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Honestly this is like the one roman timeline that isn’t a wank at all. Every single gain that the Roman made is through sheer pain and blood. Lots of blood
Well the TL is kinda balanced but things like the suicidal attack of the Ottomans destroying Hagia Sophia, the meteoric rise of Albania from a civil war ridden place to a Balkan Empire and stuff like that are kinda extreme, not improbable but unlikely. Still even under David the Romans had step backs like the invasion of Arslan and the subsequent vassalization to the Persians. Even the City that was retaken is an almost ruin.


Thanks for the reasurances guys. Next update should be out soonish, but I'm trying to create a stockpile first and jurisdictional disputes between different branches of the Orthodox Church isn't exactly the most titilating stuff.
Part LXXIII: Looting a Burning House (1544-1551)


Well, here goes nothing.

Part LXXIII: Looting a Burning House (1544-1551)

The sharp and sudden decline in Qutlughid power that occurred during the civil war caused the equally sudden unraveling of the western half of their empire. The tribes and clans of the region, be they Armenian, Kurd or Qizilbash, had been fighting for land and hegemony for years by this point, but in the power vacuum that the civil war brought they became the epicenter of a regional power struggle that would slowly spread outwards in all directions, drawing in all those lands which surrounded Greater Armenia and Kurdistan like a maelstrom. Of course, the state in the best position to exploit this power vacuum was Rhomaion, and after centuries of absence Roman armies would march into the former Armenian heartland in the 1540s….

In the aftermath of Siyavash’s failed invasion of the Trapezuntine Empire in the early 1540s, the eastern half of the realm briefly came under the threat of food shortages, caused by the bandons being in the field for too long, bad weather and minor crop failure in Crimea. Faced with following up his victory over the shahanshah or letting this relatively minor problem spiral outwards into a serious crisis, David reluctantly chose to deal with his internal issues and stood down most of his army in Khaldea, allowing them to return to their fields while he stood guard over the border. It was a fortuitous decision, both because any fears of a famine were belayed by hastily-arranged grain shipments from the untouched eastern half of Kartvelia and an excellent spring harvest in 1545, and because the lack of a Trapezuntine invasion in that year or the next gave the governors of the Qutlughid west just enough rope to hang themselves. With the central government humiliated and weakened, the always independent-minded governors and headmen of the Taurus began to scheme against each other, jockeying for power and influence and quickly descending into infighting as the civil war raged on to the east. In other words, it was the perfect opportunity for Trapezuntine expansion.

The Armenian Highlands, a vaguely-defined region stretching across the broad arc of the region’s mountains and plateaus, had been one of the heartlands of the old Qoyunlu Horde decades before, and had seen heavy settlement by Turkmen coming from both east and west. When most of these Turkmen were killed or driven out by Arslan during the early part of his reign, the old regional rivalries and hatreds which their presence had sequestered through weight-of-numbers came back with a vengeance, and the Qultughids had no small deal of trouble dealing with them. The Armenians had lived in the region for literal millenia, and though the Turkish invasions had driven many of them out of the region or into urban settlements, a number of them still lived in the hills and valleys of the interior highlands; meanwhile, the Kurds were also ancient and native to the region, but unlike the Armenians they had profited from the Turkish migrations by not occupying the Turkmen’s pastureland, thus effectively standing on the sidelines while the Armenians and the Turkmen went at it. Once the Armenians were weakened, they moved into the region and began pushing them outwards in a slow but steady process of raids and irregular warfare. The Armenians reciprocated in kind, and with the Persians occupied elsewhere this slow, long-term and low-intensity warfare suddenly exploded outwards into a bloody(er) major conflict, the sort which could not be ignored but which Tabriz was in no position to deal with. The governors of the region were either killed or cast their lots in with one faction or another, and within a few short years the Armenian Highlands were engulfed in flame.

The conflict proper began in mid-1545 and was sparked by the massacre of a dozen Armenian merchants by the Kurdish governor of Bitlis, Shamsaddin Rokji after one of them got into an argument with Rokji over an unpaid bill. Rokji had been nothing but cruel to his Armenian subjects before this, and as soon as word began to spread of the massacre many of them panicked and assumed that the governor would try to kill them all, which was entirely possible given existent tensions and conflict between the two groups. Unfortunately for Rokji, both the city of Bitlis and the province of Bitlis had a sizable Armenian majority, and it wasn’t long until an angry group of militiamen dragged him out of his palace and threw him off of the city walls, then burned his corpse for good measure. Word of this spread rapidly, reprisals began, and by the time winter hit the region was consumed in all-out war.

