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Foreward: The narrative segment was a pain and a half to write, and after a week and a half of writing I decided to just cut to the chase and present a bare-bones narrative, sorry. On the bright side, it helped me experiment with new writing styles, so that's a plus, I guess?
Appendix G: February 1527, Boyabad


February 1527, Boyabad

The inside of the tent was noticeably warmer than the outside, the source of the heat a vast brazier that sat dead in its middle. It was the only light in the room, and its flickering shadows cast the entire chamber in an eerie, solemn haze.

David barely saw any of this. His attention was held by the two figures who stood, or maybe sat, opposite him. In the bare light of the room he could barely make them out, and instinctively he slid his hand to his scabbard, simultaneously taking a few hesitant steps forward. The taller figure he now recognized to be standing, probably a guard or an advisor or something. The second was a strange, bowed figure that sat cross-legged on a dais. His head was far too large for his body, which was remarkably thin despite its lower half being hidden by loose robes. Even at a distance the man’s features were bizarrely neotenous, resembling a newborn more than they did those of a man.

A wave of nervousness rushed over David, another whitecap on the roiling sea of fear within him. Mgeli had been mute since earlier that day, and so he was on his own for the negotiations. He squeezed his hands and uttered a silent prayer for help, knowing that he had to choose every word with deadly accuracy. Thank God, he had a strong position that would let him play up his hand. The best thing for him to do, he had decided, was to act confident to demand concessions and hope that they didn’t see through his ruse.

He swallowed, forcing a smirk and a tone of casual superiority.

“So, you are the sultan? I didn’t think the Turks would give the throne to a beardless man.”

“Nor I the Lazes.”

Kadir’s voice was strange, a disconcerting mixture of a child and a normal man, and quite unsettling. Another bout of nervousness came over him, and he dropped his guard for a second, taking the bait.

“I am a Roman!” he bristled.

“As am I.”

“No you aren’t.” David snapped. He knew he shouldn’t be losing his temper already, but he’d be damned if he let some Turks usurp his nation’s history. “You may claim to be a Roman, but Rome is Christian and Rome is Greek. You can style yourself as a Roman, but you are not one and never will be. Wrapping a whore in purple robes does not make her an empress.”

“You speak of your mother very kindly.”

David grimaced. He’d walked right into that. He started to snap back but cut himself off. The eunuch was trying to bait him into losing his head so he could be manipulated. It was clever, he had to admit, and he’d nearly fallen for it. Time to turn the sultan’s plan on its head.

“I speak not of any one individual but of history itself. Rome has stood for two thousand years and will last for two thousand more. The poorest of our ancestors lived in marble houses while the richest of yours were vagrants living in tents on the steppe.”

The eunuch’s expression was completely placid, while the vizier shifted his weight in a way David found hard to read.

“Ah, but those cities of marble have crumbled into dust, while we have built stronger and harder cities that will stand the test of time. We may have come here as nomads but we are as civilized as you have ever been. As Diogenes or Andronikos Gidos could tell you, we have won the mantle by right of conquest.”

David glowered at him. It was an insult that he hated to let go unpunished, but it was clear he would get nowhere with this wall of stone. He needed to end this side conversation before it spun out and he lost all control of the situation. Alright David, steer things back to the negotiation, it shouldn’t be that hard.

“If conquest is a true claim then I am the king of Kartvelia. Enough of this talk, there are more important matters at hand.”

Kadir nodded swiftly, his expression still inescrutable. “I concur. I am willing to allow you to retain your throne if you surrender and pledge fealty to me at once.”

David stammered out a response, all thoughts of dominating the conversation flying out of his head.

“What?! I-- Surrender? Surrender?!”

“Yes, surrender. At once.”

He regained his composure. Clearly, Kadir was trying to throw him off balance and evidently he had succeeded. Still, there was no way he was serious, and he could still keep the advantage if he acted quickly and confidently.

“You-- I don’t appreciate your attempted joke.”

“I do no not joke.”

Now this was just insulting. He had admittedly lost control, but he wouldn’t let this stoneless bastard talk down to him like this, not after he had defeated him in the field. It was strange, but he was more nervous now than he had been in the thick of things that afternoon. Now’s not the time for that, focus!

“Then you must have truly lost your mind. If you have an ounce of sense in you, which frankly I doubt, then you would see that I have won the day. My men have driven yours from the field and slaughtered them wholesale, and you should be thankful I haven’t crushed you outright. My patience wears thin, and if you are overly reticent then you may find a draft blowing across your stump of a neck.”

The sultan was silent for a time, and David wondered if he had overplayed his hand. At last he spoke, in a low voice so quiet he strained to hear it. “You may have won the day, but you have not won the war.”

“Easy for you--”

He was cut off by the eunuch’s sudden rebuttal, surprisingly firm and only a hair beneath a shout. Nonetheless, his face remained perfectly blank. David instinctively snarled, biting back another cutoff in the name of diplomacy.

“Silence, you insolent whelp. You may have carried the day but you cannot win the war. Already, your army is weakened from just this battle and you cannot raise more men. All of Pontos is already at the brink of famine and anarchy, and you haven’t even faced defeat yet. Tell me, what do you think will happen when your army is scattered? You have only it and can muster out no more men, while I can raise a half-dozen hosts of equal size if need be. I have every advantage, and you will acknowledge this or be destroyed.”

His temper finally snapped.

