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Damn. I so hoped that Nogai Ahmed would lose, because I really despise this guy (which means, excellent handwriting from the author). I hope soon or later he will found his demise...
 
Judging by the title of the last chapter, David's going to integrate what remains of Eastern Georgia. I wonder with the mongols breaking though the Caucasus the powers inhabiting the Armenian highlands would feel threatened enough to help Trebizond?
 
I really do wonder how things are going to go for David with a hostile horde to the east and a hostile Rum to the south it'll take a miracle to keep the state intact and relatively unharmed
 
Broke: this will all benefit the Candarids
Woke: this will benefit the Ottomans
Bespoke: this will help usher in the Albanian Neo-Byzantine Empire
 
The lamps have gone out in Georgia, and we will not see them lit again in the lifetimes of many.

Not much to say about the future of Georgia in the next 50-100 years beyond what's been said already except that it will probably be terrible for the Georgians themselves. Not sure how far the Nogai Khan will actually manage to get - there's an assassin after him, and still a lot of mountainous regions between here and Trebizond - but the future warlordism is already out of the bag.

As mentioned by some others in prior, this may well be the seeds of Trebizond subsuming Georgia in the coming centuries. Even if we outrule the idea of a direct conquest of fractured Georgian principalities (which could also happen), it wouldn't be hard at all for the empire to establish vassalage over the exiled Georgian royal line and gradually restore their territories under Komnenian suzerainty. The mentioned friendship between the Ponts and Kartvelians in the narrative of the story could imply this, though just as easily (assuming nationalism or something like it emerges, which isn't a necessity a by any means) it could imply the Trapezuntines restoring Georgia as an ally in the future.

None of that is probably relevant in the near term, though - the very much still threatening Nogai forces, to say nothing of the Karamanids, are of greater narrative import in the here and now. I do expect David will be forced to draw either more heavily or fully on those bandon reserves mentioned earlier, and while I think it prevents anything resembling a Karamanid conquest of Trebizond, the war will still probably be terrible.
 
The lamps have gone out in Georgia, and we will not see them lit again in the lifetimes of many.

Not much to say about the future of Georgia in the next 50-100 years beyond what's been said already except that it will probably be terrible for the Georgians themselves. Not sure how far the Nogai Khan will actually manage to get - there's an assassin after him, and still a lot of mountainous regions between here and Trebizond - but the future warlordism is already out of the bag.
Nogai about to become TTL's William T. Sherman and embark on a March to the Sea that'll make Georgia howl.
 
I believe that past a certain point, any further conquests by the Three Leagues will be unsustainable.
Expanding past the Pyrrenean principalities for Spain, past the Alps for the Italians and past the Somme (although I'd argue even Picardy and Boulogne is too far) for the Rhinemouthers.
France is still a very heavily populated area which reunited in the flames of the Hundred Years War. It will be coming back, and the best way to ensure it does not isn't crippling it but, a contrario, not sticking your neck out.
I hope so :)
 
To hell with it, I'm running out of time.

Part XLV: An Overview of the Balkans (1500-1520)

The Balkan Peninsula in 1520 was radically changed from what it had been a mere two decades before. The Ottoman Empire, which had once dominated the region and projected power far beyond its geographical limits, had been severely reduced by a bloody civil war between the sultan and his vizier, and was essentially ripe for the picking for any power strong enough to take advantage. The Moreotes, previously beset by corruption and internal strife, had managed to reform and were now in a much stronger possession both internally and externally, having defeated the Thessalians in a regional conflict, effectively switching the positions of the two rival states. The Venetians, who had once seemed to be on the verge of being driven from the region, had consolidated their Italian holdings and now were ready to face down the Turks once again. Albania had managed to finally reunify under Jozë the Great, while Epirus is a Moreote vassal in all but name. The Danubian principalities threw off the Ottoman yoke during the civil war, and now are unified under Moldovan rule, presenting a united front against their enemies to both the north and south. Finally, the Hungarians and Serbs loom over the Peninsula, seemingly ready to drive the Turks from Europe for once and for all.