With this being an effective war to the death, it didn’t take for long leaders and centers of power to emerge. By the end of 1546, the situation was as follows: The Armenians had rallied around the governor of Beyazit-in-the-east, Levan Kardashian, and held many of the walled cities of the region as well as their heartlands, the lowlands around the upper Aras Valley, the eastern shore of Lake Sevan and the lowlands surrounding Lake Van. Kardashian had nominal command of tens of thousands of subjects, but in practice could muster only around 20,000 men of good fighting quality, a force too small to take the offensive in any meaningful way. As such, he used the Trapezuntine/Kartvelian borderlands and the mountains around Lake Sevan to support the small number of regular soldiers and much greater number of militiamen in the north-east, while he fought a desperate and increasingly losing struggle to hold the less defensible region around Lake Van and the isolated cities to the north and west. The Kurds, meanwhile, were much more decentralized--without the pressures the Armenians were facing, some clans were inclined to stay neutral or loot the burning house that was Persia--and had a number of clans which were fighting both the Armenians and each other, but the most powerful figure and their nominal leader was Khalil Ayyub, the satrap[1] of Hisyn Kayfa who had managed to unite many of the south-eastern Kurds under his banner before the war and was currently making quite the name for himself by making the Armenians’ lives hell. While he lacked the forces to directly besiege any major settlement, his light horsemen could ride circles around the primarily infantry-based Armenian forces, and used this to harry the countryside around the walled towns, spreading the defenders thinner and thinner as they were gradually worn down and their supplies destroyed. Bit by bit by Bitlis the outlying settlements were starved out and destroyed both by Ayyub’s forces and others, and as the streets of Beyazit (renamed Daruynk), Bitlis and countless others were swelled with refugees, Kardashian and his commanders began to grow increasingly desperate and exhausted. They were putting up as good a fight as they could, but they were surrounded, outnumbered and often outgunned, and it seemed as if the walls were closing in.

Up to this point, the Qizilbash had been mostly neutral. This wasn’t because of any moral compunction, and indeed their ‘neutrality’ was essentially raiding both Kurds and Armenians at roughly equal rates, as well as forays against the relatively undefended Persians and Azeris to the east, but instead because of orders from Erzincan itself. Esmail was quite miffed at the Qutlughids about the whole ‘trying-to-kill-him-and-annihilate-his-followers’ thing, and given that the Kurds were more closely related to the Persians than the Armenians that was enough justification to deny them his support. And that was what he was doing, most of his men despised the Armenians as urbane weaklings and would doubtless side with the Kurds if they had to pick a side. There was also another reason for the nominal neutrality of the Qizilbash, that being David.

David’s...interesting….religious beliefs will be dealt with in the next update, but though there was little love lost between he and the Armenian Apostolic Church, he regarded the latter as being lost or confused Christians, a step above the devilish infidels and ultimately a necessary ally in the war against Antichrist. On a practical level, the Armenians would also be more likely to support Pontic rule than the Kurds would, both from the basic differences in terms of lifestyle and from the decades of raids and counterraids. As such, David watched the ongoing struggle in the highlands with open support for the Armenians, but hesitated to send aid, both because of the conflict he was facing down between the different branches of the Orthodox Church within his borders over the inclusion of new Apostolic subjects, and because of a hurried series of legal and military reforms to retool the Trapezuntine state for large-scale warfare. He had plans, very big plans that he needed Armenian support for, and didn’t want to screw up his best opportunity to be welcomed as a liberator by angering their church. Once these issues began to be wrapped up in the autumn of 1546, though, he was more than eager to intervene on the Armenian’s behalf….