“Oh, on the contrary!” David snapped. “I am the one who holds the cards, you’re merely bluffing! You couldn’t raise another army if the devil himself invaded to drag you to hell! I know your people, sultan. The only reason why they obey you is because they fear you, and now that you have been defeated they will turn against you with great haste. One of your brothers still lives, as does a dozen of your uncles and cousins, not to mention all your brothers and cousins by law. How many of them envy you? How many are willing to take up arms to sate that envy? A great number, I suppose. Your government is top-heavy, and many of the regional governors will be willing to raise the standard of one of your relatives for greater autonomy. The nafjayş are greatly weakened, and without them you are dependent on what little goodwill the beys and satraps have for you. How many defeats will it take for them to abandon you? One? Two? Five? This battle may not have ended you, but the next certainly will.”

They stared at each other in grim silence. David’s palms were wetter than the Black Sea, but the thought of giving his enemy the pleasure of making him look away was as repulsive as rotting eggs. He knew everything he’d just said was right, but as his temper slackened he began to wonder if they had been the right thing to say. Perhaps he had driven Kadir away from the negotiation table on accident? He said another quick prayer before the sultan spoke again.

“You are not correct. My subjects may be restive, but unlike you perfidious Greeks they are not held in thrall by fear, but have some loyalty to me. Even if they do all revolt at once, I shall still have enough men to march against you and crush you. Pontos and Paphlagonia are too weak to prevail, and you must surely either submit or be destroyed.”

“Bold words, but you are bluffing. Already, the Qizilbaş have come over to my side, and doubtless others will soon follow them. Even if you manage to defeat me, there is a legion of enemies waiting to take my place and march against R-- Konya. The Ottomans will surely support a pretender, as will the Çandarids or the Qutlughids. Your armies will be exhausted at best and will defect to your rivals’ causes at worst, and you will eventually be overwhelmed and dethroned. It is you who must make peace or be destroyed.”

Kadir grunted, his expression unchanging. He needed to switch tack, evidently this wasn’t working.

“Lies. The Ottomans are busy in the west with the Franks and such, the Qutlughids are busy in India and Bukhara and the Turkmen are occupied in Egypt. You seek to bluff me into abandoning victory with threats of foreign powers who you hold no control over.”

“I speak the truth, and you know it…” For the first time, Kadir seemed to be slightly uneasy. It had to be the threat of foreign invasion, and almost certainly the Qutlughids were the worst potential threat. They could crush the Turks like a bug. He could use that. “I find it amusing that you believe I have no sway with other kings. Do you suppose Arslan is happy to see one of his vassals needlessly attacked? He is old but he is no fool, he knows that fear is needed to keep his empire together. Doubtless he’s already stirred himself from Tabriz and marches against you as we speak.” K gets progressively more nervous. “This may be your only chance to forestall his fury, sultan. If you agree to peace, I’ll intervene on your behalf and turn him from the destruction of your realm. You’ll either lose a city or two or your throne.”

Then David did what was probably the most foolish thing possible at that moment. He turned on his heel and strode out, forcing a confident bearing and stride even as his gut screamed at him that he was making a terrible mistake. It was an idea he’d gleaned from his study of some forgotten emperor’s dealings with the Persians, and he prayed with every fiber of his being that it worked. He barged out of the tent and to the group of startled-looking eleutheroi who are clustered around their horses in the yard (?), ignoring their remarks and making directly for his horse. He had one foot in the saddle and was starting to pull himself up when a cry came from behind him.


He turned and saw a courier or page or what have you practically scraping the ground. “The sultan wishes to speak with you at once, sire.”

He nodded again and reversed his course, utterly shocked at having pulled it off. Kadir sat in his previous position, seemingly unchanged. David hoped he wasn’t.

“The situation is not entirely to my advantage, and peace seems to be in our mutual interest.”

“Good, I’m glad you’ve seen reason. I presume your demand for submission is void?”

Kadir nodded curtly.

“Indeed. A peace with honor would be a boon to us both. I am a man of honor, and I assume that you are as well,” he said, emphasizing every word of the latter sentence. “I shall not force you to revoke your pledge of protection over the Qizilbaş and Erzincan.”

“Very well, I won’t force you to do the same over Gerede and the other such cities in the west. In fact, I believe that once again we may both benefit from a city-swapping arrangement. Those cities which have risen against us, respectively, would become festering cesspools of revolt and disunity that may sink either one of our realms, and it would be good for us to have rid of them. Erzincan for Nallisaray, Beypazar and Gerede.”

The trade was obviously unequal, but he didn’t expect Kadir to say anything. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, after all, but any halfway decent negotiator would have seen the implied leverage in the statement.

“Erzurum could be a boon.” Kadir said dryly, probably trying to hide confusion or excitement. It was an obvious trap, meant to put him at odds with Qutlughid desires for territory, and it was not a trap he would fall for.

“I have no need for more distant cities. However, I do desire a number of fortresses...” He proceeded to list them, rattling off a list of strategic hardpoints and passes that he had memorized earlier that day. “And, of course, I have need of several thousand weights of grain and a given amount of precious metals as compensation for the lost territories.”

“That is fair. Shall I send for scribes to draft the treaty proper?”


The vizier departed Kadir’s shoulder and slipped from the tent with a rustle of fabric. He needed him gone if this was to have any chance of working. He wanted Kadir to be as malleable as possible.

“Just one more thing. I want to be declared the protector of all Christians--no, protector of the Orthodox Church inside your realm.”

Kadir fixed him with a hard, scrutinizing look that seemed to pick apart every hair on his face. For a few brief seconds David wondered if he had overplayed his hand, and his stomach roiled like the sea in a winter storm.

The sultan produced a small scrap of parchment and etched something out on it, writing quickly and with a practiced hand despite the fact he was doing so in Greek. He folded the paper up and marked it with his seal, then lightly tossed it to David.

“That is acceptable, if you agree to that.” His eyes flickered with emotion as David started to open it. “Not here, for God’s sake! Wait. You have ways of contacting me.”