The largest and most devastating of the conflicts which had wracked the Balkans during the first two decades of the 16th Century was the Second Ottoman Civil War, fought over the increasing power of Greek Muslims within the imperial chancellery and pitting the sultan and his grand vizier against each other. After six years of bloody war, the grand vizier had emerged victorious after Mehmed III fell in battle trying to storm the walls of Salonika; it was a Pyrrhic victory. In Europe, where the bulk of the conflict was fought, the constant marching of armies had caused waves of famines and disease outbreaks to ravage the countryside, in addition to the hundreds of Greek villages that had been massacred by the Turks, and vice versa. Nearly a million people were dead, a benchmark that would be hit and eclipsed by the anti-Turk purges that would follow the conflict, as the vengeful Greek militias slew any Turk they found. Not only did this devastate the imperial bureaucracy by killing hundreds of thousands of tax payers and potential recruits, it also caused a massive refugee problem. Turks and Turkmen fleeing reprisal killings stampeded across the Epirote and Albanian borders, while waves of Greeks fled south into Thessalia or sailed across the Aegean to safety in the Morea or in Venetian-held islands and thousands of Slavs fled into Hungarian Serbia or crossed the Danube into Wallachian and Moldovan territory. These population movements would have long-lasting impacts, but none of them were more immediately apparent than the territorial changes which had occurred during the national schism. The Greeks of Bithynia had risen up and, with the help of the Trapezuntines, proclaimed the restoration of the Empire of Nikaia, which subsequently entered into personal union with the aforementioned Greek empire. The Neo-Rûmites[1] had overrun most of Ottoman Anatolia and driven the Turkmen who lived there into eastward exile, while the minor Greek states had expanded inland at the expense of the Sublime Porte. Ebülhayr Paşa was unable to reverse any of these losses given the weakened state of his, I mean Mustafa III’s, realm, and so could do little but glare ominously at the western states.

In the far south of the peninsula, the Palaiologian Empire had finally righted itself after decades of decline. The Despotate of Morea had suffered from many of the problems which had beset and ultimately caused the downfall of the late Byzantine Empire, which had nearly caused the statelet to fall itself. Throughout the 15th Century, it had been beset by revolts by the overtaxed peasantry, the undertaxed nobility and the overpaid Albanian mercenaries who made up a large portion of the despot’s army. It was only with the ascension of Andronikos I in 1512 that these issues would be done away with. Andronikos correctly identified the source of so many of his realm’s problems, namely that the nobility paid next to nothing in taxes, and resolved to move against this issue so that it would not hamper the Despotate’s future. At this time, the nobility were divided into three groups: the Latins, who were feudal vassals of Mystras in every sense of the word; the Old Pronoiai, descendants of the Greeks who had helped reconquer the peninsula from the Latins and who were usually the most loyal; and the New Pronoiai, who were the descendants of the horde of refugees, many of them nobility, who had poured into the region after the Fall of Constantinople. Over the following years, Andronikos would turn the New Pronoiai against the other two by advancing them domestically and in court at the expense of the others, which soon made them the object of much resentment by the other two groups. Then, in 1514, when he ‘discovered’ a plot against him by the New Pronoiai, the Latins and the Old Pronoiai were more than willing to help him reduce the New Pronoiai, who were almost universally stripped of their titles and land. That these lands and titles were not given to the old nobility but instead to lowborn loyalists went mostly unnoticed. He then did the same with the Latins, only to similarly abandon them in 1518 on the pretext of ‘collusion with the Epirotes’, who held a similar heritage and more importantly were hostile to Mystras due to the events of the War of the Three Leagues. With the nobility thus either crushed or significantly reduced in power and number, he was able to reform the Despotate’ bureaucracy and institute a more balanced tax system, which relieved the burden on many of the perioikoi and allowed the army and navy to be expanded.