As the spring of 1547 dawned, and horsemen pillaged the land around Daruynk and Karakilisa, three armies crossed the Pontic Mountains. The first was a small reserve force of around 5,000 to reinforce the garrisons of the frontier fortresses with the hope of keeping raiders out of Khaldea. The second was a Kartvelian force of some 15,000 footmen and 10,000 cavalry under a Svan named Mikheil Oniani, which emerged onto the Samtskheote plain in April and crossed the frontier into Armenian-held territory less than a month later. The largest, of course, was under David himself and numbered 15,000 footmen and 20,000 cavalry (many of them qizilbash) when it marched out from Erzurum on 26 April, not counting the small artillery corps and the men who tended it. Of note was the presence of Evangelos Kantakouzenos Megalokomnenos, a dynast who David had coaxed back to the Empire to be groomed for the throne[2] and who was present to gain experience as a general. As usual, most of the Trapezuntine army were veterans or at the very least well-drilled bandonoi, and with all the propaganda that had flooded Trapezous and Pontos at large since the previous autumn, describing (often fictitious) atrocities committed against the Christians of Armenia most of the Ponts, Lazes and Pontic Armenians were raring for a fight.

As soon as they had crossed the frontier, David made a beeline for Arjesh, one of the lakeside cities under the most dire siege. Advancing before the army of Trapezous was an army of papers as bulletins printed in both Greek and Armenian were circulated in all directions promising support and protection for all Armenians who supported the Romans and warning the Kurds of the region to flee or be crushed. The latter had about as much effect as telling a murderer not to kill people, but the propagandic boost it offered was enormous, as many of the besieged and outlying Armenian settlements were swept through and refortified by Roman soldiers and the pall of certain coming doom which had hung over the Armenians of the region the season before was lifted by news of a powerful and official ally. Most importantly, Romano-Kartvelian forces from Samtskhe allowed forts to be expanded and freed up Kardashian’s men to begin their first real counter-offensive. In the six weeks it took the Romans to reach Arjesh, the road between Daruynk and Karakilisia was cleared of raiders and relief forces were rushed to Lake Van to bolster the garrisons of the cities along its edges.

Khalil Ayyub, meanwhile, recognized that the balance of power had suddenly and dramatically shifted against him and moved to rectify this. He would only have one shot at victory, he knew, because as soon as he showed weakness his coalition of tribes would shatter and their budding victory would be lost. However, he did not allow this to force him into a rushed and hasty attack. After all, the highlands were bare and riven with hills and valleys that would be excellent for ambushes and the Romans weren’t exactly familiar with it. The Ayyubids could wait until they passed through a choke point and then waylay them. As April turned into May and then into June, the largest Kurdish host of about 10,000 hurried north-west to stalk the path of the invaders. Unfortunately for them, the Romans would reach Arjesh without passing through any such choke point under the right conditions to attack, and Khalil was forced to draw back into the hills and continue waiting for the right moment to attack. This opportunity would never come, as despite the attacks on smaller outlying fortresses and occasionally even columns on the march, Ayyub was unable to provide the dramatic victory which his subordinates desired. Over the following months and years, chieftains and clans would drift away, either making (almost always failed) direct attacks on Roman and Armenian forces or gradually drifting away to the east or to the west.

Meanwhile, boats and ships of all kinds criss-crossed the surface of Lake Van, bringing supplies and reinforcements to the populations huddled behind the string of walled cities that surrounded it. The Romans had no shortage of experience in fighting off hosts of irregular raiders, and with their support the battle-hardened Armenian militias soon began to turn the tide. By the end of the year, most of the lowlands surrounding the lake had been more or less secured, with their defenses varying from place to place in the form of forts or berms or other defenses, always as the first line before the fortified towns. Unlike David’s following wars there would be no climactic victory that decided it all, no great battle where centuries of hostility were poured out onto the field. Instead there would be dozens if not hundreds of smaller battles between individual clans or tribes and the unforgiving steel of the Armenians and their allies. Gradually, lines of fortification would be dug further and further out into the countryside and gradually, one by one or in small clusters the Kurdish clans would be crushed or driven suitably far away and the lands they vacated doled out to Armenians or Romans. There were Kurdish victories, of course, but against the combined weight of the qizilbash and the Romans they lacked the organization and desperation necessary to obtain victory. To a modern audience this seems anticlimactic, but to the Romans and Armenians it was perfectly satisfactory: After all, a decisive victory would have been nice, but as long as the Kurds were no longer a threat it was well enough, and besides, nobody’s ever wanted to be the last guy killed in any war.