David nodded curtly, slipping the packet into his pocket.

The scribes and the vizier arrived a few minutes later, and they spent the next few hours drawing up the agreement, haggling back and forth over the minor details such as the weight of minor units and the naming of certain places. Nonetheless, it was concluded and signed by sunrise that night, written in both Greek and Persian to ensure fair dealing. David departed with a curt nod, gathering his men around him and riding back to his camp.

It was there, by the flickering light of the lamp, that he finally opened the note. With slack jaw and gaping mouth he hastily read and reread it, unsure if it was some sort of bizarre joke or not.

MGELI! He snapped. MGELI!
Part LVIII: All or Nothing (1527-1530)


This one was also written a while ago and may be subject to rewriting

Part LVIII: All or Nothing (1527-1530)

As the Golden Horde collapsed on the far side of the Black Sea, the Sultanate of Rûm appeared to be on the verge of doing the same. Surrounded on all sides by hostile powers, armies swarmed over the battered sultanate’s frontiers, Konya itself seeming to be the preeminent target. No allies and no succor seemed possible, and the armies of the Turkish sultanate were already exhausted and weakened. It would take a miracle for Kadir to reverse the situation, but miracles weren’t unheard of in Rûmite history….

Arslan II had long wished to deal a killing blow to the Rûmites. In a one-on-one fight, he and his empire would certainly prevail against the significantly weaker state, but Kayqubad and his successors’ ability to keep just out of reach and strike only when the Qutlughids were distracted with other affairs and couldn’t respond in force. Such had been the case when Malatya had fallen to the Turks, and when they had raided the Çandarids who were, as he intended to remind them, were Qutlughid vassals. But now that he had his affairs in order and the Uzbeks were busy dealing with the Golden Horde, the time to strike was at hand. The old shah could feel his age, and wished to rain hell down upon the insolent Rûmites and repay them for their constant provocations if it was the last thing he did. The ascension of Kadir who was, by all reports, an inexperienced (if quite unnerving in person) ruler, provided a golden opportunity, and Arslan began gathering his armies. Better yet news arrived the next year with reports of the Rûmite invasion of the Trapezuntine Empire, effectively serving a perfect casus belli to Tabriz on a silver platter. In the spring of 1517, an official declaration of war was sent to Konya. Two Qutlughid vassals had been attacked, and it was time to launch a war of righteous fury.

From the beginning of his reign, Kadir had suspected that a conflict with the Qutlughids would eventually occur. This fear had helped motivate his attack against the Trapezuntines--after all, they were technically Qutlughid vassals, and it was entirely possible that their presence on his flank could disastrously derail a defensive war. His plan was to cripple the Trapezuntines’ war-making abilities, then turn to meet the Qutlughids and force them to fight through the mountains, hopefully gaining enough breathing room to turn his gaze southward and push into the void left by the Çandarid’s departure from Syria. However, he had not considered that Arslan himself would intervene, believing that the great sultan--who was by 1527 more than seventy-six years old--wouldn’t rouse himself from what Kadir believed to be an aged stupor, let alone take the field himself. As such, he left behind only some 400 nafjayş to guard the Cilician Gates, on the understanding that they could muster out militiamen to supplement their numbers in the event of a strike from that direction. Unfortunately for the Rûmites, he was mistaken on all three counts. The mobilizations of the previous year and the subsequent strain it placed on the Cilician harvests necessitated that the regional militia stand down and keep farming to avoid starvation. Arslan, meanwhile, was more than willing to take the field in person, inspiring the great hordes of men that could be raised from the breadth of the Qutlughid realm and forcing him to face one of the greatest living generals of the period. Finally, it was only by quickly suing for peace after Boyabad that Kadir was able to turn and meet the Qutlughids, leaving a barely defeated and only slightly weakened but now very, very pissed-off Trapezous on his flank.

The Qutlughid Empire stretched from the Euphrates in the west to the Hindu Kush in the east and even a string of distant ports in India and Arabia[1], and it could field armies respectively of its vast size. Even with forces needing to be left behind to ward off the Uzbeks, Golden Horde and the Rajputs[2], Arslan mustered 90,000 men for his invasion of the Rûmite Sultanate, many of them veterans of his many campaigns in the Caucasus and the east. The first army, to be commanded by his general Sharif al-Din Ali Shirazi would number 35,000, 15,000 of which was cavalry, and would attack the Rûmites from the east head-on, while the second army would be commanded by the shah himself, numbering some 40,000 (10,000 of which were cavalry) which would finish off the Çandarid rump state in Aleppo and continue north into Cilicia and hopefully Konya itself. A reserve of 15,000 men would hang back in the vassal territory of Bitlis to intercept any attempts to invade Mesopotamia or attack Tabriz. Arslan’s hope was that Kadir would rush into battle against Shirazi, pinning down his army there while the shah marched on his capital. Even if he did not, the Qutlughid pincer would be sure to utterly crush the Rûmites, forcing them to fight on two fronts against superior forces. Before beginning his invasion, he also sent a missive to David, informing him that he ought to join him in his assault and avenge the losses of the previous years’ combat. On 16 June 1527, Shirazi’s host approached Erzurum, marking the effective beginning of the invasion.