Of course, he had not been completely focused on domestic policies. He had also taken the field against the Thessalians in 1513, while their overlords were busy with their civil war. The Thessalians, ruled by Ioannes II, had neglected everything martial except their southern border defenses on the presumption that no-one would be willing to risk the wrath of the Sublime Porte over something so minor as Thessaly. As such, they were caught completely flat-footed when Andronikos led an army of some 7,000 men across the border in the spring of 1513 and blew a hole the size of a small city through their akritai. Before Ioannes could muster a response force, the Moreotes had advanced as far as Lamia, which they quickly reduced with a series of artillery barrages. The two despots met at the field of Philiadona a few weeks later, where the Moreotes outnumbered the Thessalians by two thousand men. The resulting battle was decidedly one-sided, as the Thessalian left routed and fled the field before they had even joined melee with the Moreotes, and were followed by most of the army, which was swiftly ridden down and captured by Andronikos; among the captured was Despot Ioannes. Out of a sense of Christian charity (and the desire to not provoke the Ottomans should they manage to pull out of their death spiral) Andronikos only annexed all of Boeotia and Phthotis, instead choosing to impose a crippling amount of tribute payments on the Thessalians to keep them from rebuilding enough to threaten him. He then retired back to Mystras, leaving his cousin Konstantinos to oversee the integration of the new conquests. He also participated in the War of the Three Leagues’ Epirote theater, annexing several villages along the coast after capturing them without a fight.

Further north, Albania had, of all things, stabilized. The massive (comparatively) civil wars which had wracked the small principality since the death of Skanderbeg in the 1460s had prevented Albania from advancing beyond anything other than its lowly state as a Venetian vassal. The many, many noble houses which had been unified by the great Kastoriti had immediately collapsed into infighting, turning Albania from a principality into a confederation of warring fiefdoms that happened to share the same name. More than two dozen kings from a dozen different houses had reigned during the fifty-year-long period of anarchy, and none of them had been able to control the entirety of the small but mountainous entity. The savior of Albania would not come from one of the noble houses but instead from the lowest ranks of society.

Jozë Shkozë[2] was born to a Greek slave woman and an Albanian tenant farmer along the Ottoman border in 1488, a situation that must have seemed like it couldn’t have gotten worse. Then Jozë was kidnapped by Turkish slavers in 1502, almost certainly to wind up dead or slaving away in some far-flung part of the empire. Instead, he managed to escape somewhere in the wilds of Thrake and, with nowhere else to go, managed to lie his way into the Ottoman army. He advanced rapidly through the ranks of the army, proving to have a natural talent for war. He would fight in Ebülhayr Paşa’s campaigns against Epirus and the border wars with the Danubian Principalities and the Karamanids, eventually working his way up to the commander of a unit of two hundred akinji cavalry[3] stationed on the eastern frontier. With the outbreak of the civil war, Shkozë and his men were transferred westward where they spent several years fighting Mehmedist forces in the Albanian borderlands. In 1516, when fighting suddenly shifted westwards, Shkozë was able to convince his and another unit of akinji to desert across the border. Returning to his old haunts, he saw an opportunity to take power in the anarchic Albania. He would ally with Gjon Zevisi, who ruled much of the south, and with their help he would conquer the other Albanian statelets in a four-year-long lightning campaign. By making common cause with many of the minor noble families and local monasteries, he was able to break the power of the major families and remove the threat they posed to his rule. In 1520, he inherited Zenevisi’s lands through marriage to his daughter, an intelligent and capable woman named Afërdita, and finally felt secure enough to proclaim himself Prince of Albania, his capital at Berat.

And, finally, there is Hungary. Once the Christian bulwark of the east, the union of the three kingdoms has fallen upon hard times as of late. No-one with eyes and half a brain could deny that Matthew the Raven was one of the greatest kings of his time, but the succession that he left behind upon his death in 1508 was anything but. He had spent much of his reign involved in centralizing efforts that had steadily eroded the power of the nobility across all three of his kingdoms, but he had failed to take into account that many of the magnates would have a grudge against him when he named his like minded eldest son, Ladislaus VII, as his heir and successor. When Ladislaus took the throne in his own right, his supposed illegitimacy--recall that it was he who was born scant months after the end of Alexandros II of Trapezous’ time in Esztergom--as well as his youth and inexperience made him the target of a conspiracy to elevate Julius Hunyadi, a distant cousin of Ladislaus’, to the throne. When word of this conspiracy reached the king, he attempted to have all of the plotters arrested, but this leaked and several of them were able to escape his grasp. Julius was one of them, and the resulting civil war lasted for three years.