By the time the fighting began to subside in 1550, the Romano-Armenians had secured most of the Armenian Highlands, from about Chapaghjur (Bingol) in the west to Gedikbasi in the south-east to about Qaban and the Trans-Aras region in the northeast. A great deal of raiding still occurred, but the bulk of the Kurds had been pushed into the more difficult terrain beyond the region. Now with victory seemingly confirmed, the usual bouts of infighting that followed a major conquest began to loom. Kardashian had never officially declared himself King of Armenia, fearing a sudden Qutlughid resurgence, but he had been treated as such by most of his followers. However, now that the Romans had helped springboard independence and David was making remarks about the importance of ecumenicism in a world where the End of Days and the war against Antichrist could come at any time, the future of the Armenian state, assuming that it even was a proper state now and not a de facto Roman province, which it might have been, or about to become a Roman province, which was a serious possibility, was in doubt. Deciding that the risk of trouble down the road was better than forcing a confrontation now, David and Kardashian sidestepped the issue: Kardashian would be officially titled ‘Satrap’, a title which the Qutlughids had used for both independent tributaries and semi-autonomous governors, and the use of which did little but kick the can down the road.

By 1551, the newly-liberated territories of Armenia were still quite unstable and prone to conflict both internal and external. The logical thing to do would have been to wait and consolidate the gains which had been made there, but by now David had begun his bizarre downward spiral. There would be, no, there could be no waiting. God had set a deadline, and David intended to fulfill it. As the campaign season dawned, the Trapezuntines would cross the mountains and descend into the plains of Syria, overstretching their supply lines and crossing far beyond the realm of good sense….

[1] ‘Satrap’ was used for both semi-autonomous (and often semi-hereditary) governorships and foreign tributaries.
[2] Evangelos (b.1525) was born in Calvi to one of the exiled Megalokomnenoi dynasts, Markos, and the Phanariot Anna Kantakouzena, and was named as such because his parents feared that they were infertile before his birth. Despite speaking Greek as his birth tongue, the limited Greek population of Calvi meant that he would speak for the rest of his life with a Maniot accent, and consequently did a great deal of fighting in his boyhood in both the Italian and Maniot fashion. After getting involved in a clan feud in 1539, the Kantakouzenoi Megalokomnenoi fled Calvi and went to Trapezous, hoping for a new life in their ancestral homeland. Unfortunately, Markos caught ill and died on the voyage, but because of his death Evangelos was left as the only male Megalokomnenoi in Trapezous upon his arrival. He and David met, found each other tolerable and quite promising, respectively, and afterwards became the heir apparent. Already fluent in Greek and Latin, he learnt Farsi, Turkish, Armenian and Kartvelian as well as the usual education for noblemen of the period, taking well to financial and mathematical topics but little else. By the time of the story he had gained a (correct) reputation for being short-tempered and prone to fits of rage, but otherwise somewhat kind.
David… you aren’t no Alexander man. This isn’t gonna be good is it

Also the new heir to the throne sounds like a pretty not bad candidate tbh. Sure he is abit hot tempered but eh better than hearing ghost in his head
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David is legitimately crazy at this point. He liberated Armenia, yes, but his current plans are a mere portent for an upcoming disaster for the Romans. The Qutlughids may be weakened by civil war, but they're not pushovers and I feel like he's going to ignore any hope of reason for the sake of this war with the "Antichrist".

This may be one of the few times that I want Mgeli to knock some sense into him, lest he ruin everything that the Trapezuntines have worked for at this point.

Also the new heir to the throne sounds like a pretty not bad candidate tbh. Sure he is abit hot tempered but eh better than hearing ghost in his head
Yes, at least there's hope that Trebizond won't be pulled into an even bigger mess once David dies.
Ah, shit, David is making Manuel's mistake- the man needs to consolidate his own hinterlands. There is no success condition in such an expedition since no gains can possibly be kept.

Maybe it's just a raid to retrieve the holy relics or something.