Kadir, meanwhile, was facing down the opposite problem; a severe shortage of just about everything. The Sultanate of Rûm sat upon a region with a limited amount of fertile soil, and as such its population--and hence its manpower pool--were quite limited. Kayqubad had tried to make up for this fact by keeping a standing army, but it too took time to be replenished after losses in war, and time was something that Kadir didn’t have. He had had some 35,000 men under arms at this time a year before, a number which had been whittled down to only 25,000 mostly at the expense of his most experienced units. If he attempted to raise more men, he would risk a famine and obtain only poor quality units unsuited for anything other than throwing themselves on Qutlughid spears. Still, that might be better than the current state of affairs, by which he was severely outnumbered by both of the invading armies. He put out a desperate call for mercenaries, but was able to muster only a few thousand exiled Kartvelians and Arabs, experienced but not especially competent, and a handful of Venetian crossbowmen from Cyprus, neither of which were tide-turners. He wrote to Ömer Paşa, who had succeeded his father Ebülhayr as the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, begging for help against the eastern horde, only for his emissaries to be laughed out of the Sublime Porte. Ömer Paşa was having enough trouble dealing with the Albanians and the White Army, he had nothing to spare for the Rûmites and wouldn’t give them succor if he could. The Golden Horde wasn’t in any position to help, while the Mamluk rump state was barely clinging to life and the Çandarids still hated them with a passion. Konya was out in the cold, Kadir must have known as he marched to meet the invaders, and there was little he could do to save her.

However, he was by no means resigned to his fate, as Shirazi soon learned to his ruinous surprise. The Persian general had laid siege to Erzurum in the first days of July, safe in the knowledge that Kadir was more than three months away and lacked the cannonade to seriously damage his army. As such, he set up for a siege of the city with little concern for assaults by any force other than the Qizilbash horsemen who still roamed over much of the region. As such, he was caught completely off-guard when the small force of pickets he had bothered to set up reported that a large Rûmite army was approaching from the west. Kadir wasn’t an idiot, and his spies within the Qutlughid realm had informed him of the buildup north of Tabriz; from there, the only logical targets were Erzurum and Erzincan, the latter being held by the Trapezuntines. As soon as he had conducted a peace with David, he had marched eastwards, and though still outnumbered he was ready for a fight. The Rûmite army circled north of the city, camping across a dry marshland from the Qutlughid siege camp and opening fire with what little artillery they still possessed.

After a day and a half of such bombardment, Shirazi decided his best option was to take the field and meet the Rûmites in the open. According to his scouts, he still held a numerical advantage of 35 to 25--in truth it was closer to 35 to 20--and he wished to press this before any possible reinforcements arrived. He also hoped that a speedy defeat might inspire the defenders of Erzurum to surrender quickly, which would allow him to advance deeper into Rûmite territory with great haste. As such, on 6 July, Shirazi’s men marshalled north of the city, leaving behind only 5,000 men to press the siege, and began to advance on the Rûmite camp. Despite the noise that is endemic to any large number of troops, few seemed to stir inside the enemy camp, and Shirazi concluded he could take the enemy by surprise and crush them. He ordered an all-out assault, and his army rushed forward into the dry marsh. They were in the thick of it now, the cavalry vanguard beginning to emerge from the reeds and into the Rûmite camp.

It was then that the long-burning fuses of the mines scattered across the marsh reached their quick. They exploded into balls of fire, throwing shrapnel and sparks into the tight formations of men. Startled and confused, most of the soldiers halted, a fatal mistake. The sparks caught and spread like, well, wildfire, and within minutes the marsh was a blazing, smoky inferno. Panicking men rushed left and right, trampling each other in their desperation to escape the flames and the choking cloud of ash and throwing the entire army into complete chaos. Blackness soon overwhelmed the area, and those men who did manage to claw their way to the edge of the marsh were met by ranks of unsmiling Turks carrying pikes. All but a handful of noblemen were killed on the spot, and by the time the fires finally burned out the wetlands were a combination pyre and charnel house.

The Qutlughids holding the camp quickly made themselves scarce, and Kadir was able to seize the complex almost intact, with barely any losses on his side and comparatively little damage to Erzurum. The first army had been entirely shattered and its artillery train, desperately needed to continue the war, taken with only one gun lost. Upwards of 80% of the Qutlughid army were dead, leaving only a few dozen prisoners and hundreds scattered across the rough country, likely to be picked off by the Qizilbash and other highlanders. It was a perfect victory.

Unfortunately for Kadir, his perfect victory happened to coincide with one of Arslan’s own. The shah had led his army into the remnants of the Çandarid beylik a few days after Shirazi began his offensive, and had met little resistance. After all, the truly valuable lands and opportunities lay in Egypt and lower Syria, and so all but a few old timers and some of the native Arabs had gone south in a hurry in the years before, leaving a small rump state at Aleppo. After promising them patronage in the Qutlughid system, the former capital had surrendered without a fight a week after crossing the river, leaving the road into Rûmite territory wide open. Arslan had dispatched a small picket force to warn of the unlikely approach of troops from the south before making for Cilicia at all due speed. A month later, 30,000 Qutlughid soldiers had arrived at the Cilician Gates with an artillery train sufficient to blow a hole in the Great Wall of China if need be. The Gates were held by 400 nafjayş soldiers and 800 conscripts, along with an indeterminate number of irregulars in the hills surrounding it. They wouldn’t have been able to hold the pass by themselves indefinitely, but they would make Arslan pay a steep price and blood and corpses to pass through it.

However, they had not considered that Arslan had brought with him some 500 Torghal mountaineers from the Hindu Kush, skilled in alpine warfare and capable of climbing up sheer cliffs barehanded. Within two days, the Torghalss had not only forged a trail across the saddle of a nearby mountain, but had strung lines across it so that some 1500 chosen soldiers could accompany them into the pass. That dawn they struck, hurtling screaming down the pass into the rear of the Turkish formation, catching them completely off-guard and unsuspecting. While the Rûmites struggled to meet the attack from their rear, Arlsan’s cannonade roared to life, hammering their front and pinning them down while several thousand more Qutlughids advanced under their covering fire to join the fray. The Rûmites fought well, but after several hours they were exhausted and, ultimately, dead. The Cilician Gates had been conquered with great speed and comparatively light casualties. The road to Konya was now open, and the seat of the House of Karaman lay only a month’s journey away. Arslan broke off small forces to hold the pass and secure the various fortresses he had bypassed--among them Kayqubadabad--then ordered his army into a forced march across the Plateau, hoping to take the city and put an end to this struggle once and for all.

