An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

After a hellish week... This has turned it into a GREAT week! I might have to cancel my date tomorrow so I have time to re-read the whole thread so I'm back up to date!
 
It’s alive! Or at least undead. It’s hard to tell. ‘Pokes’

BBRAAAAIINNSSSS…

After a long spell of inactivity I’m reawakening An Age of Miracles…

WAAAANNNNT BRRAAIINNS…

Back, foul beast! I cast ye back with fire and salt!

Ahem, where was I?

ANNNN AGGGEE OFFF-

WILL YOU STOP?!

NOOOOOOO…

Excuse me for a moment. [Sounds of crunching, smashing, and a chainsaw for several seconds, then silence interrupted by the sound of a rubber ball bouncing on a linoleum floor.]

Alright, now that that is taken care of. I’m reactivating An Age of Miracles, which has been on hiatus for quite a while for many reasons. The reasons are personal and none of your business so don’t ask. But I am going to try and get this TL moving again; we’ll see how successful I am. But in order to help me out though I am going to tighten the focus so that the TL is focused more on the Byzantine Empire, with international happenings that don’t affect the Empire left off-stage, save for maybe ‘Meanwhile in [wherever] for the last 50 years’. This will help me a lot with creative burnout which is one of the reasons I stopped writing. Obviously events and trends in other countries will have consequences for the Empire and will thus get covered, but the further away an area is from Constantinople the less likely it will appear in the narrative.

Alright, enough talking, so now…

FOOOOOOR WHHAAAT ISSSS DEAAAAAD CAAAAAN NEVEEER DIIIIIIIIE, ITTT ONLYYY COMMMMEEES BAACCKKKKK STRONGGGGERRRR…
yyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssss
 
1605 and the Birth of a Prince
1605: The past few years have been hard for the Romans in the Far East. Dutch, Triunes, and the occasional Hansa and Scandinavian vessels are now plentiful in India and some of them, particularly the first two, are setting up shop in Indonesia. The attack on Mecca has given the Romans the hatred of the Sultanates of Sulu, Brunei, Semarang, and Aceh, which combined with the Portuguese Viceroyalty of Malacca make shipping through the straits of Malacca laborious at best.

Therefore most traffic between New Constantinople and Taprobane is going south of Java and Sumatra. To support these operations the Romans have a factory at Nusa Dua in south Bali, a small settlement on recently discovered Christmas Island, and in February an expedition composed largely of western ship Lords and Taprobani tourmai seizes Simeulue off the west coast of Sumatra.

These are small consolation prizes for the loss of Ternate and Tidore which the Romans formally recognize two weeks after the fall of Simeulue in the Treaty of Makassar. Originally protectorates of the Empire, their rebellion had been heavily supported by Portuguese eager to end the near Roman monopoly on cloves. With Roman strength in the east seriously depleted by the battle of Pyrgos the Portuguese have a naval advantage, although an attempt on New Constantinople was a miserable failure but not enough to even the odds.

In the treaty Ternate and Tidore are recognized by the Romans as Portuguese protectorates. The Sultans of the two islands would beg to differ but as far as the White Palace is concerned that is Lisbon’s problem. However what the First Moluccan War, as it is eventually styled by historians, teaches the Romans is that indirect rule, whilst having the advantage of being cheap, oftentimes results in getting what one paid for. For a secure Empire, more direct methods are preferred.

The severing of the Red Sea connection by the Great Uprising forced Rhomania in the East to turn even more upon native sources. Taprobani in particular are common sights as Roman officials and soldiers, but ranks of Malay are growing as well. From Singapura and Pahang Roman authority has been steadily expanding with the aim of linking the two Roman territories, a goal accomplished in December with the fall of Mersing.

The Malays have sometimes been called the Armenians of the Far East, and while it is important not to take the analogy too far, even at this stage it is accurate. To the Romans, the Malays have a reputation for being smart, industrious, and brave, an ideal combination. Malay soldiers and officers serving in the new eastern tourmai have proven their valor and skill in battle. Of the nineteen recipients of the Order of the Dragon with Swords, the highest decoration that can be given to a Roman, by 1605 three have been Malays, one of them the first to receive it posthumously.

Another factor facilitating the rise of the Malays is that by the thousands they are converting to the Orthodox faith. Although Islam has made some inroads in the region, its roots are quite shallow and clearly unable to stand up against a surprisingly aggressive missionary effort in which some Shimazu priests participated. In 1605, the five Metropolitans of the East reporting to the Patriarch of Antioch were New Constantinople, Colombo, Jaffna, Pekan (seat of the Kephale of Pahang), and Singapura.