A photo of the present day Queen of Armenia. Or Rhoman Empress Consort depending how the timeline goes. I'd also be interested to know how the son of a stonemason founded his own petty kindgdom.
Last edited:'s hoping that no matter how it ends the Armenians remember that they've got a friend in Trapezeous, sort of, instead of David being regarded by them as yet another in the long line of idiots to try and fail at being Alexander The Great. Or best-case scenario, a tragic death leads to the Armenians thinking of David the same way the Jews think of Cyrus through some revisionism down the line
Part LXXII: The Lion in Autumn (1544-1552)

The wars following the death of Arslan II had almost completely gutted the Qutlughid state, and the troubled reign of Siyavash had done little to restore them to their former glory. While much of the empire was still ravaged by years of internal conflict and bad weather, the shahanshah had foolishly invaded Trapezous without bothering to determine their true warmaking abilities, sending thousands of (mostly) loyal soldiers to their deaths and receiving only a series of humiliating defeats in return. Ruling an already destabilized empire in an even more destabilized region and with next to no support outside of the army whose members he had just gotten slaughtered, the shahanshah’s downfall became a question of time within years of his consolidation of power. The only question was if the Qutlughids would fall with him….

As he retreated from Trapezuntine territory in the summer of 1544, Siyavash had succeeded in alienating most of his supporters. The bureaucracy had never supported him, and the members of it that he had allowed to escape his purges out of a need to keep the empire running only hated him more for killing so many of their colleagues and moreover holding the power to do the same to them over them like a cudgel. The ulema in Tabriz still nominally supported him, but their fellows in the outer cities and countryside had mostly supported Mohammed Khosrau, and were both bitter that he had lost and that so many of their followers had been killed in an ultimately pointless civil war, while the commoners were tired of fighting and dying for lines on a map while bandits and foreign raiders became increasingly common. All of this could have been managed if he had kept the support of the army, but after leading so many of his men to their deaths in Khaldea their support for him was quite shaken, and that was before the humiliating debacle at Erzurum. If he were to keep his throne, Siyavash would need to gird up his support amongst the military, but at present he was hemorrhaging men to both desertion and ambush by the many highlanders who were circling his surviving column like vultures. Many of those still loyal to the shahanshah were picked off by the Kurds and the Qizilbash, neither of whom were inclined to show mercy to the Persians after years of heavy taxation and the Sack of Erzincan, respectively. To his credit, Siyavash tried to stop them--at the plain of Vartan, he drew up a fortified camp and then sent away the bulk of his force before having them return that night: when a large force of raiders attacked two days later they were met with pikes and grapeshot at point-blank range--but ultimately, it was like trying to build earthworks out of sand. By the time he reached relative safety back at Bitlis, his force had dwindled to around 15,000, which was the only force in the empire whose loyalty he could really be assured of.

While Siyavash was no great man of history, he wasn’t a complete fool, and realized that after having failed to legitimize himself by foreign conquest in such a dramatic and humiliating way he would need to change tack quickly to keep from being pushed out. In a move made by countless rulers before him, he sought the support of a semi-civilized warlike group from his frontiers: the Turkmen. These were not the Turkmen who had been crushed by Kayqubad or fled into Syria and then Egypt with Suleiman, but instead the residents of the north-eastern frontier of the Qutlughid Empire, whose most redeeming features were their bellicose nature and their burning hatred for the Uzbeks, who were quickly becoming something of ancestral enemy. There was the slight problem of Arslan’s attempt to eradicate them as an ethnic group, but Siyavash was running out of options and could only pray that they would take their pay and move on. After all, it wasn’t like they were a group of fierce warriors known for their long-running clan feuds who he was obviously trying to hire to make up for his own military weakness, was it?

The first city the Turkmen burned was Weyhnisarslan[1] (Ashgabat), a small colony town which Arslan had built to secure his control of Turkmenistan and to oversee a section of the Silk Road. Having been hired in the winter of 1544, a horde of 25,000 Turkmen led by one Sokmen Beg went south in December, reaching Weyhnisarslan in January and completely destroying it in less than three days. By the time word of this reached Tabriz, the Sokmeni Horde had reached Shirvan-in-Khorasan, sacked it, attempted to sack Bojnurd before being fought off by the town militia, then gone on a raping-and-pillaging spree all the way to the gates of Mashad. The Turkmen weren’t exactly subtle, and truthful rumors that Siyavash had hired them to replace the army abounded in the capital. Realizing that his plan had backfired horrifically, Siyavash summoned his generals to the palace to prepare an expedition east to deal with the problem he had created. Feigning sickness, Farrukh Mehrani--being the only subcommander who hadn’t completely humiliated himself during the brief invasion, he had been made the second-in-command of the Qutlughid armies--asked to speak to the shahanshah in the barracks just outside the capital on 13 February. Siyavash obliged, and as soon as he was outside the walls he was mobbed by Khorasani soldiers and hacked to shreds.

