Little time tonight, sorry. In hindsight, I could've gotten two updates out if I managed my time better, but it's too late now.
I dont remember that happening. Was it when the Golden Hoarde kicked everyone's ass until it couldn't?
Yeah, that was what effectively started that period.
Part LXV: Administering an Empire II (1534-1537)
After a surprisingly short civil war, David had finally achieved his year-old dream of punishing Dadiani and even gained Kartvelia as a junior partner. However, this victory had been achieved by an alliance with a coalition of disaffected nobles, half of whom had considered Mamia too weak and the other half not weak enough, and these nobles had in turn been driven to revolt in part because of extensive pressures building up on the lower classes of the country. A foreigner in the very lands of rule, the shifting sands of regional politics could easily sweep David and the Trapezuntines away. The ghosts of Ananuri still stalked the hills and valleys of Kartvelia, and if he wasn’t careful David’s men or even himself could join them. Kartvelia was a powderkeg, and Dadiani had left his successor holding a match….
On 15 June 1534, Kutaisi was a city enraptured. In the near decade since the Battle of Ananuri, Kartvelia had seen near-constant civil war, but with David’s arrival it seemed as if they had escaped the sorrow’s veil, for a time at least. The streets were crowded with happy, cheering people, and in David’s mind he must have seemed a liberator. In a long and fairly ornate procession, full of pomp and circumstance, he and his retinue rode through the city’s circuit roads and into the market square, tossing coins, figs, and janjukha candies to his new subject. After completing the circuit, he crossed the Davidine Bridge to the Bagrati Cathedral, where Patriarch Shio III placed the Sewn Crown of the Seven Crosses, the royal sword and scepter upon him and named him Davit X of Kartvelia.
The first problem was land. The hellish decade since Ananuri had left great swathes of Kartvelia empty, and more often than not their legal claimants lay in unmarked graves on said empty land. Kartvelia had a feudal system similar in the broad strokes to that of Western Europe, and despite their differences the crux of both was that land and titles would be used to cement ties between patron and client, as well as being a reward for various other things that brought benefit to one party or another. The existing nobility, or at least those who’d helped David take the throne, felt that they were owed the lion’s share of the unsettled land across the realm. David was willing to give some of that land out to shore up his support, but giving all or even most of it was a bridge too far. The Trapezuntine nobility was effectively neutered, with none of the massive privileges of their Kartvelian counterparts, and David aspired to bring about a similar state of affairs in his new realm. These land grants provided an opportunity to increase his authority, and if he played his cards well even turn the Kartvelians against each other to his benefit.
By this point, the previous anti-Dadiani coalition had splintered into the ‘weak king’ Bagrationi faction led by its namesake, and the ‘strong king’ Abkhazian faction, led by Abga the Bear, the Lord of Gori. Keeping in mind the need to keep them appeased lest another civil war break out (for now, anyway), David summoned the leading figures of both factions to the Mtsvanekvavila Palace in mid-June to the Royal Council and began doling out estates and titles. He made a great show giving out ducal and princely titles to the high nobility and their relatives, rotating between factions in a grandiose way, but did it in such an obnoxiously slow manner that it took five days for just the roll to be called. As hoped, most of the Kartvelians took advantage of the wine which was being given out, and once the majority of them were drunk or asleep David got down to the real business. The only ducal title given to a Greek was that of the revived Ward-Duchy of Khornabuji and Rustavi, whose bearer was charged with defending the eastern frontier and thus possessed the largest standing force in the kingdom; It was given to a fiercely loyal Nikaian named Konstantinos Hatzimarkos. However, while Kartvelians held most of the top ranks, the lesser ranks--the people who directly oversaw the peasants and were the backbone of any army of the period--were filled with Ponts, Lazes, Goths, Circassians and Turkopoles whose loyalty to him was certain. Once the last of the major titles were given out, the full bull, written in both Greek and Kartvelian, was skimmed over and then happily signed by most of the councillors. This was sufficient for the bull to officially be promulgated and made law.
