An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Either that, or this is the beginning of the final decline of the Roman Empire. If they end this war without AT LEAST reconquering Serbia and preferably squeezing some pretty major concessions out of the HRE and the Poles, then the vultures are going to start circling.
 
Either that, or this is the beginning of the final decline of the Roman Empire. If they end this war without AT LEAST reconquering Serbia and preferably squeezing some pretty major concessions out of the HRE and the Poles, then the vultures are going to start circling.
Eh, not likely, they're still a heavyweight of this world. But their success seems to resemble Habsburgs at this point, glory days in 15th and 16th century and decline or stagnation afterwards. Some success would be nice to make them more comparable to early modern success stories like France or Britain.

Basileus mentioned several times that he envisions empire reaching modernity in 2nd industrial revolution (like Germany) so it's unlikely they become sick man on Bosporus.
 
Eh, not likely, they're still a heavyweight of this world. But their success seems to resemble Habsburgs at this point, glory days in 15th and 16th century and decline or stagnation afterwards. Some success would be nice to make them more comparable to early modern success stories like France or Britain.

Basileus mentioned several times that he envisions empire reaching modernity in 2nd industrial revolution (like Germany) so it's unlikely they become sick man on Bosporus.
Definitely, the Romans will remain a Great Power, but not THE Great Power like during Andreas I's reign. Unlike the Habsburgs, the Romans have a world-leading administration, training and bureaucracy. And their superior literacy and education systems will pay dividends in the future.

After this war, there are still things they can do to catch up with the UK and Germany materially. The Romans have the biggest colonial empire out of the Great Powers (provided the UK's NA holdings don't reach OTL 13 Colonies level), there is still much they can do in India and Asia.
In the long-term, I don't think it's unrealistic for them to reincorporate Egypt back into the Empire proper. The Despotate has been severely weakened by the great uprising, and the Romans have possession of Alexandria.
If there is a TTL Suez Canal it may be built earlier, technology willing. There is much greater incentive to build one and the Romans will be more capable of doing so than the OTL builders.
 
Roman reconquer Africa areas and make the threat of the latins to the north much less of a threat maybe not a wall but a heavily fortified area on the border with many forts and maybe if they started to get alllies from the other great powers
 
The Roman Empire's borders won't exceed the borders under Andreas; @Basileus444 said that his reign was the zenith of Roman Superiority over the Latin powers.

Good outcome of this war for the Empire would be to create a Greater Serbia under Durad's line and have it act as the western buffer.
 
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The Roman Empire's borders won't exceed the borders under Andreas; @Basileus444 said that his reign was the zenith of Roman Superiority over the Latin powers.

Good outcome of this war for the Empire will be to create a Greater Serbia under Durad's line and have it act as the western buffer.
Meh, why bother. Just annex it and grant it limited autonomy under Durad as despot, turn Serbs into Armenians of the west. This pussyfooting around Serbia rarely grants them anything good.

Basileus said Andreas was zenith in power, but Serbia, Egypt and south Italy are geostrategically very important for Constantinople centred state. Seeking control over them is not strange. States expanded and integrated new territories beyond 17th century, there's no reason for Roman frontier to remain frozen.
 
Meh, why bother. Just annex it and grant it limited autonomy under Durad as despot, turn Serbs into Armenians of the west. This pussyfooting around Serbia rarely grants them anything good.

Basileus said Andreas was zenith in power, but Serbia, Egypt and south Italy are geostrategically very important for Constantinople centred state. Seeking control over them is not strange. States expanded and integrated new territories beyond 17th century, there's no reason for Roman frontier to remain frozen.
Sicily at a guess can be integrated directly with Constantinople, after all if there were notable Greek speaking populations well into the 18th or even early 19th century in South Italy in OTL, they will be way way stronger in the ATL. Egypt and Serbia why bother with direct control though? The despotates offer most the advantages if not all of them without such bothersome matters like the locals revolting because they want to be independent.
 
Meh, why bother. Just annex it and grant it limited autonomy under Durad as despot, turn Serbs into Armenians of the west. This pussyfooting around Serbia rarely grants them anything good.

