Now, without further ado.... (also pls don't be too harsh)
BEGIN BOOK IIIPart LXIX: Restoration (1541-1542)
Sing, o muse, of the rage of the mad king’s son, David, the destroying rage that brought forth countless woes and which doomed to death so many valiant heroes and left them as spoils for the beasts of the earth.
Sing, o muse, of the fires which destroyed the Queen of Cities, and which spread across the face of the earth as an all-consuming inferno which naught could escape.
And sing, o muse, of the phoenix which the fires and the rage awoke….
Osman’s plan had been a simple one, born of desperation. Surrounded and outnumbered like he was, there was little chance he could inflict more than a pyrrhic victory upon the Trapezuntines and the crusaders before Constantinople was taken. As such, he decided that his best option was to lure the enemy into the great maze of the capital’s streets, attempt a decapitation strike on David and Shkoze to cripple the enemy and sow chaos in his ranks, then attack out of the rat warrens and destroy them piecemeal. This might have worked, but he had made the fatal mistake of believing that he could seize both the land walls and sea walls and hold them against enemy assault while simultaneously surrounding and massacring the Trapezuntines within the city. This was foolish, to say the least, if not borderline suicidal.
While the initial attack on Vlakharnae nearly succeeded in storming the palace, it was driven back with heavy losses, and this failure gave the Trapezuntines time to rally. Distress rockets were shot off into the night sky, and even as the Ottomans began to converge for a second attack so did relief forces. As soon as it was light enough to see, a dozen of the Trapezuntine transports fought their way up the horn, blowing down anything that tried to stop them--including the Tower of Galata--until they reached the moorings closest to the palace. By now, David had recovered from his stupor, and rallied his men to push outwards and secure a foothold in the city. The fires raged without control, burning both friend and foe alike, but the south-western wind carried the bulk of the fire away from Vlakharnae, radiating outwards and driving back the attackers. Taking good use of this, and Shkoze forcing off one of the outer gates to the west, David fanned his force out along the Horn. The crusaders did the same along the land walls, essentially trapping the surviving Ottoman forces in a firestorm of their own making. Trapezuntine ships cordoned off the sea walls, killing anyone who tried to escape, but other than a small force landed to protect the remnants of the Hagia Sophia and the New Palace, the fires were allowed to burn themselves out, killing upwards of several thousand in the process.
While the Ottomans were dealt with, this left David and Shkoze staring each other down over the ruins of what had once been the greatest city in the world. Shkoze was furious, not only that David had cost him his prize but that he had (in his eyes, at least) caused the city to be burnt-out, while David was increasingly sure that Shkoze had been aware of Osman’s attempt to kill him, which had been why he’d remained outside the city. Their forces were roughly equal, and doubtless they pondered whether a decapitation strike could leave the other’s army too unorganized to fight. Before they could turn on each other, however, two things intervened.
Firstly, word came of a massive revolt against Shkoze’s rule in the Axios Valley, as a minor tax revolt had spun out of control due to being left alone too long, and with this grave threat to Albanian integrity blossoming a Moreote army had crossed the frontier and was marching up the river; of course, the rebels were greeting them as liberators. Constantinople, or rather the ruins of Constantinople, was no longer Shkoze’s most pressing concern, and he would have to abandon any plans of a siege before his empire collapsed under its own weight. Shkoze consoled himself with the fact that David’s empire was effectively eastern-looking, and that eventually there would be a crisis in the east large enough for him to take Constantinople without too much of a fight. Eventually. For now, though, he could cope with having to withdraw.
Secondly, Osman II was pulled out of a sewer drain in a fish market on the Marmora. He was nearly beaten to death on the spot, but was instead dragged (slowly, and along sharp rocks) before David. David was surprisingly upbeat, grinning like a schoolboy as he walked arm-in-arm with Osman down to the Golden Horn in dead silence. When they reached the shore, he spoke.
“I’ve seen a lot of men do a lot of stupid things, boy. But never in my thirty-three years have I seen a ruler willingly give his enemy thousands of hostages, especially not if he planned to betray me. For God’s sake, man, what were you thinking?”
Then he described, in painstaking detail, how the transports had been burned, how the refugees had fallen from them like hazelnuts in the autumn, how rafts of corpses had covered the water, charred black from head to toe before they were pulled under and drowned, and how any who’d managed to swim to one of the Trapezuntine ships was pulled up and tortured before being thrown back in, and how the ships had waited for a full day, then shot anything that still moved at point-blank range with grapeshot before coming back. And of how those aboard the galleys--by the way, he knew where all of the royal family had been, and Osman should thank him for not singling them out for worse--had been hauled up on the deck and had their feet mashed off with poles or axes or maces and were then thrown overboard. The blood had drawn sharks from miles around, and it had taken two days for them to get everyone, and again they’d peppered the water with grapeshot to make sure no-one survived. He then bid Osman a cheery farewell, leaving behind a group of guards to flay him alive once he stopped weeping.