Seizing the initiative, Mehrani talked his way inside the town, let his army in and then seized the palace. He found Siyavash’s children all present and swiftly had them put under house arrest, guarding them with fairly mild-mannered soldiers while he consolidated his power. He had the youngest prince, Nader (b.1542) crowned as shahanshah, proclaiming himself regent, then started preparing for the inevitable civil war that would follow. Given Mehrani’s prestige, he, er, Nader, was able to rally a good part of the Empire, mostly the western half of the Iranian plateau, to his cause, promising a return to the stability and prosperity of Arslan the Great’s reign, and among these were a number of the Qutlughids’ greatest urban centers and recruiting grounds. Parts of the west broke away under minor independent rulers of either Armenian or Kurdish extraction, who then immediately turned on each other and resumed their pre-Qutlughid patterns of ancestral genocidal warfare, while the Azerbaijani plain came under the rule of its former governor, xxx Shirvani, who neither proclaimed support for or fought against any of the claimants, instead biding his time and looking for a way to return his polity to its former independence. As usual, the Antolekoi proclaimed their neutrality as well. In Iraq, meanwhile, a young sufi claiming to be Mohammed Khosrau, who had in fact survived in hiding (which was patently false, as the sufi couldn’t even write Farsi) and would now restore the caliphate which the Abbasids had left vacant. With social discontent built up by years of warfare and drought, Iraq and Jazira struck for him almost universally, and within a few short months Nader/Mehrani’s forces had been driven over the Zagros or behind the walls of well-fortified citadels.

To the east, meanwhile, Muhammed Rezim Khan opened the war-gates of Bukhara. If the Qutlughids were weak enough to be unable to drive out some ragged Turkmen, then it was high time that Arslan the Younger be returned to his throne--for a price, of course. By now Arslan the Younger was twenty-two years old and had grown into a charismatic and dashing young man who bore a mirror-like resemblance to his grandfather, and he was well aware that he would be a puppet of the Uzbeks in all but name. Still, it was the best way to get power for himself, and once he was on the throne, well, there were millions of Persians and only a few hundred thousand Uzbeks. For the time being he would play the part of a loyal puppet, but in doing so he would set himself up for eventually becoming a completely sovereign ruler.

In mid-1545, he convinced Muhammed Rezim Khan to give him a small force to prepare the way for his return, and rode south to Bojnurd. Sitting astride a black horse outside the city gates, he proclaimed that he had come to take up the mantle of his father, the rightful shahanshah, and of his grandfather, the greatest ruler of Persia since its conquest by the Arabs, and with God willing he would right the innumerous wrongs which the last civil war had left across the region and restore the prosperity, security and good fortune that the golden age had brought. The Bojnurdis threw open their gates and cheered him into the city, proclaiming him shahanshah as Arslan III. Word of his return spread across the east like wildfire, and in a region that Siyavash had ignored and scorned, where raiders and bandits had overrun the countryside and were entire clans had been shattered by constant warfare, promises of a return to the greatness of Arslan II’s area found fertile ground. Within a few short months, most of the eastern half of the Qutlughid Empire had struck for Arslan III as many suppressed followers of Alp Temur took up arms once again, but many who had remained neutral or fought for Siyavash the last time around supported the return of the young shahanshah. By 1547, when the real fighting began, many cities that had remained steadfastly loyal to Tabriz in the 1530s had struck for Arslan, even those such as Yazd and Shiraz which had lynched Alp Temur’s supporters less than a decade before. In a strange twist of fate, though Kabul remained neutral, more focused on increasing raids from across the Hindu Kush than on a fratricidal to the west.