Croatia and Serbia backed Julius the most ardently, as he was an experienced commander and they wished for a strong soldier-king to protect them from the Ottomans, who still loomed large at the time. Because of this, the thick of the fighting took place in Lower Hungary, which like the Ottoman Balkans later would be devastated because of the back-and-forth of armies across its fields. While Ladislaus held the advantage at the beginning of the conflict because of the support of Hungary proper, many of the magnates would defect over to Julius as time wore on. The death blow for the king would come with the defection of the majority of the Black Army to Julius in 1511, as many of their captains believed he would be a better ruler and better paymaster. Recognizing that victory was now beyond his grasp, Ladislaus made preparations to flee with the remnants of the Black Army. He set fire to Eszetergom and Pest as a final act of defiance before withdrawing eastward into Austria, which was still part of the Holy Roman Empire. He appealed to Bogislaw to protect him, his vassal, from the predations of a foreign king, i.e. Julius, and Bogislaw, who had long been troubled by the influence the Hungarians wielded in the region, agreed. Julius was warned away from Austria, and ultimately concluded it wasn’t worth risking his crowns for and halted at the border.

In the following years, Julius would turn his attention southwards, towards the Ottoman holdings in the Balkans. He did not intervene directly during the civil war, as he feared that the warring factions would come together to drive out the foreign invader, but instead spent the time winning the Balkan principalities to his cause, as they too hated the Turks. Several of the other rulers were eager to join battle immediately, but Julius advised caution--both because of fears of Turkish solidarity and because of his own need to deal with the restive magnate sin Hungary who felt that since they had brought him to the throne, he ought to be beholden to them. He hoped to emulate John I’s invasion of the Balkans with the (First) Holy League, and so reached out to many of the other Balkan rulers. The Venetians and Epirotes were busy, for obvious reasons, but the Albanians, newly reunited under Shkozë, and the Moreotes, under Andronikos, were both willing to take up the sword. Moldova, under the skilled and widely-known prince Bogdan the Blind, was in from the start, as he wished to undo the insulting tribute which the Turks had once levied upon his state. The last thing he wished to acquire--a Papal bull of crusade--was short in coming, however. Hyginus was occupied with events in Italy and felt that promulgating such a crusade could weaken his position at a crucial moment by sending the most devout of his followers to die in the Balkans. As such, he did not actually call for a crusade but instead sent a missive allowing Julius to proclaim a crusade himself. In March 1521, the Hungarian king did so, marking the beginning of the War of the Second Holy League.

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[1] The Karamanid bey Bayezid II had proclaimed the restoration of the Sultanate of Rûm in 1502, taking the regnal name Kayqubad IV.
[2] This is one of the names proposed as the birth name of Mimar Sinan, a fairly prominent Ottoman general of probably Albanian descent. Whether or not he was an Albanian is unknown--his birth ethnicity is speculated to be everything from Armenian to Greek to Turkish to Albanian--but the argument for Albanianism is the one which I find most convincing.
[3] Akinji were Ottoman light cavalry, primarily used for scouting and gathering supplies.
Very interesant update ! I'm looking forward to see what happens in the Balkans
 
Part XLVII: The War of the Second Holy League (1521-1522)

As King Julius of Hungary and his allies streamed across the Ottoman Empire’s northern and western frontiers, it seemed as if that venerable dynasty was facing its deathblow. The once-proud state had been devastated by years of civil war, attacks from the east and west, and its coffers and barracks lay fallow. The grand vizier couldn’t muster more than a few thousand men to defend his realm, and its final demise seemed inevitable as hordes of invaders streamed towards the City of the World’s Desire. However, with his back against the wall and little left to lose, Ebülhayr Paşa would use every resource available to him, pulling out all the stops he could to take as many of the Crusaders down with him as he could.