Although the burnt-out ruins of Constantinople were far from an auspicious sight, David decided that he would not allow Osman’s perfidious attack to end his plans for the city. The Ecumenical Patriarch, Ieremias II, was hastily called back from Mount Athos, and despite the confusing jurisdictional overlap of the Megalokomnenoi domains--at this point, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Pontic Patriarchy and the Kartvelian Patriarchy all existed within the empire--agreed to officially recrown David for the fifth time in his life. As the Hagia Sophia had been all-but destroyed and would take years to rebuild, if it was rebuilt at all, the Anjeloviç Mosque’s minarets were unceremoniously blown, the late vizier and his family’s corpses dug up and thrown into the sea and the mosque hastily converted into the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel. In the church, after Pentecost (June 21) Mass, David was crowned with the band Alexios I Megalokomnenos had taken into exile centuries before as David I, Emperor of the Romans. Emerging from Saint Michael the Archangel, David was cheered by his men in the (recently expanded) Anjeloviç, now Apokatastasi, Square. He then gave a short but powerful speech listing the sufferings the Roman people had felt in the millenia since the Empire’s decline began, of how the perfidious Latins and Turks had struck them with uncountable blows and how the true faith and true language had been perverted or trod into the dirt. No more, he said, would these outrages go unchallenged. Rome would return, in all her glory, and the proper order restored. For this he was cheered even further. After three hundred and thirty-seven years in exile, the Komnenoi had returned as the truly legitimate rulers of Constantinople, and with them Rome had begun her long return to power and glory….
While Osman and the refugees from Constantinople got the worst of it after the sultan’s failed betrayal, the sheer fury which the Trapezuntines and Nikaians felt at the destruction of Constantinople--and especially the destruction of the Hagia Sophia, the namesake of thousands of churches across the eastern world--would be unleashed across the remnant of the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia. Massacres were commonplace, as those that would have normally been condemned to a life of slavery were subject to outright killing instead, and in particular ulema and Turkish nobles were subject to especially brutal treatment.
After a long and arduous siege, Bursa fell a week before Constantinople did. Paisophkis was initially inclined to show mercy despite the strong resistance of the locals, viewing it as a final defence by a people known for their tenacity (or maybe he’d just gone soft in his old age, the Nikaians would never really decide) that didn’t merit an extreme response. There would be the usual three days of pillaging and all, but Bursa would be allowed to continue existing as a city of Turks subject to Trapezous. Once word of the burning of the Eternal City reached the Pontic army, though, things changed very quickly. Paisophkis ordered the hands of every man in the city to be cut off, and everything of value taken. His men, however, thought this too kind, and a Nikaian moirarkh hereafter known as Konstantinos ‘Kephalitagaris’ Dionos-- ‘he who carries as many heads as there are grains in 3.5 pounds of wheat’--declared that every Bursan man older than ten was to be put to the sword, and all the children and women older than thirty be sold into slavery. In the fury that the Ponts worked themselves into, they decided that Kephalitagaris’ orders were more legitimate and killed somewhere around 40,000 people in the next week.
Throughout the rest of 1541, Roman armies--swelled in number by fanatics from back in Pontos and from across the straits in Morea or Bulgaria--would criss-cross the plains and hills of Mysia, brutally crushing any resistance. While the Rape of Bursa had no real purpose behind it other than sheer, white-hot rage, it was interpreted by most of the remaining Ottomans as either a) an attempt to destroy the Muslims of the region, or b) punishment for not immediately surrendering. This divided the locals into one of two camps, either those who would fight to the death against the Romans or those who rolled over and surrendered right away. While Paisophkis held decreasingly little control over his men, he and David--who would join the campaign in July--would treat those who surrendered quickly rather clemently, allowing them to keep their homes, freedom and lives, and on occasion even their weapons to ward off the bandits and irregulars who stalked the armies’ wake. Of those who resisted, a number were either veterans or just good at fighting, and were able to organize into flying columns of insurgents who posed a real threat to the flanks of the Roman forces; the rest comprised barely-organized militias which, in scientific terms, had their heads ripped off and shoved up their ass sideways. Of course, the Romans had a creative definition of resistance, with anyone who so much as looked at them funny likely to be horrifically brutalized. The constant Roman advance created a wave of refugees ahead of them as Turks gathered as much as they could and fled south and west towards Aydin, but these were mostly ignored in favor of capturing strategic hardpoints with as much speed as possible, before real resistance could form.