Basileus said Andreas was zenith in power, but Serbia, Egypt and south Italy are geostrategically very important for Constantinople centred state. Seeking control over them is not strange. States expanded and integrated new territories beyond 17th century, there's no reason for Roman frontier to remain frozen.
The Romans also understand that direct control breeds resentment and separatist movements. The entire point of the 5th Empire's diplomatic policy is to increase Roman influence through soft power, not hard power.

If the Serbs themselves want to become a Despotate as deterrent against future Catholic invaders, then sure. But otherwise? Going full hamfisted-Latin and annexing/subjugating the Serbs like that will just turn loyal, liberated allies into angry rebels.
 
I wonder if the Romans and the Ottomans will develop a quasi-cold-war relationship between the two going to modern times with war only being averted due to a "mutually assured destruction" of any war between them being long, bloody and expensive and the ability for both sides to bring in other countries to cause fighting on multiple fronts. I think there would be a very good chance of this happening if they go through with a plan of dividing India north and south between them.
 
I think that the ottomans state will start to face bigger and bigger challenges more so Ethan the Romans with there growing wealth of problems and if the Russian still expand east then we have a double pronged attack easily attacking them
 
The Ottoman threat forcing a good portion of India to centralize and eventually unify the subcontinent would be interesting.
 
The Ottoman threat forcing a good portion of India to centralize and eventually unify the subcontinent would be interesting.
I think it is under Vijayanagar in this timeline.

Vijayanagar border in 1612 was Narmada river.

1612: As the Romans once again place Belgrade and Smederevo under siege, this time with larger artillery and supply trains and more cooperative weather, Shah Iskandar faces the assembled might of the Indus valley at Bahawalpur. The Persians number 35,000. The size of the Indian army varies from 55,000 to 150,000 depending on the source. By the end of the day the Shah is master of the field.

Onward he surges, taking Delhi seven weeks later. Reinforcements arrive from Khorasan to swell his army to fifty thousand men just in time to face the hosts of the Ganges river valley in all their might and majesty, “a force not even Xerxes in all his glory could summon.” The two armies collide on the outskirts of Aligarh. Rank after rank of armored war elephants are met by the roar of Ottoman culverins and despite a moment of concern when Rajput cavalry break through the Persian right flank, when the sun sets once again Iskandar has routed another great armament. Not until one reaches the banks of the Narmada river and the realm of the Vijayanagari Emperors is there a force in all of India that can stand up to the Shahanshah.
Another quote from B444 in 1625:

The loss of Khwarezm is an issue, but a minor one compared to the other trial facing the Persians. Prince Ibrahim was with his father in Delhi when he died and is immediately proclaimed Shahanshah by the Persian armies in India. This is an extremely useful boon, as these contain the bulk of the veterans and best-equipped forces in the realm. But it is also directly in the path of an immense Vijayanagari host at least four times its size, if not more.
1624

But keeping India is not going to be easy. Encamped around Delhi are forty five thousand Ottoman troops, with another twenty five thousand scattered across the Indian conquests. Facing them are 90,000 men of the Kaijeeta Sainya, 100,000 of the Amaranayaka Sainya, and 120,000 men belonging to the various vassals. The vassals have few cannons and their firearms are limited to matchlock arquebuses, but their arrows and lances are many and sharp. Included in the Kaijeeta Sainya are the Vijayanagari armored elephants, the soldiers atop them armed with snaphance or even flintlock muskets. Those that aren’t carry bamboo longbows, the steel-tipped shafts they let fly as lethal as any musket ball.
 
Indiana gonna be really hard to keep they will face the same problems the Romans face 2 threats from opposing ends of there empires and will face much more revolts
 
How's the Turkification of Persia going, is it a priority for the Ottoman? Are the Persians assimilating them? Are the the two keeping separate? Or, is a an organic melange?
 
Mesopotamia is pretty much Turkish, with smattering of Arabs in the cities, and the Delta around Kuwait. Persia has always been a cultural exporter, even when conquered by Greeks. I would say the Persians are taking what they like of the Turks, but are making a point that they are Persian. Past Turkish Shahs have even been muttered about by their Turkish officers of being almost too-Persian. With how many centuries of a sedentary lifestyle, I would imagine the Turks too are more Persian without really realizing it. Taking cultural traits, ie harvest holidays, season celebrations and events, with mixed traditions from the Persians already in Mesopotamia. Nothing like the cultural association of being Roman, Persians are not Ottomans. Ottomans are Turks and Turks are who rule Persia.
 