The Ottoman Empire in Europe could be divided into three rough geographic regions, a fact which the Crusaders had taken into account. The Bulgarian plains, stretching across the Danube banks north of the Balkan Mountains, were thinly populated thanks to several decades of constant back-and-forth raiding and the losses of the Second Ottoman Civil War and thus provided a direct route towards the capital that could only be easily halted by the mountains themselves. Further south, the plains of Thrake were the heartland of the Ottoman state and could only be accessed through the passes north and west, and thus could be fairly easily defended. And, of course, the west was dominated by mountains and river valleys that in some ways resembled the rough countries of the Caucasus. Of course, this latter region still played host to a number of independent-minded Vlach bands and hundreds of Turkish brigands and highwaymen who had been forced out of their homes by Ebülhayr Paşa’s purges. The plan, as outlined by the members of the League in the weeks leading up to the invasion, was fairly simple. Julius and Bogdan the Blind would attack into Bulgaria, quickly securing the Danube basin and pushing southwards to the mountains, where they would fight through to the mountains, which they would hold and secure as a launching point for an offensive the next year. Meanwhile, the Albanians and Moreotes would invade the west, hopefully making common cause with the Turkish hold-outs and the Vlachs of the region against the Sublime Porte. If everything went according to plan, then by the end of the year they would have pushed to the eastern edge of the Rhodopes and secured everything west of there, possibly including Salonika as well. As soon as the war began, the Hungarian and Moreote fleets would strike into the Aegean[1], clearing it of Ottoman ships, while the Moldovans would perform a similar strike against Ottoman fleets in the Black Sea, possibly with Trapezuntine help if it could be secured. The goal of this naval offensive was to cut the supply lines between Europe and Asia, which would significantly reduce the amount of food and men the Sublime Porte could raise to fight in the former region and lengthen the time it took to move men from the east into the west. If everything went off without a hitch, a Crusader army would be sitting in Constantinople by the autumn of 1522. It was understandably believed that the Ottomans would be unable to muster enough of an army to pose a serious threat to any of the armies, as they were exhausted from the civil war and what men remained under arms were scattered across the Ottoman realm.

The Ottoman plan was far less well-defined. Ebülhayr Paşa had been caught flat-footed by the Crusader attack, and was left scrambling to muster a response. As Julius and his confederates had suspected, the Ottoman army was in shambles after the civil war, and there were less than 10,000 men scattered across the entirety of the Empire, many of them engaged in struggle against Turkish diehards[2] in the remote and difficult-to-fight-in areas. Even worse, the Ottomans were teetering on bankruptcy because of the loss of tax revenues, so he couldn’t exactly just hire mercenaries to make up for it. The plan which the grand vizier created was panic-driven and uninspiring, but it might be enough to keep his state afloat. His plan was to abandon most of the Bulgarian plains, bar only a few hardened fortresses which could be used to slow down the Crusader advance. The Ottomans would fight on in the west, using the ridges and valleys of the Lower Balkans as defensive bulwarks against the Albanians and the Moreotes, who he (rightfully) saw as the weak links in the alliance against him. While the Crusaders were being slowed down there, he would scrape together as many men as he could by whatever means possible--conscription and rushed training, the ‘borrowing’ of mamluks, taking loans from any available source to raise mercenaries--to meet them on the field of battle. He had little faith in this plan, but he was driven by desperation and a belief that God would stand with him against the infidels. Of course, God helps those who help themselves, so he knew he would have to make the best of a bad situation to receive the favor of the divine. As such, he swallowed his pride and several decades of diplomatic fiascos and wrote to one of his coreligionists….