Other than a narrow strip along the Hellespont which the Venetians had managed to conquer the year before, the Romans were able to secure all of Mysia and the Troas by the time the winter of 1541-1542 began. Hypothetically, they could’ve advanced all the way to Aydin in that time, but David was playing it safe and trying to crush all resistance they met before it could metastasize into something truly dangerous. It was also an early winter, so much so that the first snows began to fall just as the vanguard reached Balikhasir (Balikesir) in mid-November. David committed to a siege despite the adverse conditions, and after several weeks of bombardment the city was taken and given the Bursa treatment on 21 January 1542, also being renamed to its old Greek name, Palaiokastron.
This delay would be fortuitous for the ever-increasing population of refugee Muslims and Turks that was gathering in what had once been the Thrakesion. Their exact number is unknown, but was likely upwards of a hundred thousand, driven by fear and desperation to flee their homes and run for their lives. Understandably, they were quite opposed to being subject to Roman rule, and though their presence threatened to cause a famine by overburdening the sole surviving elayet of the effectively defunct Ottoman Empire.
But fortune would smile upon these hapless unfortunates, for in the spring of 1542 a great field of sails was spotted approaching Izmir. They were feared to be Moreote raiders, or perhaps a Greek or Roman invasion force come to finish the job, but for once these fears were baseless. The first ship docked in Izmir harbor, and the admiral of the fleet came ashore and introduced himself to the restive crowd, including Elayetbeg Hasan Paşa, as Ibrahim Ahl Suleyman, servant of Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (al-Hakim), restorer of the Khandarhid Caliphate, here to officially proclaim the annexation of the Ottoman remnant as the caliphal province of Aydin. Most importantly, he brought 30,000 Egyptian soldiers with him, and the Ottomans had the option of either coming willingly and being granted certain privileges, or being conquered and utterly annihilated. Hasan Paşa quickly agreed to surrender.
The Khandarhid Caliphate had been established a scant few years before in 1534 by al-Hakim, formerly Suleyman VI of the Fourth Çandarid Beylik, after he had successfully unified the warring statelets of Egypt. Given that the Abbasids had gone extinct during the war and that the Sharif of Mecca was his vassal, Suleyman saw no reason not to proclaim himself caliph. Normally, this would’ve been ignored--proclamations of a new caliphate were a dime a dozen in those days--but with the power and population of Egypt supporting him, al-Hakim forced the rest of the world to take him seriously. After a brief campaign against the Sultanate of Damascus, he confirmed his hold on Jerusalem, deposed Sharif in favor of his own man by force of arms, and thus came into possession of the three holy cities. A fanatic on the level of David, al-Hakim viewed the collapse of the Ottomans as a chance to shore up the position of Islam in the region and establish himself as the protector of Anatolia and the Turks therein. Thus the large invasion force was dispatched under his cousin, with orders to hold onto the western coast of Anatolia or die trying.
The arrival of the Egyptians changed things dramatically. Not only was there a large army standing between David and finishing off the Ottomans, there was now the potential for the many, many people he’d displaced to organize themselves into another army to get back at him, essentially a ticking time bomb on his western frontier. However, Ahl Suleyman didn’t seem to be especially hostile towards him in particular, even sending multiple emissaries to him offering to split the Ottoman remnant. As David suspected, Ahl Suleyman believed that his cousin wouldn’t last long in the world of Egyptian court politics--far too much of the Mamluk system had survived for that to be the case--and was trying to set himself up with an independent powerbase in case things hit the fan back home. He didn’t want to lose any men for the same reason, and thought a peace with honor better than a war over the remnants of the Ottoman hellscape. David was inclined to attack--surely, God would be on their side--but Mgeli warned him of picking a fight with an empire more powerful than his and which he couldn’t really defeat, what with the Mediterranean making a direct attack all but impossible. Besides, they were overextended already, it would be best to step back for a bit and consolidate the gains he’d already made.
Negotiations began in May 1542, but were given urgency two months later by word of the end of the Qutlughid Civil War and rumors that Siyavash planned to march on Trapezous. Refusing to let his empire be swept out from under him and his moment of triumph stolen again, David and Ahl Suleyman made a hasty peace. Everything north of Balikhasir was to become Roman, while everything south and west of it--including Edremit, which was under siege at the time--were to be integrated into the Khandarhid domain. It was a deal that left neither side very happy, but it was better for both than an all-out war would be, so it stood for the time being….
 The Trapezuntines didn’t make much use of rockets for military purposes--not yet, anyway--but they were used by the navy as a means of signalling at a distance. Red rockets, such as those shot up from Vlakharnae, meant that the ship (or palace complex) in question was under attack and in danger of being captured, and thus needed help immediately.
 I’m going to be honest, this one isn’t entirely justified, but given that Balikesir was one of the centers of the Greek Genocide OTL….
 I may or may not have gotten elayets and villayets confused in previous updates. Heh.