Unlike the last war, Nader/Mehrani in Tabriz wouldn’t have to fight a two-front conflict, or at least not a two-front conflict against an organized enemy. Pseudo-Khosrau was more focused on securing his hold on Arabia and fending off the Khandarhids, who were very interested in his claims to be the rightful caliph, than he was on fighting on the far side of the Zagros, which allowed Mehrani to turn his attention to Arslan and vice versa. Still, he struggled to raise forces to fight off Arslan and the Uzbeks, as the regions which supported him were often quite opposed to further conscription, if not already on the verge of revolt against the tax collector. Thus, despite the larger population of the regions which struck for Tabriz, Tabriz wasn’t able to field forces as large as those which the poorly organized and supplied Arslan and his Uzbek backers were.

With the region around Fars primarily in Arslan’s camp, the theater of fighting was shifted much further to the west than the previous civil war, as the long roads through the salt flats and the foothills of the Alborz that had played host to most of the combat were much less useful and thus less important than the roads leading up along the Zagros through the south. The Sokmeni horde had settled down to an extent in Tabaristan as well, which only further reduced the import of fighting in the north. There were still maneuvers on the northern side of the plateau--most important in terms of overall strategic action was the capture of Tehran and Qazvin by Abdulloh Ozjoni and a predominantly Uzbek force in 1540, which would help open the road onward to Tabriz itself a year later.

The first major battle of the Second Qutlughid Civil War was fought in the spring of 1547, after Mehrani and Arslan the Younger had spent the better part of two years building up their forces and after all attempts to resolve the situation diplomatically (not that they had held much promise, any settlement would really just be delaying the inevitable, really) had failed. Arslan marched north-east from Kerman, where he had established his temporary capital, with a force of 10,000 infantry and 20,000 horsemen, most of both light and with fairly little artillery. Mehrani had advanced to Qom, where he was positioned to intercept any eastward attack, with a force of 20,000 heavy and light infantry and 5,000 horsemen, and upon hearing of Arslan the Younger’s advance he correctly guessed that he planned to attack Isfahan. Isfahan was a shadow of its former self, having been turned into a charnel house by Timur and having never recovered since, but Mehrani didn’t want to give Arslan the propaganda victory of taking an ancient capital, nor the more concrete benefit of taking a major fortified town, its cannons, and the roads which it sat upon. As such, he moved to engage in March 1547.

The Battle of Isfahan, fought in mid-April, was indecisive. Mehrani dug in on a ridge overlooking the road approaching the city, and it seemed that Arslan would march directly upon it and attempt to batter his way through. The regent found this suspicious, and even as his cannons began to roar he dispatched a force of infantry to reinforce his camp and supply lines. These reinforcements arrived just as the Uzbek horsemen that had been sent to encircle Mehrani’s army did, and they managed to hold the camp against the initial assault and send word of the attack back to the main force. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, he pulled back from the ridge to the Shahdiz Fortress (rebuilt by Arslan the Great), where he could prevent Arslan the Younger from advancing to Isfahan, but could not himself retreat to it. Arslan the Younger was quite irritated that he had failed to encircle Mehrani but kept his cool and ordered the fortress kept under constant bombardment with captured cannonade while his main force crossed the Zayandeh to lay siege to Isfahan itself. After two weeks, Mehrani fought his way clear and retreated westwards, leaving Isfahan to be taken by Arslan the Younger, who proclaimed it his future capital on 3 May.

Isfahan set the pace for most of the civil war. Arslan the Younger held a decisive advantage in cavalry and oftentimes morale, but Mehrani was able to muster sufficient forces to make a pitched battle unfavorable for the rebels. Instead of outright stand-and-fight battles to decide the fate of the empire, the war instead consisted of skirmishes, flying columns and lengthy sieges, as Arslan sought to drive Mehrani back without offering battle and Mehrani sought to defeat him outright, but was forced to split his forces into numerous smaller forces to try and keep up with the more mobile Uzbek horsemen. While such a dearth of decisive actions could potentially spell doom for a revolt, the frequent taking of cities helped to fire Arslan the Younger’s supporters, while the lack of a decisive action slowly ground down Mehrani’s support. While not directly asymmetrical, the way in which the civil war was fought almost seemed to preclude warfare in the contemporary manner.