Kadir was informed of the disaster only three days later, two dozen horses having been ridden to death to get him the news. The battle at the Gates had thrust Kadir into an unenviable position; his capital would soon be under siege and he could not intercept the attacking army due to both numbers and sheer distance. If Konya fell, then all of Anatolia was laid open to the Qutlughids and the war was surely lost. There was no way to defend the city, not at this range, and it seemed as if there was no path to victory. But a final, desperate option appeared to Kadir that night. If Arslan took Konya, he would seize the bulk of the Rûmite bureaucracy and the treasury. If Kadir took Tabriz, he would take not only the Qutlughid bureaucracy and treasury but also Arslan’s harem and family. If he failed it was suicide, but if he succeeded it might be the only path to victory. There was no army between him and Tabriz, and if he moved quickly he could reach the city before he was intercepted, and a quick siege might be successful under the right circumstance

In the game to win, the gambler rolled the dice. 80,000 would pay the price….

[1] Although Paopantaros, the largest Qutlughid port in India wouldn’t be taken until 1542, Kaloupoli, the second largest Pontic port in the east, was founded in 1526
[2] The Rajputs had been pretty much embittered by Arslan’s attempts to shore up the Sultanate of Delhi, and the Qutlughid eastern frontier was constantly under assault by probing forces and raiders from across the mountains.
Hehe I love that David smack Kadir with reality on Roman Identity and History. The turks have no claim to being a Roman just as the German are implying. They cannot call themselves Roman whilst proclaiming to be another, and besides as long as the Romans of Trebizond and Morea are alive they will not give up their identity as the true Romans who haven't been conquered. Their enemies will need to pluck it out of them through their cold dead bodies before they even give them the chance of being a true Roman.

Perfect oppurtunity for David to re cope his loses and bounce back from the debacle on Georgia. Where is he gonna expand this time though? Or will he focus on Arslan incase he makes a move against him?
Also curious, what's in the note. Given Kadir's nature it must be a manipulation, but valid enough for David to take action.

Also, shouldn't the Qutlughids have relocated their capital? For an Empire that stretches to the Indus, Tabriz is a bit far.
Damn, Kadir is managing better than I thought he would. Here's to hoping lady luck won't favour him too much. I can see him becoming a massive thorn in Trebizonds size for the next few decades if he survives
Damn, Kadir is managing better than I thought he would. Here's to hoping lady luck won't favour him too much. I can see him becoming a massive thorn in Trebizonds size for the next few decades if he survives
I don't think he will be lucky cause David is already paranoid as fuck. He'll smell something fishy before he commits..
Madness, complete madness. I'm loving it. Kadir have the words of the Romans of old sealed by necessity into his heart.

Fortuna audaces sequitur.
Also curious, what's in the note. Given Kadir's nature it must be a manipulation, but valid enough for David to take action.

Also, shouldn't the Qutlughids have relocated their capital? For an Empire that stretches to the Indus, Tabriz is a bit far.
Moving a capital is an enormous task, and also I think the eastern conquests are quite recent for him to dedicate time in moving his capital. Also Arslan being old might be a factor, tendency of not disturbing the status quo too much and being overly cautious.
Part LIX: The Arsenal (1527-1531)


Sorry guys, no time for comment response tonight. I'll do it tomorrow

Part LIX: The Arsenal (1527-1531)

The Qutlughid invasion of the Sultan of Rûm should have been a one-sided curb stomping by all rights. However, due to bad planning on the part of the Persians and a mixture of luck and daring on the part of the Turks it would be drawn out into a much longer and bloodier affair. With seemingly no other option available to him, Kadir would make one last frantic rush for victory and provoke the escalation of the First Rûmite-Qutlughid War into a horrific taste of things to come….

As Kadir and the Rûmite army made their way through the wilds of northern Iran that autumn, they faced a truly grim situation. After receiving word of the disaster at the Cilician Gates, the sultan had ordered all contact with the outside cut so that they couldn’t be tracked on their march. Nonetheless, word of the defeat and the sack of the capital that would almost certainly follow it spread through the ranks like wildfire. There were only 25,000 men in the formation, a number that was slowly but constantly worn down by exhaustion, desertion and attacks by the bandits and Qizilbaş (at many times one and the same). With seemingly no chance of victory as they marched away from their vulnerable homes, discontent also grew within the ranks of the army. Whispers of mutiny became commonplace both in the camp and on the march.

These tensions came to a head in late August, as the army camped beside the Murat River near the small Turkmen town of Omuzbaşi. The region which the Rûmites were marching through was quite arid, and the already uncertain men flat-out refused to abandon the river as the sultan wished them to with no sign of victory present. The common soldiers occupied the camp and demanded a number of concessions from Kadir, one of the most common ones being a request for peace with the Qutlughids before they all died for essentially nothing. The sultan was left with a few thousand nafjayş and loyal soldiers from a separate camp, but many of their commanders doubtlessly hoped their ruler would cave rather than leading them down this suicidal path. However, Kadir refused. He rode into the camp at midday and stood in his stirrups, gesturing towards his crotch and asking the mutineers if they were more cowardly than a eunuch, in slightly more crude terms. He then bluntly informed the soldiers that they would be going to Tabriz, and that they would be awarded immensely with gold, spices, cloth and slaves taken from one of the richest cities in the world. The combination of this--a carrot and a stick, practically--succeed in quelling the mutiny. A few dozen men would desert over the next two nights, but most of the 25,000 were still present and willing to follow the sultan in a march across the scrubland.