Stark: The plan currently is for the Sicilians to send two tagmata over to reinforce the Roman army in Macedonia, although obviously whether that goes through is dependent on Milan’s actions.

The war isn’t based on any historical conflict (the outline has changed significantly from when I originally conceived of the conflict) but several of the battles are/will be based on historical battles.

Yeah, the Romans aren’t the clearly preeminent power in Christendom like they were back in the late 1400s/early 1500s. But they’ll remain one of the big boys.

Boa: Glad you’re really enjoying this.

Vlachia’s raiding primarily into Hungary, as that is more likely to disrupt supplies to the Allied armies in Serbia. The Vlachs will be more prominent next year.

HanEmpire: You’ll see, you’ll see…

Bmao: Yup. The Latins have closed much of the gap, although the HRE is shakier on the economic side (the Triunes not so much). The two-front issue is one common throughout Byzantine history.

ImperatorAlexander: Remember, Theodor considers himself already as Emperor of the Romans, so he is making Lazar his Despot, the investiture and insignia identical to a despotic investiture that Demetrios III would perform in Constantinople. Theodor’s deliberately acting like a Roman Emperor.

Nightbrainzzz: Yup. Thanks for explaining.

Emperor Joe: He is a very educated fellow.

RogueTraderEnthusiast: It is bad, although a lot of the Serbians aren’t as feckless as Lazar is.

Namayan: Leo Kalomeros, you are needed to go beat up German speakers. “Aye! To Austerlitz! We shall do battle on the first anniversary of my coronation!” Uh, the Emperor has a problem with the last bit. “Sorry, don’t know where that came from.”

Lascaris: “Why do we suddenly have a short one-armed Englishman around here?” I don’t know, good luck?

JohnSmith: Napoleon used the grand battery strategy, although I don’t think he invited it. I know Frederick the Great used mass artillery fire as an important component in his oblique order strategy.

I picture the modern Roman Empire being in the great power category. Whilst not having the population or material resources of some of the really big powers (think alt USA or Russia) they would have a lead in administration, organization and technical efficiency. A good example might be a nation with France or Austria-Hungary level of population and material resources, but with Germany’s organization and Britain’s financial acumen.

Babyrage: One of Ibrahim’s advantage is that his mere presence in Mesopotamia, even if all he’s doing is seeing how many pancakes he can eat in one sitting, ties down four tagmata at minimum.

Duke of Nova Scotia: Dangit! Someone’s been going through my notes! Curses. Now I have to change my entire story-line. Grrr. ;)

Khaine: This is the story of Timur the Lame and Nappy the Short. They joined up one day and found the Latins to blame. They took up the sword and made the Latins abort. Oh, this is the story of Timur the Lame and Nappy the Short…

MarshalofMontival: Not final decline. But they’re not the 1000 pound gorilla they were back under Andreas Niketas.

Wolttaire: Romans don’t have an interest in North Africa, other than making the corsairs shut up. Most of the area is not worth the expense of holding it (until oil is discovered in Libya but that’s a long ways away). Turning the Balkans up to the walls of Vienna into Roman buffer states would be ideal but Constantinople doesn’t have territorial aspirations around the heartland. It’s a different story off in Island Asia.

Kaizerfox: I can see the Romans and Persians settling down into a ‘cold war’ sort of scenario, with proxy warfare conducted through various vassals and protectorates at times, but no more since a full-fledged war brings much pain for little to no gain. But the problem is if one of the pair is fighting a third great power, the possibility of more gain goes up substantially.

Sceonn: I do have (admittedly half-baked) ideas regarding India.

One of the big grievances the Turks have is that since the conquest of Persia the Shahs have been becoming more and more Persian. So there’s a lot of ethnic tension between the Turks, who look down on the Persians as the guys they’ve conquered, and the Persians who view themselves as heirs to thousands of years of civilization and do make up the majority of the population of the empire as a whole. Some of the Turks are getting Persianized, but a lot are deliberately resisting that. The fact that most Turks live in Mesopotamia means that most receive little Persian influence.
 