At sea, the Crusaders were victorious against the Ottomans on a scale that no-one had dared to imagine. Ebülhayr Paşa had sent much of the Ottoman fleet down the coast of the Aegeean to sealift men and supplies from his territories around Smyrne, but had done so just before word of the putting out of large fleets from Moldova and Nafplion reached him. While he desperately tried to recall this armada, they continued to lumber down the coast. The Moreotes and Hungarians quickly caught word of this embarking from sympathetic islanders and they, along with several dozen Hospitaller ships who were glad to have helped in the struggle against the infidels, vectored onto the Ottoman armada. At the Battle of the Aignoussa Strait in late February, the Turkish fleet was caught off-guard and utterly destroyed. As the ships passed between the Aignoussa Islands between Khios and the mainland, a Hungarian fleet appeared in their rear, driving them forward with thunderous cannons. The naval paşa broke off several of his warships to defend against this attack, denuding the rest of the fleet just in time for the Moreote and Hospitaller fleets to appear at the front of the formation. With their forces split, the Turkish transports were ravaged by the combined arms of the Orthodox and the Catholics, with some twenty-seven being sunk, eleven captured and six driven aground on the islands, whence their crews were promptly slaughtered by the islanders or died of thirst some time later. The allies, in comparison, lost only four Hungarian galleys[3], two Moreote galleys, a Moreote galleass and no Hospitaller ships, effectively crippling the Ottoman fleet. The crusaders would then be able to blockade the coasts of the Ottoman Empire to further cripple their economy and ability to move troops. The Moldovans won a smaller battle in the Black Sea quite handily a few weeks later, confining the Ottomans to the Sea of Marmora alone.

Meanwhile, on land, the Crusaders were making swift advances against the forces of the Sublime Porte. The Moldovans had a great deal of experience in forcing crossings of the Danube thanks to their years of raiding against the infidels, and as such were able to secure a half-dozen bridgeheads and fording points across the Great River within a few weeks of the invasion beginning. As such, the commander of the 3,000-strong force of light cavalry and skirmishers that the vizier had sent to delay the advance of the enemy into Bulgaria, Alexandros Paşa, turned his attention against the Moldovans. The Ottoman force attacked and successfully defeated the Moldovan force at Kamaka (OTL Oryahovo), driving them back into the river, but this would prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. While Alexandros Paşa and his men were busy fighting off the Moldovans, they failed to notice or stop the large Serbo-Hungarian army--some 25,000 men under Julius himself--emerging onto the plains from the west. Julius fell upon the Ottoman army like a bolt from on high, routing the Ottomans with heavy casualties and capturing the Paşa himself. With the chief force sent to stop him completely annihilated, Julius and Bogdan would spend the following weeks securing the Bulgarian plains and the passes across the Balkan Range. The Danube essentially acted as a tether, carrying in addition to its usual trading barges the chain of boats that kept the Moldovan and Serbo-Hungarian force fed and stocked. The greatest impact of this was that it allowed the Crusaders to remain free from the pillaging and looting that usually defined military campaigns of this period, which greatly endeared them to the local Bulgarians and gave them a leg up over the Turks. By these manners, the entirety of the Bulgarian plain had been secured within a few months. By the end of July, Julius sat on the northern end of the Gabrovo Pass, mulling over an offensive into Thrake itself.

You see, while the Crusaders were making excellent time in the north, the Albanians and the Moreotes were doing anything but. Both Andronikos and Jozë had hoped that the local irregulars would aid them in their drive against Constantinople, but in truth they did anything but. The Turkish bandits of the western mountains had concluded that while Ebülhayr Paşa hated them and would try to kill them all, the infidels would try to do the same thing and, even worse, try to force them to adopt their heathen faith. As such, many of the Turks and Turkmen had taken up arms against both groups, dramatically slowing the advance of allied forces in the west. Andronikos was forced to contend with constant harassment against his supply lines as he pushed northwards into Thessalia, which forced him to split off large sections of his army to fend off these raiders. Jozë, meanwhile, switched tack entirely and struck directly against the Turkish bandits as well as the Ottoman garrisons of the region itself, using the excellent mobility of his light horsemen and highlander infantry to cordon off regions of the frontier and beat them down, which would, after several months, allow him to clear a path through the border zone into the Ottoman heartland. Because of these delays, the western allies were completely out of position by midsummer, the Moreotes having failed to even reach the Giannitsa swamps west of Salonika, which was their goal for the end of May, while the Albanians had yet to reach the Axios Valley, which was also their goal.