In Tuscany the Lombard star is clearly in the ascendant. Although King Theodoros is unwilling to risk challenging the largely intact Florentine army under the great bastions of the Duke’s capital and risk triggering another coalition he has not been idle. Lucca capitulated after the battle of Vaiano and Theodoros then struck down the coast, both Pisa and Livorno surrendering after token resistance. The fall of the town of Cecina on Christmas Eve brought him into direct contact with the Commune of Siena.

Despite the bad years after the Black Death, Siena has been a respectable Italian power since the 1200s. But it is clear that the Dantean War, although it made quite clear the city’s independence, crippled Siena. It is a third-rate power in a world that is growing less tolerant of such nonentities. The fatalistic mood is noted by contemporaries. Alfonso, King of Majorca and Duke of Sardinia, wrote that the Sienese were ‘a people ready to die who required only one last thing before the end, that they see the Florentines board Charon’s ferry in front of them’. So despite the clear threat that a resurgent Lombardy poses, and the rivers of blood shed by their fathers to avoid such a fate, the Sienese align with Theodoros against Florence.

In Germany repeated sparring between the brothers had led to significant bloodshed but with neither side gaining any clear advantage. The Army of Cologne, commanded by ‘Bishop Bone Breaker’, Archbishop Ferdinand himself, has won several minor but indecisive victories in Altmark. But success in western Brandenburg is counterbalanced when a Saxon and Pomeranian army under the command of General Wilhelm Sebastian von Blucher ejects the Bavarians from Bohemia after a crushing battle at White Mountain. Although Emperor Henry I of the United Kingdoms is dying, his grandson Arthur II is eagerly turning his gaze to the Rhine.

Although in the west the rumors of the Marinid Sultan’s activities are cause for alarm, if anyone would pay attention to them, the war in the east continues to go well. The Georgian army has retaken Ardabil while the Army of Armenia overruns the hard-fighting but vastly outgunned garrison of Khoy. It is a clear forward step on the road to Tabriz.

In Mesopotamia the Roman columns have been heavily reinforced with sleeping tourmai, the Army of Amida swelled to thirty thousand strong. With Kirkuk garrisoned behind it, it is now marching south along the road to Baghdad. To the west the twenty five thousand men of the Army of Edessa snap up the Ottoman towns along the banks of the Tigris. On the opposite side of the Tigris are the Armies of Aleppo and the Euphrates, each containing fifteen thousand men.

* * *​

The White Palace, Constantinople, March 12, 1605:

Theodora yawned, rubbing her left eyeball. It had been only three and a half hours since she had gotten up, but then at seventy five it was no surprise she needed lots of beauty sleep. I’m not Helena, that’s for sure. She still hadn’t figured out what her sister had done but the Empress still looked at least ten years younger than either her or Alexeia, despite being older.

Helena the Younger did not take after her namesake in beauty. The only child of Emperor Demetrios II, she was a small woman, with the eyes of a doe and a pouty face. Theodora thought of a pudgy little bird, vastly out of its depths, when she looked at her grand-niece. It was hard to figure out how intelligent she was, considering that half a dozen words a day seemed to be her maximum speech. If she wasn’t a Drakina, she’d probably be the wife of a bored secretary who spends every other night with his mistress. Theodora strongly suspected her husband Alexios had a mistress on the side; it had taken over eight years for him to impregnate his wife.

She yawned again. Stay awake! Falling asleep whilst they awaited the next Imperial prince or princess would be rude, but she had to admit she was having a hard time caring anymore. She had buried her husband Alexandros eighteen months earlier and abdicated her governmental responsibilities. Helena still kept herself involved in government, although despite her appearance her stamina was fading. Demetrios, for all his faults, would be sole Emperor soon.

Theodora had had high hopes for him, personally tutoring him in history and foreign affairs. But he has never been quite right in the head since the death of his first wife and his near-death. However replacing him wasn’t a credible option. Theodora strongly doubted his daughter would be any better and with the failure of that line the next in line was Helena’s eldest daughter Kristina and her descendants. Kristina’s eldest son was Manfred Drakos-von Wittelsbach, the new King of the Romans. Stupid title. Romans have Emperors. But what else do you expect from Germans? They’ve had Imperial pretensions for eight hundred years. Why would they stop now? And why do I smell strawberry jam?

“Because that’s what I’m eating?” Theodora blinked. She was no longer in the waiting room of the Purple Chamber of the White Palace. Instead she was in a small garden, one that looked like that of the palace in Smyrna. It was mostly sunny, a few streaks of cloud chasing each other to the east as the trees gently slapped each other. A man with shoulder-length silver hair and a craggy face was seated at a small table under the shade of a cypress, a light lunch spread before him. He was spreading strawberry jam on a piece of bread. “Have a seat, Theodora,” he said, pointing at another chair with the knife.

Theodora sat down. “Where am I?” The man took a bite of his bread, set it down next to a couple of hyperpyra, and then started to put jam on another.