1631: The Faces of Demetrios Sideros
The White Palace, Constantinople, October 21, 1631:

Demetrios Sideros, Emperor of the Romans, turned the page of the manuscript. It was a Greek translation of The Centuries by a certain Nostradamus, Triune court astrologer in the 1560s and 70s. It was apparently very popular with one Theodor Wittelsbach, hence why Demetrios had been studying it intently for the past few weeks. Taking a gulp of wine, he reread the passage that seemed most pertinent.

And the Lord of the West shall gather up a great host,
And the Lord of the East shall assemble a vast army,
And they shall battle with each other till all Europe trembles.

The Great Turk shall usher into the fray,
Jerusalem shall come under his sway.

And the Lord of the West shall be exalted,
And win glory on the fields of Philip.
The city of Constantine will hear the sound of thunder
And the Lord of the West will gain his prize.


He took another swig of wine, a deep draught. It seemed straightforward, although these things never were, but the most intriguing portion lay ahead.

As for the Lord of the East,
No one shall know where he sleeps.
But his seed shall journey west,
Where there shall be Antichrist.

And his seed shall battle Antichrist,
The West will shudder with the noise of their battle,
Till Antichrist shall drive them out,
And they return unto the east.

Yet Antichrist shall follow them,
Till his hand reaches the city where the wise sleep.
And he shall sing in his heart,
That the world shall soon be his.

But the sons of Leonidas shall sally forth,
With the sons of Xerxes at their side,
And the children of Solomon with them.
And even Antichrist shall quake at their might.

But even such great power shall not be enough,
Till Russia shall march forth,
With a host no man can number.
And not even Antichrist shall be able to stand.

So stay your hand, children of the west.
For when the bill comes due,
It shall be the peoples of the east that shall save you.


He took another deep drink of wine. All very interesting…

There was a knock on the door and he finished his cup of wine. The change of topic would be welcome. “Enter,” he said as he took the bottle on the corner of the desk, set in an ice-filled basin, and filled his glass. One of his guardsmen opened the door and ushered in the person into his study. Although now Emperor, it’d be hard to distinguish his new study from his when he was merely Eparch. After all it was the exact same desk, although nicer chair and carpet.

“Hello Maria,” he said as she entered.

“Your Imperial Majesty,” she answered, curtsying, staying down and looking on the floor.

“I seem to have gotten uglier after I was crowned,” Demetrios mused. “Nobody wants to look me in the face anymore.” She looked up, a bit of a smile on her face. “Please take a seat.” He gestured at one of the chairs set in front of his desk. “And no, you are not allowed to comment on my last statement.” The expression on her face was a little too innocent.

She sat down, looking at him, but not before her eyes flitted over to the tomes on the bookshelves behind him. He smiled. “Go on, take a look. I’m the same way.”

“I wouldn’t dare to intrude-”

“You’re not. In fact, I insist. I like getting other people to read. Makes me feel less weird.” He gestured at the shelves. “Go on. If one particularly strikes your fancy you can borrow it.”

She did, scanning the titles as he drank more wine, eating his snack, and reading the reports from the Office of Barbarians. “May I borrow this, your Majesty?” She held up a thick velvet-bound book. It was his history of the Laskarid dynasty.

“If you’re trying to get on my good side, you’re succeeding.”

She had the decency to look embarrassed. “Thank you, your Majesty. I look forward to reading it.” A pause. “Your Majesty, may I ask you a question?”

“Certainly.”

“What are you eating?”

He looked down at his snack, then back at her, and grinned. “It’s called a burrito. Spanish invention. Lovely thing. There are also these taco things too… I’m going to stop there before I make myself hungry.”

“Of course. I’ll try them at the White Tower when I can.”

“You do that. I highly recommend them.” He gestured back at the chair and she sat down. “Now you’re probably also wondering why I asked to see you.” She nodded. “It’s quite simple; my son wants to marry you.”

“I know.”

“Of course you do. You’re a smart woman with excellent taste in reading material. Now there’s potential matches with the Spanish and the Arletians, but recent history suggests Latins make terrible in-laws.” He paused, looking at her.

“While marrying me would help to remove a potential dynastic time bomb,” she replied. “If I’m married to the Kaisar I’m not likely to intrigue on behalf of my children with Andreas III.”

“Precisely. You weren’t married to Andreas III so there’s no consanguinity issue. But there is possibly another issue.”

“What would that be, your majesty?”

“Quite simple really, do you want to marry my son?”

She blinked in surprise. “You’re asking me that?”