After a long and harrowing march, the army reached the Zangar River on 2 September , a tributary of the Aras that allowed them to replenish their depleted supplies and briefly rest. Within three days they were on the march again, pressing south through the rough hill country towards the crown jewel of the Qutlughid Empire. There were frequent skirmishes with the tribal hillmen and ranging nomads that dwelled in the region, which were unable to meet the column head on but still quite determined to show their displeasure with the Turks’ presence. Despite the near frequent low-scale battles, the Rûmites’ advance was unknown to Qutlughid authorities until they reached the plains of Khoy in late September, a mere three weeks’ march from Tabriz itself. They had been able to advance in such secrecy thanks to the isolation of the country they were moving across and Kadir’s strict control of outside contact, helped along a great deal by a gap in Qutlughid defenses in the region.

However, things wouldn’t be as easy as simply marching into the capital. The city was already heavily defended, bearing a garrison and arsenal proportional to the power of the Qutlughid state, and its viceroy, Mohammed Ustajlu, was a capable and quick-thinking man. Upon being informed of Kadir’s approach, Ustajlu leapt into action at once. He ordered the farmers residing around the country to be taken into the city and their harvests either collected or burned to deny them to the enemy. Any workmen or beggars in the city were put to work repairing the walls, while as many men as possible were hastily trained in defensive warfare. By the time Kadir reached the city on 12 October, 50,000 of the 250,000 residents of the city were under arms, and any hope of victory he might have held was effectively gone.

The grimness of his position couldn’t have been lost on Kadir as he approached Tabriz in the second week of October. The long march across mountains, hills and great stretches of desert had severely depleted his supplies, and the destruction of the vital food he had hoped to find outside the town was quite the bitter blow. Even worse, he had lost or been forced to abandon most of his siege train, leaving only the lightest of his guns to press the siege. Still, a final chance for victory was available to him. While the Tabrizians could easily overwhelm his host, he knew Ustajlu was a fairly cautious man from his history of raiding across the border, and so decided it was unlikely that this could come to pass. However, the large population of the city required a large food supply, and if he could keep the city under siege for long enough it was possible they might fold. With retreat meaning dethronement at best and death at worst, Kadir decided to settle in for the long haul.

The Rûmites set up two camps on either side of the long circuit of walls, positioned in just the right spot to cut off any hope of resupply. Keeping his men busy and at their peak with constant drilling, the sultan sent out foraging expeditions in all directions to gather as much food as possible. Meanwhile, what cannons were available were hauled up onto the heights to the north of the city, where they began bombarding garrison strongpoints, arsenals and granaries in hopes of weakening the defenders’ will to fight. Finally, he also sent several thousand men to damn the Mehranruhd River, which flowed through the heart of the city. In doing so, he hoped to in one move deny the crowded city much of its vital water supply and secure water for his own army. Chances of victory were slight, but he was determined to make the best of a bad situation.

Meanwhile, in Anatolia, Arslan was making the best of an excellent situation. After shunting aside the Rûmite forces in the Cilician Gates, his army had advanced swiftly on Konya, swatting aside small forces of militia that tried to stop them. Most of the locals were more concerned with preserving their properties than with any grand notion of geopolitics, and so except for the unfortunates who lived directly along Kayqubad’s Road and opportunistic Turkmen who sometimes attacked the supply train, the Qutlughids went on undisturbed. Konya had surrendered without a fight, as its denizens weren’t particularly loyal to Kadir, and by the end of August the capital of the Sultanate of Rûm was in Arslan’s hands.

Arslan was a cagey ruler--you don’t get to have a reign lasting more than five decades by being anything less--and was quite familiar with how to treat an occupied country. Rather than installing a governor or some other vassal directly and propping him up with immediate force, it was far easier to locate a member of the previous royal family and install him as a regional satrap. This was a perfect opportunity to do so. After a brief period of inquiry, the sole surviving brother of Kadir, a quiet clergyman named Ibrahim, was located and raised to the throne. He was quite reluctant, but the idea that he would be saving the lives of his new subjects by accepting the office was sufficient to sway him over. His first act, on Arlsan’s ‘recommendation’ was to declare Kadir an outlaw and order all his followers to abandon him. All in all, he was willing to be quite merciful, so long as his dominance and hegemony were respected by his new vassal.

Upon being informed of the sultan’s attack on Tabriz, his geniality vanished like steam in the desert. He had campaigned against numerous enemies for literal decades, but not once had any of them been so insolent as to try and attack Tabriz itself. Even so, he had stationed an army in Bitlis to prevent any such thing from happening, which meant that Kadir had already either defeated them or the army's commander was a fool or traitor. Either way, he was going to have the heads of everyone involved on a pike. Leaving behind a small force to prop up Ibrahim, he turned and marched with 35,000 men, murder in his heart. He had built up a great number of roads across his empire to facilitate troop movements, but even with this boon and the ability to requisition supplies (somewhat) peacefully, he knew it would still take more than six months to reach Tabriz, a feat he couldn’t accomplish before the winter set in and the passes froze. After a brief back-and-forth, he decided that his best option was to make for the capital with all haste, eating up as much of the road as he could with his literal army while his figurative army of servants and governors organized the construction of a supply depot large enough to keep his force supplied throughout the winter, preferably as close to Tabriz as possible. Meanwhile, he would send as many light forces against the Rûmites as he could, hopefully grinding them down with constant harassment attacks that they could be defeated by the capital garrison or better yet forced to make a winter retreat across the mountains. He made little effort at keeping the latter plan a secret, as it was the most logical thing to do given his situation. Nonetheless, he was fully expectant of a coming victory as he made eastwards throughout the autumn of 1527.