David kept the nobility in Kutaisi for as long as possible, hoping to buy time before his ruse was discovered so that all of his new vassals could get into place. Despite their greatly diminished numbers, the Kartvelians were as feudatory as ever, and the usual round of murder plots and duels was well under way within a few weeks. The Bagrationis still lusted after their previous dominance of the kingdom, while the Abkhazians were determined to cling to their newfound power and transform Kartvelia into a state capable of fending off any future invasions, and their conflict played out in both the chambers of power on the Royal Council and on the streets of Kutaisi.
David’s deception was uncovered by the end of August. Konstantin Bagrationi, a distant relative of the aforementioned Giorgi, had been granted title to the lands around Khashuri in the upper Mktari Valley, and by an accident of fate so had one Gregorios Aphtagaris. Aphtagaris had gotten there first, and Konstantin arrived to find ‘his’ manor occupied by some lowly Greek. He demanded that Aphtagaris leave, to which Aphtagaris shot him in the face. Stunned, his retinue fled, bringing news of his death to his cousin in Kutaisi. Giorgi was furious, and stormed into the royal chambers demanding to know why the hell there were Greek settlers in Kakheti and why one of them had just shot his kinsman. David coolly replied that all of this had been outlined in the bull, and while Konstantin’s death had been tragic it was no fault of his. Bagrationi demanded another council be convened on the matter, to which David complied. However, he had intentionally concentrated the bulk of the subtitles in the duchies and principalities of the Bagrationi faction, and with the grudging support of the Abkhazians the bull remained in place. David had just made an enemy for life.
In late September, word came from Trapezous. Ioncela had died in an outbreak of typhoid at the beginning of the month. She and David had never been especially close but it was still a great loss, and with the Imperial regency temporarily left adrift, David left Kutaisi for Trapezous the very next day. As soon as he was gone every noble in the city started doing calculations about how long he’d be gone, and sure enough storms on the Black Sea and in the mountains would keep him in Trapezous until the spring. Hatzimarkos, his regent, must’ve felt like a bleeding chicken in a snake pit as the vipers showed their fangs….
It was the Bagrationis who made the first move. Having lost most of their expected spoils from David’s little scheme, Giorgi Bagrationi feared that his faction would soon lose most if not all of its influence on the royal court. After all, the Abkhazian faction’s raison d'etre was to strengthen the monarchy, so there was no real reason for David to not purge them if he was given the chance. They had to act quickly, before he could return and destroy them.
On 21 November 1534, the Bagrationis staged a coup in Kutaisi. Or rather, they tried to stage a coup. Giorgi’s plan was to gather the nobles of his faction and their followers in the city square south-east of the palace, then fan out to surround the palace and prevent any escapes before entering the palace itself and slaughtering Hatzimarkos and the Davidines in their sleep. Once the designated night came, however, half of the plot had already backed out, half of the rest had mistaken their mission and congregated at the Bagrati Cathedral and many of the others had gotten lost. Giorgi spent several hours trying to assemble his ramshackle force into more than a glorified mob, during which several retainers realized what was going on and slipped away to raise the alarm. Within a few short minutes an angry mob had also assembled in the square, royally pissed at Bagrationi for wanting to cause another war (and because David had started giving out donatives to the public). Shouts turned to taunts and then violence, and the plotters were outnumbered by five to one. By the time Hatzimarkos and his neostrategoi mobilized and reached the square, they had to fight the Kutaisians off to get to and arrest the Bagrationis. Giorgi himself was on the verge of having his head caved in with a chair when the soldiers reached him, and he was happily arrested.
Bagrationi and his surviving confederates were thrown into a dungeon for the next few months until David returned in March. Having effectively been called away for a funeral, David was absolutely furious at the men who had dared to betray him. The names of all plot members had already been tortured out of the prisoners a time before, and now David descended upon them with a vengeance. Every landholder who had associated with them was to have his lands stripped from him, all titles and fiefdoms of he and his children forfeited to the central monarchy, and their relations to the third degree exiled beyond the borders of both Kartvelia and Trapezous. Any who returned would be killed on sight. As for the direct conspirators, those who had assembled in the square that night, they would lose their heads. Slowly. After Giorgi Bagrationi’s head was mounted on a pike above the southern gate of Kutaisi on 27 March, his corpse was flayed and patches of skin and bone sent to every lord in Kartvelia as a reminder of the fate that awaited traitors.