He grinned. “I am. I take a perverse pleasure in being unusual. So that’s why I’m asking you. I know that you were a gift to Andreas III; you had no choice there regardless of how it turned out. Now politically there is a good reason to marry you to Odysseus, but I want it to be absolutely clear. The choice is yours. Your station will not change from what it is now if you say no. You have my word.”

“Thank you, your majesty,” she replied with a glimmer of tears in her eyes. “That means a lot to me.”

“You’re welcome. Now you don’t need to decide right now. Go and think on it. If you wish to marry someone else, and I entirely understand if you do, I think something can be worked out. That said, considering your…political position any such marriage would have to be approved by me.”

“I understand, your majesty, and thank you again for your compassion. But that won’t be necessary. I would be honored to marry your son and become your daughter-in-law.”

He smiled a bit. “Are you sure? Consider who your mother-in-law will be.”

She gave him a matching smile. “I’m quite sure.”

* * *

1631 continued: The marriage of Kaisar Odysseus Sideros and the Lady Maria is a joyous occasion for the people of Constantinople. Present at the wedding are Andreas III’s three remaining bastards, Theodoros of Nineveh (8 years old), Alexandros of Baghdad (7 years old), and Nikephoros of Trebizond (3 years old); the latter two are the sons of Maria. Their exact status is deliberately left unstated.

The Roman and Allied armies in winter quarters along the Serbian-Roman frontier bicker in a war of outposts but neither side decides to push further. The Romans want to assemble overwhelming force with new recruits and Sicilian reinforcements for the spring while the Allies are having a hard enough time just keeping their troops in the fields, much less supporting an offensive.

Aside from the outpost skirmishes there is a war of words and here Demetrios far outperforms Theodor. Pamphlets that somehow end up in Roman towns arguing for Theodor’s rightful claims are ignored at best and more usually actively mocked. Somewhat more effective are sheets maligning Demetrios’s character, describing him as a weak-willed bean-counter who is dominated by his wife who furthermore cuckolds him behind his back with Nikephoros Vatatzes, Andreas III’s former bodyguard commander and now the commander of the Vigla.

It is true that the Empress is having an affair with Vatatzes, except Demetrios knows about it. As long as it is discreet it doesn’t bother him. After all, he’s had Eudoxia as a mistress since he was Kephale of Smyrna so it’s only fair in his mind. As for the citizens of the Empire, regardless of their sovereign’s marital ‘peculiarities’, that is still far better than having some Latin.

Roman propaganda is aimed at the fact that it is a coalition force that opposes them. One poster in German says ‘While you’re here, what’s going on back home?’ It shows a family in Rhineland attire in their home, where a Frenchman is making moves on the wife and daughter whilst an Englishman gathers up all the valuables. Generals Mackensen and Seydlitz both have copies of it, commenting on its accuracy.

At the same time in Constantinople there is an investigation on the battles of Sopot and Drenovac. The latter raises few issues but the former is a different matter and there is a question of censuring Neokastrites posthumously. The Megas Domestikos himself squashes it, somewhat surprisingly given his personal antipathy to the Chaldean. He argues that Neokastrites “remonstrated with his superior on the feasibility of his orders, but nevertheless carried them out to the best of his ability. It is the duty of a subordinate officer to use initiative, training, and ingenuity in carrying out their orders to the best of their ability, but it is their duty to carry them out. If the order in question is impractical or foolhardy, the fault lies with the one issuing it.” The Emperor personally absolves Mouzalon of all blame here, as he’d told the Domestikos of the need to cooperate closely with Serbia when he’d set out originally.

On the diplomatic front the winter is much more frustrating for Demetrios. In July King Vakhtang IV of Georgia died (historians believe liver failure-like many of the Georgian nobility he was a notoriously heavy drinker). He was succeeded by his son David IX, who incidentally has a pretty decent claim on the Roman throne. But in October he is bitten by a monkey in the menagerie and dies a week later from infection (the monkey is given the full punishment for regicide). His successor is his son Konstantin IV, who is born during the week between his father’s accident and death. His mother Anna Drakina, granddaughter of Helena I, serves as regent.