The winter of 1527-1528 was a hard one, even by the standards of the Lesser Caucasus. A great dust storm had whipped up over Central Asia that autumn and drifted over the Caspian, creating a much hotter and wetter clime that had spawned the mother of all lake-effect storms. The first snows fell in November, forcing Arslan to make camp at Lake Van instead of Lake Urmia, and severely affected Kadir’s siege plans. The sultan had planned to continue his bombardment until December, as well as his various other tactics such as marching his armies around the city to make it look like he was stronger than he actually was. He had constructed his camps to be winterable, but still, the more time an army spent in winter camp the less able it would be come springtime. Nonetheless, the Rûmites were in quarters by the 1st of December.

As the weather worsened, Kadir’s camp--which was already short on supplies--became increasingly grim. Food, proper food, ran out by the end of January despite careful rationing, and water had be taken from holes broken in the ice atop the damned river. As in most bad sieges, the soldiers had to resort to eating leather and other such scraps of food to survive, including some truly disgusting things like leaves coated in animal piss to provide some sort of nutrition. In a manner quite similar to Mehmed’s siege of Trapezous fifty years before, disease became completely rampant. The usual suspects, typhoid, pneumonia and other such respiratory diseases were joined by syphilis[1] due to contaminated food supplies and an utterly immense amount of food poisoning from the same cause. Kadir took measures to alleviate this, such as sending sick men to separate quarantine camps and shuffling men about to keep frostbite from setting in, but he was fighting a losing battle. Desperate, he decided his best option was to make sure he wasn’t the only one weakened by the outbreaks. He began hurtling bloated, rotting corpses over the city walls in hopes of spreading the contagion, as well as stuffing dead bodies down wells frequented by Qizilbaş. It was a desperate strategy, but it worked. By the time the winter finally faded in late March, he’d lost more than 10,000 men from his host of 25,000, while 50,000 Tabrizians and an unknown number of Qizilbaş had passed as well.

While winter was undoubtedly terrible, the coming of spring left Kadir in an even worse position. His army had been decimated by the cold, but the Tabrizians, while exhausted by hunger and disease, still stood firm. Arslan’s army closed in from the west, and it was becoming more apparent by the day that his final desperate gamble had failed. After a brief period of deliberation, during which he was informed of his brother’s ascent, he decided that his best option was to break the siege and try to evade the pursuers. No, scratch that, he could be easily run down by the more cavalry-dominated Qutlughid armies. He needed to put himself in a position where he could escape any potential encirclement. After another brief period of consideration, he decided the best place for this would be Ardabil. From there, he could go north, south, east or west as need be, able to vanish into the mountains with little warning to the enemy. He broke camp on 6 April and moved with all haste eastwards.

Arslan gave chase, moving a good bit faster than the Rûmites, who were slowed by their poor state of conduct and the constant raiding of the Turkmen tribes who resided in the area. The Qutlughids had made it through the winter in much better shape, and so it should be no surprise that they were able to run down the Turks. That they did not do this is frankly bizarre, and the exact reason why is unknown. Nonetheless, as the two armies rushed towards Ardabil that spring, the Qutlughids nipping at the heels of the Rûmites, Arslan’s vengeance was at hand.

That the agents of his vengeance would not be Persian was quite unexpected. Mamia of Kartvelia had spent the previous year campaigning on the north shore of Lake Sevan against the Lord of Arishni’s followers there. The latter’s favor with the Golden Horde, which was still at the height of its power at this point, was proving to be difficult to surmount, and after some time Mamia had concluded that he should pursue a similar, albeit less dominating, relationship with the Qutlughids. Word of Kadir’s attack had proven to be the perfect chance for him to get it in good with Arslan, and as the snows slackened he rose from his winter camp and rushed southwards, adjusting his track as word came from the Qizilbaş scouts he was employing. On 16 May, some 10,000 Kartvelians intercepted Kadir’s force outside the clan fortress of Sehrahi (OTL Lahrud), holding them long enough for the Qutlughids to catch up.

The Battle of Sehrahi does not bear to be repeated in great detail. The Rûmites were exhausted and outnumbered by four to one, so the result was never really in question. Kadir formed up in a square, hoping to ward off the enemy and inflict enough casualties to get a clement peace from it. The defenders were swarmed by Qizilbaş, only further wearing them down before the actual assault began. After two hours of constant attack, the Qutlughids and Kartvelians attacked on three sides, smashing through the Rûmite flanks like a sledgehammer through brick[2]. The Rûmites streamed out through the open direction, only to be ridden down and fallen upon by the Turkmen horsemen. Only a few hundred, mostly nafjayş, escaped along Kadir, fleeing into the nearby mountains. By the end of the day, some 15,000 men were dead and several thousand more captured, bringing the total death toll of the expedition to 80,000.

Despite weeks of pursuit, Kadir would eventually make his way northward. Hopping from mountain range to mountain range, harassed the entire way by Qizilbaş and sometimes even proper armies. His host would dwindle to a few dozen men, but by the end of the year they would escape across the mountains into Transcaucasia. This was bothersome to Arslan, but it didn’t distract him from his new mission. In his mind, Kadir’s invasion had revealed a weak spot; namely, the weakness of his alliance of client states. He already had a client who should have stopped Kadir--David of Trapezous--but had done nothing. If his empire were to survive his death, he needed to secure the chain of client states and satrapies that surrounded his empire on most sides and which stretched from Syria to India.