With the western allies utterly failing to hold up their end of the plan, Julius was left to contemplate a strike against Constantinople itself. After all, the Ottomans were quite weak as was, seemingly having devoted all of their forces to holding the western mountains against the Albanians and the Moreotes. If he trusted the plan, then it was entirely possible his weaker allies could be defeated piecemeal, which would allow the forces of the false prophet to turn their full forces to him, making it a much tougher fight than it would be otherwise. He should strike now while the opportunity was available to him and there was nothing between him and the City of the World’s Desire, not wait until the opportunity to achieve the dream of so many kings passed from him. Bogdan was unwilling, feeling that they should wait for the certainty of victory, which Julius considered to be foolhardy at best. The road before them was open! And so, in August 1521, Julius crossed the mountains with his army, bound for the City of Constantine itself.

However, the king had made one fatal miscalculation: There was in fact an Ottoman army present in Thrake, a comparatively small force of 11,000 that Ebülhayr Paşa had scraped together from conscripts, mercenaries and garrison forces. He had managed to secure loans from a number of Armenian banking houses, and with this he had hired several thousand Turkmen from Anatolia to supplement the small force of native troops that he had raised. This was no great army, but it was still an army and a somewhat coherent one that could, under the right circumstances, pose a threat to the Hungarian invasion force. Ebülhayr Paşa was a cagey son-of-a-bitch, and as he anxiously followed the progression of Julius and his army into Thrake, he knew that he had an opportunity for a long-odds victory if he played his cards right. The future of Islam in Europe was riding on the outcome of this campaign, and he was determined to stand strong.

As Julius advanced deep into Thrake, he met surprisingly little resistance. As he advanced, the militias and raiding forces that he had been expecting vanished in full retreat, universally yielding the field of battle to the Crusaders. Across the mountains now, the Hungarians didn’t even try to keep up the Danube supply chain, instead pillaging as they went. This both weakened their own ability to resupply and angered the locals, which led to a revival of the Greek self-defense militias of the civil war, who now fought alongside the Sublime Porte to drive out their coreligionists. Julius was taking minor but constant losses from these raiders, which he effectively ignored in favor of a constant advance. He could smell blood in the water, he wasn’t going to give up now when he was so close to victory. By the time he had reached Edirne, his men were exhausted and considerably fewer in number, as well as surrounded by several hundred angry riders who were determined to achieve revenge for their ruined homes, but he paid this no mind. When word reached him that Ebülhayr Paşa and an army were gathered at Ergenoupoli[4] (OTL Uzunkopru), he decided to engage and try to crush the Ottoman army in hopes that he could advance to and winter before or within the walls of Constantinople.

After several days of maneuvering, the Hungarian and the Greco-Ottoman army met along a ridge line several dozen miles north of Ergenoupoli, with Ebülhayr Paşa holding the defensive position atop the ridge. He knew his force was fragile, and was hoping that the Hungarians would exhaust themselves on uphill charges against his somewhat fortified position, after which they could be ground down by the Turkmen and by the Greek irregulars. Julius, meanwhile, hoped to pin down the Ottoman forces atop the ridge with his center and right, then circle around with his overloaded left to pin them down and crush them[5]. The night before the battle, both armies were comforted by their respective clergy, urging valor to them all.