“You tell me,” he said.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t ask. Who are you?” He flicked one of the coins over, the gold skittering across the table until Theodora slapped it. Lifting her palm she saw ΘεόδωροςΚομνηνός. “Theodoros IV?!”

The man smiled. That’s a creepy smile. “Pleased to meet you.”

Theodora’s eyes bulged. “Wait, am I dead?”

“Perhaps.” He took another bite.

“Perhaps? What kind of answer is that?”

“An unspecific one. You could be dead, or you could be dreaming, or…” He shrugged.

“Or what?” This isn’t what I thought dying would be like.

“Or I decided to bring you up to the land of the dead for a little chat, even though your time here has not come.”

“That seems like something you would not be allowed to do.”

‘Theodoros’ rolled his eyes. “Why does everyone assume that I was joking about having angels in my pay? I never joke about money.” Can’t argue with that.

“So what did you want to tell me?”

“People are stupid.”

“I knew that.”

“Yes, you do. The problem with people’s stupidity is that when history tries to repeat itself, they are too dense to notice and cooperate. Sometimes it needs to be obvious. Bread?” He held out a piece.

“Thank you,” Theodora said, taking it. She opened her mouth and took a bite but her teeth instead found open air and then her lip.

* * *​

Alexandra looked at her son, Alexios di Lecce-Komnenos, the new Despot of Sicily, his father, her husband, having passed away just ten weeks earlier. He cradled his new son, her grandson, in his arms, showing him proudly. He was a healthy looking boy, with a few streaks of light brown hair.

“Was he really born holding a blood clot?” Jahzara asked. The Ethiopian princess was clad in a dress of shimmering Marmara blue silk with a lion traced in gold thread drawing the eye to her ample bodice, an emerald necklace and matching bracelets complementing them, far outshining her husband Demetrios Sideros. He was standing next to her, about an inch taller but clad in a low-quality gray silk suit. Probably can’t afford anything better. Theodoros is always a miserable miser when it came to money. She approached the Despot, tugging her husband along.

Alexios beamed. “Yes, he did. Look, you can see for yourself.” He reached over to pry open his son’s fist but the infant beat him to it, dropping the clot on Demetrios’s shoe.

Alexandra couldn’t help but feel sorry for him as Demetrios went white. “I’m so sorry about that. I’ll get it ba-”

Jahzara elbowed him in the ribs. “I thank your Highness for your generous gift.”

Alexios smiled. “It was our pleasure.” I doubt that, but Jahzara has the right of it. Better to laugh it off as nothing rather than embarrass yourself by apologizing profusely. But then it was hard to expect a university student to understand court etiquette. Despite his close relation to the Imperial family this was probably the fourth time Demetrios had been inside the White Palace; his father never cared for the place.

Alexios moved on to show his son to Emperor Demetrios. Jahzara reached over quick, swiped the clot off her husband’s shoe, and then started dragging him to the corner.

“What are you going to name him?” Empress Helena asked.

“I was thinking Demetrios,” Alexios said, looking at the Emperor who smiled.

“His name…is Andreas.” Alexandra turned to look at the voice. It was her mother, Princess Theodora, a bit of blood tricking down her face from her mouth. She had fallen asleep earlier, but she was now sitting up straight in her chair, her eyes locked on the newborn.

“Why?” she asked. Helena’s frown clearly showed that the name made her think of her rebellious, dead son first rather than either her father or Andreas Niketas.

“It has been one hundred and sixty years to the day.” Theodora replied, her eyes drooping. A moment later her head dropped; she was asleep again.

“That was different,” Emperor Demetrios said as Alexandra walked over to her mother. Something is not quite right here.

“I don’t approve of such a name,” Empress Helena said. “Andreas Niketas and Andreas Pistotatos were great men, but now with such connotations a name can inspire rashness in youth.”

Alexandra wasn’t paying attention. She gently shook her mother’s shoulder. “Mother?” There was no response.

* * *​

On March 12, Kaisarina Helena the Younger delivers of a healthy son at 11:46. It is one hundred and sixty years and seven minutes after the recorded delivery of Andreas Doukas Laskaris Komnenos. He is named Andreas Drakos. But as a new generation comes into being, the old must pass. At 12:24, Princess Theodora Komnena Drakina, great-granddaughter of Andreas Niketas and Kristina Shuisky, passes to whatever lies beyond.
 
Ah, Theodoros. Still being a greedy, creepy old man.
And I should read everything over again, because the names are starting to blend together.
Romans need to be more creative with their names.
 
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I recall there being a War of the Roman Succession coming up so is Andreas III another Genghis khan or a massive red herring? So excited to have another update!
 
huh, this is a portent of either a glorious future or another time of troubles methinks, it'll be interesting to find out which. Though now i'm kind of wondering how much more similar to Elizabeth II. Helena can get.
 
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