Some of these dispossessed lords chose to try and fight, of course, but none of them got very far. After the previous year’s declaration of peace, many of the common people of Kartvelia were unwilling to fight another round of civil war and either outright refused to take up arms or took up arms and ran their erstwhile masters over the horizon. Those few lords which were both willing and able to fight were met within a few weeks by the neostrategoi, loyal noblemen aiming for their land and titles or Pkhovelian highlanders, none of whom were known for being especially merciful. Within a few months, most of the would-be rebels were either over the mountains or in unmarked graves: The ‘weak king’ faction had been completely broken.
In the aftermath of the failed coup, David moved swiftly to further shore up his power. The vassals directly opposed to him had been smashed and the more restive noblemen cowed by his show of force. It was the perfect time to undertake his reforms. Guria was brought under direct rule as part of the crownlands, securing the vital coastal roads between Trapezous and Kutaisi, and while the road remained under direct control the lands around it were parceled out to loyalists. Mindful of his public image, David made a great show of giving land grants to Kartvelian followers, mostly men he had worked with in the aftermath of Ananuri, using the pomp and circumstance in Guria and the recently gained lands in Samtskhe to cement his image as a fair king. As a reward for their support during the coup, the common people of Kutaisi were also given financial support in varying manners. Within a few short years, Kartvelia had been plotted with loyalists to both David and the Megalokomnenoi at large, and while there was still a dearth of them in the ranks of the upper nobility it was clear that David had the go-ahead for expanding his authority.
The royal council convened several times in 1535 and 1536. David was cautious in this regard, not wanting to wear out the support boost he received after Bagrationi’s coup, but he was able to persuade the high nobility of the realm to expand his powers. In July 1535, they allowed him near-unilateral decision-making in the appropament of subject lands and the extension (but not revocation) of titles below that of ‘prince’, which David justified as being necessary to prevent malicious persons from taking power. In the spring of 1536, after a long debate, he was also given joint authority (with the Kartvelian Patriarch) over foreign declarations of war with other states. Both of these moves allowed him to reclaim powers previously held by monarchs during the Golden Age of the 10th to 13th century. However, he was unable to regain authority over the ancient rights of taxation because of nobles getting cold feet. All in all, though, it was a dramatic improvement over the powers which Vakhtang and his successors had held.
Conscious of his duties as the headman of the entire Kartvelian feudal pyramid, David also intervened heavily within the lives of his subjects. He mediated disputes between his vassal lords with real integrity, refusing to abandon his honor before God for influencing what he saw as truly his kingdom. Many times he rode through the countryside, speaking to the peasants and correcting the worst excesses of the minor aristocracy, even his own followers. This earned him a reputation for being a just and honorable man, and he was widely respected by the lower classes of Kartvelia. However, despite numerous entreatments by everyone and their mother in the Kartvelian aristocracy he refused to remarry, abandoning one of the most effective alliance-making strategies (and a potential heir) for reasons known only to himself.
By 1537, Kartvelia was on the road to recovery after a long and turbulent 1520s. However, just as things were coming together they would be cast apart again….
 Patriarch Shio III would come to be a steadfast ally of David. Because of the unprecedented (to my knowledge) situation of two autocephalous patriarchates existing under the same “‘secular’” monarch, there was a great deal of jockeying for influence between Shio in Kutaisi and Eugenios II in Trapezous. As I intended to mention in a now-deleted update, Eugenios resents what he sees as David’s overstepping of bounds in regards to ecclesiastical life, and so is mildly opposed to David while he attempts to exert influence over Shio. Naturally, David and Shio align over their quite contest with Eugenios, and eventually become friends.
 I’m not sure if this had been built yet in TTL--can’t find records from OTL--but the only alternative is the Geguti Palace a full 12 km outside the medieval town, so I’ll assume it has been.
 As in OTL at this period, royal bulls would need approval by a base majority of the royal council--which was always noble-dominated--to become a true law.