That dawn, on the morning of September 28, Julius deployed his forces in the pre-dawn chill, hoping to catch the Ottomans off guard with an early morning attack. As the sun split the sky, the Hungarians advanced against the Turkish host, moving quickly up the ridge. However Ebülhayr Paşa had suspected that something like this would happen and so had mustered his men even earlier, successfully catching the Hungarians by total surprise. As the Crusaders plowed into the Ottoman pike hedges, their lines soon descended into chaos. With the sun rising at the Ottoman back, their attackers were severely impaired, and so many of them began to fire wildly with their crossbows and arquebuses. Julius was among his men, rallying them and pushing them forward, where they were beginning to push through the Ottoman center as the demoralized conscripts proved unable to hold against the prime of the Black Army. Ebülhayr Paşa too joined the fray in person, knowing that the crucial moment of the battle was at hand. The air was filled with screams and gunshots and the clamor of battle, making it almost impossible to hear shouted orders, and the Crusaders struggled to see even the men beside them. Under these circumstances, it is entirely understandable that an inexperienced soldier mistook King Julius, who was riding horizontally across the breadth of his army, for an Ottoman commander. The Hungarian monarch was knocked from his saddle by a billhook and dragged under the hooves of his horse until it too was killed and fell upon him, finally killing him. With their leader dead, the Hungarians began to falter, and Ebülhayr Paşa was able to lead his own left into the weak Hungarian right and shatter it, causing them to rout. The rest of the Crusader line soon followed, and Ebülhayr Paşa ordered the horsemen to begin their pursuit. The Serbo-Hungarians would flee in all directions, but only a handful of the 15,000 men who had taken the field that day would escape back across the frontier into Christian lands.

The impacts of Ergenoupoli were immense. The Serbo-Hungarian forces withdrew from their positions south of the Balkans, eventually retreating back across the pre-war border with only a few minor areas along the frontier still holding. As soon as word of Julius’ death reached Krakow, Sigismund the Prussian, who had inherited the titles of Poland Lithuania after Jan Olbracht’s death, proclaimed himself the rightful King of Hungary, Croatia and Serbia and began making preparations for an invasion of the Pannonian lowlands the following spring. Many of the Hungarian magnates also revolted in support of him, as they believed that a distant king across the mountains would be preferable to any other potential ruler. The sudden exit of the Hungarians, who had been the lynchpin of the Second Holy League, caused the organization to crumble. Sensing an opportunity to get while the getting was good, Andronikos sued for peace with the Ottomans. Ebülhayr Paşa was more focused with events playing out elsewhere and so was willing to give up the former Despotate of Thessalia to the Moreotes, an unexpected windfall. The Moldovans, meanwhile, would negotiate with the Ottomans for territorial and commercial gains. The Ottomans were on the upswing but were still quite fragile, so Ebülhayr Paşa didn’t want to risk carrying on such a war indefinitely. The Moldovans would annex several fortresses along the banks of the Danube to secure their control of the river trade, but it was much less than what Bogdan had aspired to before the war began.

However, despite these defections, Albania stood alone against the Ottomans. Even as peace settled over most of the region, the Albanian-Ottoman Wars had just begun….

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[1] Hungary (or more accurately, Croatia) had a number of galleys that had been built up to help project power in the Aegean. Albania, in contrast, lacked ports thanks to the extensive Venetian holdings in the area, and so were constricted to wars on land.
[2] Ebülhayr Paşa had never been able to completely secure much of the frontier zone, and many of the Turkish refugees and survivors in the region had taken up the mantle of ghazi to raid against those who they considered to be heretical puppets of the decadent and incompetent Greeks. Some of them picked up the mystical Sufi orders who also opposed the Greeks, and this would be the genesis of Sufism in the Balkans for all intents and purposes.
[3] Hungary had only a few galleys with little experience, and as they were facing the actual warships they took the brunt of the losses in the battle.
[4] The town was named Ergen Kopru by the Turks, but given its majority Greek status and the pro-Greek slant of the regime in Konstantinople, it reverted to a Hellenized version after Ebülhayr Paşa’s victory.
[5] ‘Overloading’ means assigning more forces to one flank than the center and/or other flank, similar to the flank overloading that the Greek hoplites performed during the Classical and Hellenistic Periods.
Good update, quite unexpected but very good update !
 
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