The first target of this program was, of course, Trapezous. Unlike the petty states or tribal confederacies that made up the bulk of the vassal sphere, the Trapezuntines could--and in fact did--function as an essentially independent state, paying their tribute on time but otherwise essentially being a sovereign princedom. As their betrayal (in Arslan’s mind, at least) indicated, they needed to be brought down a peg or two and fully pulled into Qutlughid hegemony. As such, after mopping up the Rûmite forces in Persia he turned his gaze westward. By the autumn of 1528, a Qutlughid army sat outside Erzurum, ready to cross the frontier into Trapezuntine territory if need be, while a smaller Kartvelian host rested just outside of Artane, the capital of Trapezuntine Samtskhe.

David had been busy overseeing a military reform and famine relief, and hadn’t at all expected sudden Qutlughid aggression. As such he had no choice--even under the best of circumstances he probably wouldn’t have had much of a choice--but to accede to Arslan’s demands. The Trapezuntines hadn’t been subject to anything more than nominal tribute for over a century, so the return of any yoke would be a bitter blow; Arslan certainly didn’t help. In addition to the more banal articles, such as an increase in annual tribute payment and a requirement to provide soldiers and servants, there were more extraordinary requirements.

In particular, there were three demands which David found especially heinous, so much so that he would list them by name in his history. Firstly was the requirement to furnish 100 Pontic and 400 Circassian young women to Tabriz for reasons that should be rather obvious. This was not just insulting in that it forced David to enslave his own subjects, but it also forced the famously Orthodox ruler to be actively complicit in the (predominantly Islamic) enslavement of coreligionists in one of the worst ways possible. Secondly, he would have to make a triannual journey to Tabriz to renew his homage and bring with him several dozen pounds of gold and a thousand slaves--once again, all Orthodox--as tribute. Thirdly, he would have to give up the title of aftokrator itself and be crowned as satrap by Arslan himself. This was profoundly insulting. Not only would David yield the title which his dynasty had held for two and a half centuries--thirteen generations--for a decidedly inferior and by definition subordinate title, Arslan was essentially imposing himself in the place of the Patriarch of Pontos. In the coronation ceremony, the Patriarch was essentially a conduit for God himself, and a Muslim inserting himself there had a number of implications which David found infuriating.

Even worse, few of these humiliations were visited upon Mamia’s Kartvelia. The Svan didn’t have to pay tribute in slaves, nor did he have to pay the raised standard tribute which Trapezous did, or provide soldiers. Indeed, he actually gained from Trapezous’ humiliation. Arslan ordered David to give over Vatoume, one of the chief ports of the empire, to Mamia in exchange for the hinterland city of Erzurum. To David, who had (or at least believed he had) created a covenant with Mamia, it felt like a complete and utter betrayal. He intended to repay it.

In hindsight, Arslan was setting his successor(s) up for a serious problem, but he probably didn’t know it. Whether or not he was senile has been a matter of much debate, but doubtless there was a brewing crisis. This crisis would come to a head with his death in 1531….

[1] Despite some commentor’s remarks, syphilis spread very quickly after it reached the Old World. By 1495 hundreds of men were dying from it during the Italian Wars, and so it’s entirely possible Vakhtang could have had it in 1522.
[2] I had a summer job demolishing outbuildings, and brick usually shattered pretty solidly. Much easier to deal with than rock.
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Caught up with the timeline and I'm surprised that the Rumites haven't fallen yet. Kadir is still alive and kicking even after the Qutlughids managed to decimate Rum, so perhaps we'll see a comeback.

David definitely took a severe setback when he was forced to submit to Arslan, even though he was forced to, because really, was it even possible for Trebizond to stand against this massive Turkish empire? Probably not. Still, I can't help but think that some of the Romans in the court would be furious at David enslaving his own people and prostrating before a Muslim like that. His reputation should be severely tarnished at this point and it's going to be difficult to not have at least one rebellion or claimant after him.

As for Arslan's death, it's possible that his empire could face severe problems in the aftermath, but the only people that could advantage of the situation is Kadir and Mamia, in my opinion. Kadir could waltz back in to restore his position at the Sultanate while Mamia can solidify his newly acquired holdings from Trebizond, with retaliation from David unlikely and even suicidal since Kartvelia and Trebizond are still allies and friends.
So they basically go from success to success only to surrender not only their position but even their own moral standing? I think David is a fool.

David have little choice and while this will be unpopular, most of the population especially the elite will understand why he’s forced to make this choice. But it also mean that the moment the Persian show weakness David will have to start a war. Of course the fact that there’s a time for the next war mean David will continue with his reforms and expanding the army.
I understand everyone’s choices here but Arslan is a hypocritical fool for punishing the Trapezunites. He wasn’t there for them, despite being their overlord. He didn’t protect them. To expect them to reform an army after they just did his job for him and took horrific casualties. When this blows up in his successors face I’ll enjoy it. And I’ll enjoy the Trapezunites getting revenge on Kartvelia even more. This betrayal deserves nothing else but a switch response that ends their independence
I understand everyone’s choices here but Arslan is a hypocritical fool for punishing the Trapezunites. He wasn’t there for them, despite being their overlord. He didn’t protect them. To expect them to reform an army after they just did his job for him and took horrific casualties. When this blows up in his successors face I’ll enjoy it. And I’ll enjoy the Trapezunites getting revenge on Kartvelia even more. This betrayal deserves nothing else but a switch response that ends their independence
I was thinking this, the Trapezunites just went through a brutal war with the Rumites and they're going to get punished for not immediately joining another war? Big own goal by Arslan to humiliate and alienate a state that could have remained a useful ally to his successors for years to come
I think you should not write more narrative point of view, to me if feels forced and unnatural. Otherwise I realy like this story and I´m glad for swift updates. I look forward to this TL everytime that I see it updates.
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