Enter Alexei Bagrationi, Prince of Imeretia, senior-most noble of the realm. He is based out of the city of Kutatisi (which served as Georgia’s ‘Nicaea’ during the dark days of the Mongol yoke). Furthermore he is the leader of the chief cadet branch of the Bagrationi, giving him an excellent claim to the throne and he is none too pleased at the Safavid hijacking. Until now, the Safavids had been protected by their connection to the House of Drakos. That is no longer the case.

Announcing his bid for the throne, on December 1 he is crowned King Alexei III in the Cathedral of St Giorgi in Kutatisi, where Konstantin the Great, the Unifier of the Georgian Lands, had been crowned in 1293. The tagma of Imeretia, of which he is strategos, rallies to him and he is soon joined by the tagmata of Guria and Tashiri. There are many Georgians disgusted with how the Azeri Safavids have gained power and are eager to throw them out. For support Regent Anna can only count on the tagmata of Kakheti and Abkhazia and the latter is currently encamped in Thrace, aiding the Romans.

Frankly given Alexei’s domestic support, Demetrios is inclined to throw his some-kind-of-cousin Anna to the wolves. Even if he were to think like a dynast, which he doesn’t, Anna is Drakina, not Siderina. But Alexei is receiving a small subsidy from Shah Ibrahim, who apparently helped encourage Alexei’s scheme (although Alexei didn’t need much encouragement). Now Demetrios is inclined to just outbid Ibrahim, but the Megas Logothete, Logothete of the Drome, and the Protospatharios of the Office of Barbarians argue that they cannot take any risk of Georgia becoming a client or ally of the Persians. Furthermore it is argued that a serious show of force on the eastern frontier is needed, given Ibrahim’s provocative movements in Mesopotamia, to keep the Shah from getting ideas. After being worn down by repeated arguments, Demetrios reluctantly concedes.

Megas Domestikos Mouzalon isn’t any happier than the Emperor at the turn of events. Not only is he losing the Abkhazians, who performed well in the post-Drenovac actions, but to make up for Alexei’s additional Georgian tagma, the remnants of the Akoimetoi and Chaldeans are to accompany them. At a stroke, Mouzalon’s army has lost as many men as it lost at Sopot and Drenovac combined.

Demetrios, who still leans towards negotiating with Alexei, has his son-in-law Alexandros Drakos transferred to the Athanatoi before the redeployment. His rationale is that if a member of the Imperial family, even one by marriage, marches against Alexei, prestige needs will demand that the attack be seen through and Alexei destroyed. By ensuring no such member is present, Demetrios makes sure a change in policy remains possible without loss of face.

This makes the need for more allies even more urgent. The Scythian Veche agrees to enter the war as a Roman ally, providing six thousand cavalry, including fifteen hundred horse archers recruited from the Tatar population which dates back from the Blue Horde era. Given the losses the Roman horse took in 1631 this is most welcome, although the ranks of the kataphraktoi, needed for taking on the Polish winged hussars, are still depleted.

Further north the news is much less helpful. Demetrios had hoped that Lithuania and Prussia could be convinced to pitch into Poland. While there are still substantial contingents of troops there, the first-rates are with Casimir in Serbia. Except while Blucher was forcing his way across the Danube, Prussia and Novgorod formed an alliance and declared war on the Empire of All the North. The Novgorodians want their Baltic and White Sea coastlines, which were lost during the Great Northern War, back. Their loss remains a crippling blow. The Holy Roman Empire was the main power that forced the territorial concessions from a then-united Russia in the 1570s and is the guarantor of said borders. So from Novgorod’s perspective now is the perfect time to strike. Meanwhile the Prussians have their eye on Estonia.

So not only can Prussia not attack Poland, the EAN can’t be used to threaten Theodor’s northern frontier.

Lithuania meanwhile is suffering from serious internal strife as the powerful Sapieha, Kesgailos, and Gostautai family jockey for power in the Lithuanian Veche, with rumors that each of the families is interested in installing themselves as monarchs and reviving the line of Grand Dukes. Somehow it has not spilled into open violence but Lithuania is in no shape to attack even a weakened Poland.