1547 saw the capture of Isfahan in May, a lull in the fighting during the bitterly hot summer months, when more men could be lost to heat stroke than to enemy actions, and then further skirmishing that autumn before the harsh winter set in. No great cities would be captured, but by May of 1548 the rebels had advanced to the walls of Hamedan, which fell that October after a loose siege lasting months. One of the rare pitched battles would be fought outside the walls on 18 October, where despite a slight numerical advantage Arslan the Younger’s men were forced back and the city retaken; despite a mild winter, though, poor logistics and dwindling supplies would force Mehrani to abandon the city in January 1549 and retreat northwards. There was a lull in the fighting that year with another round of negotiations playing out as the rebels laid siege to Khorramshah, which despite their best efforts refused to fall. The city’s pro-Tabriz commander was clever and feigned having a large number of troops under his command by constantly marching them and lighting great fields of watch-fires, so that Arslan refused to march northward with such a threat in his rear. That ruse would eventually be discovered, though, and with the capture of the Alborz foothills the road to Tabriz was finally cleared.

The final battle would be fought just west of Maragheh, on the plains outside Bonab on 22 February 1551. Mehrani rallied every man he could, some 20,000 footmen and a few thousand horsemen, while Arslan the Younger and Mohammed Rezim Khan both took the field in person to command a combined host of nearly 25,000 footmen and 20,000 cavalry. Despite being outnumbered, Mehrani knew the ground well and had an advantage in firepower, using Lake Urmia to anchor his flank on one end and the Qadim Hill the other. Arslan and the Khan, meanwhile, organized his infantry into a rough wedge, intending to break through the center of the Tabrizi line, then rush through with light horse to exploit this and roll up the enemy line. The battle was joined shortly before noon, but the dust that Arslan hoped would blind Mehrani instead blew the other way, slowing his advance and leaving his men open. Mehrani’s cannonade was accurate and merciless, but despite their heavy losses Arslan’s men pressed onward, hitting the enemy line and beginning to press inward, and for once fortune was on their side as it began to turn concave and pull back. Arslan himself was in the fray, and it seemed as if the battle were about to be won. But it was all a trap, for the concave line served to draw the rebel forces into the center of the Mehranid line, where the long rows of spikes were placed and where the cannons couldn’t miss. The guns which had fallen silent roared once again, and a sudden counter-attack halted the Arslanid advance, and under attack from all sides they began to waver. The Uzbeks charged forward thunderously and slammed into the Mehranid line, knocking them back and buying space and time for Arslan, and a shout went up on the left that Mehrani was dead. Mohammed Rezim Khan then led a second charge personally, and the demoralized Regency left was broken. The light horsemen thundered through and swung around, encircling the remaining line, and the battle was lost. Mehrani famously rode out into Lake Urmia, intending to drown himself, but instead found a sandbar and escaped to Kaboodan Island, but most of his men were either killed on the spot or captured and killed later. Total losses amounted to almost all of the Regency force of 20,000, and the loss of 15,000 Arslanid and Uzbek soldiers, making it one of the bloodiest days in Persian history.

With an exhausted army, Arslan and Mohammed Rezim Khan limped north to Tabriz, arriving a few days later to find the city in anarchy and much of it in flames as looters and brigands used the chaos to steal anything that wasn’t nailed down. Rather than trying to pacify the capital, Arslan was hastily crowned with the Crown of Arslan--the Qal’i Sword was missing, presumably with Mehrani and thus at the bottom of a mound of corpses--and then left, abandoning Tabriz to its fate. It was clear to all at this moment, if not before, that Arslan the Younger and the Qutlughids both were a shattered force, and as Mehrani crawled out of Lake Urmia the circling vultures began to land….
Persia is on a verge of self destruction !
Thanks for the reasurances guys. Next update should be out soonish, but I'm trying to create a stockpile first and jurisdictional disputes between different branches of the Orthodox Church isn't exactly the most titilating stuff.
Don't worry you're doing a wonderful job !


I'm not quite sure how to phrase this, but as a foreword to the next bit of writing, I should just say that the next ~5 updates sees the Trapezuntines having an insanely good run of luck, followed shortly thereafter by reality coming crashing down like a tidal wave. I don't want to say anything else out of fear of spoilers, but I hope that this admittedly unlikely string of events doesn't break anyone's immersion, because it's not going to last more than three years before it stops abruptly, leaving them worse off than they were before by a long shot. I'm trying to sort of model the ups and downs of real history while keeping things thematically intact.

Could you PM me what you thought of the draft text?
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