/propagate. Think of it like wine, it takes 7 years for you to be growing a product you can turn into wine that you could sell in good conscience. At least in this instance closer to 3-5 years for a product of any good quality and distinct flavour. The more time it has in its new soil the more it builds its flavour profile, so the better the soil it starts the faster you have a marketable plantation, building it's brand.

Cocoa however, when cultivated in a greenhouse, once you produce a stable dwarf stock and a good companion planting, you can get production to a decent level, nothing equal to having the same footprint on the ideal growing conditions but I figure enough to maintain a cottage-industry. Taller, sturdier greenhouses that allow more light, and warmth/humidity mean a fuller tree.

A lot of the knock on effects of growing herbs and flowers as a planned crop, is the added supply to the medical industry, producing treatments and soaps that are by now a common product to where they have caked, and powdered varieties of both. There's the medical establishment, and then there's the industry which is what delivers the ideas to the masses, and refines the processes and spin off effects/products. In OTL this period was the burgeoning of scientific revolution, coffee houses provided public forums of ideas open in ways I don't think we as western society ever had. Noble and Plebe alike talked together, or at least had the opportunity to, about matters of state, science, and faith. Having a well entrenched tradition of university education, on a scale only now being met by other powers, and a literate mean of 70+%, I would bet there is a mentality of openness to new ideas, and ways to do things in the Rhoman empire. There's money to be had. The New and Old world is still revealing secrets to each other, and the Far East is sharing as well. What about fine Chinese lacquerware, and porcelaines. The ERE could mimic a good idea pretty well, and fast historically. Rhoman hand carved lacquer furnishings filling only the best of studies in europe? With a plebian level of product pushed out for mass consumption. Fine Cilician Ceramics being the royal standard of table settings mass produced?
 
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