Great Pronsk, with its 8+ million subjects, is the most powerful of the Russian states. Already well over four thousand Pronsky men have enlisted in the Roman army, but the Pronsk Veche is more interested in the action to the northwest. The main Pronsk export is grain and that mainly ships to the Baltic and on to Western Europe (Scythian grain forces it out of the Roman market). The EAN’s stranglehold of the export ports is extremely annoying and the great landowners who control the Veche are eager to expand their profit margins. In exchange for a Pronsk alliance, grain customs duties (plus some others) between Novgorod and Pronsk are dropped. There will still be an export duty if shipped beyond Novgorod but only a fraction of the exorbitant one the Scandinavians currently charge (which doesn’t include the import toll just to bring it to the harbor for shipping).

Arles looks more promising, but King Basil II has no desire to take the Triple Monarchy alone. Although the HRE’s forces are committed, only a small portion of Henri’s are encamped in Serbia. Basil wants either the support of Spain or forty thousand Roman troops.

Demetrios would like the support of Spain. Lisbon currently has 75,000 men under arms, many veteran troops bloodied in battle and victory. Except the reason King Ferdinand has so many soldiers is that he is still at war. The Andalusi have been driven entirely out of the Guadalquivir River valley but now the fighting is in the mountains of Granada, bitter grinding combat. The going is slow and painful. The Spanish fleet is also raiding the North African coast with substantial success but also heavy losses. Thus Spain is not really in a position to help, and despite the recent losses to the Triunes old habits die hard and the Spanish are used to viewing the Romans as enemy number one in eastern waters, which doesn’t exactly incentivize them to shelve their Marinid war for Roman benefit.

So Demetrios goes with option 2. With Basil’s agreement, come the summer the Romans will provide 25 tourmai and the Sicilians and Egyptians one tagma each, sea lift to be provided by combined Roman-Arletian-Egyptian-Sicilian-Hospitalier efforts. It’s five tourmai more than Basil originally insisted upon, which makes for the fact that two of the tagmata are Despotic, not Roman proper. And Ferdinand strongly suggests that despite the Marinid war, if the Romans were to send that many troops to Arles he would reinforce them with twenty thousand or more of his own soldiers. That would mean Henri would find a combined army of at least a hundred thousand on his doorstep.

And then it all goes to hell. Despite massive bribes Lombardy enters on the war…on Theodor’s side. King Cesare doesn’t want a super-HRE on his doorstep, but the Doukas claim to the throne is extremely shaky at best so he has to pay attention to the opinions of his ‘great men’. And those great men are enamored of the idea of getting their hands on the riches of the Despotate of Sicily and unifying the peninsula under their banner. And getting their hands on all those Sicilian shinies, don’t forget that.

There is some criticism of Theodor on the grounds that he is alienating his birthright (this is the diplomatic way used by the many who consider this a foolhardy venture), that he is having to sell what he’s trying to gain so that he can gain it in the first place, in which case what is the point? Theodor counters that the Imperial heartland is the main prize and that ‘once that is gained everything is re-negotiable’.

So the Arletian intervention is out, meaning no Arletian or Spanish support. Given that Lombardy has a 3-to-1 advantage in population over Sicily, those 25 tourmai will likely have to go to Italy and obviously the Sicilian tagma isn’t going anywhere. So the idea of bringing over the Sicilians to Serbia is out as well. Although the Megas Doux looks rather excited at the prospect of letting the Imperial fleet loose on Lombard shores.

But the Megas Doux will be of no assistance to the second threat that appears on the horizon, far more serious than that of Lombardy. It is unknown if the decision to use force against Alexei influenced his choice, but Shah Ibrahim has made his move. Over seventy thousand Persian troops begin crossing the Syrian frontier.

The White Palace, Constantinople, May 12, 1632:

Demetrios Sideros stared into the fireplace and swallowed the last contents of the bottle, then tossing it into the basket with its fellows. He picked up a new one, popped the cork, and took a drink, swirling the wine through his mouth, around his teeth, over his tongue. Then he spat it into the fire, the liquid hissing and sizzling as it struck the flames. He set the glass down and picked up the three small pieces of paper.

They all had pencil sketches of a male face, each one different. He was no artist like his son, but they were passable likenesses. He held up the first. “Casimir of Poland, noble warrior of God,” he sneered. “May a woman slay you.”

He held up the second. “Theodor of Bavaria, you who would gain the whole world. May you forfeit your mind instead.”

He held up the third. “Ibrahim of Persia, also so-called noble warrior of god. May a wo…no, should be different…hmm…eh…may a pair of women slay you.”

And he tossed the images into the flames.
 
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