View Full Version : Midgard's ATL Dark Ages Map
January 20th, 2006, 06:27 PM
540 - The Byzantine military campaign in Italy under the leadership of Belisarius is in full swing. The Goths are severely beaten, and propose a treaty, under the terms of which Belisarius would be crowned the Western Emperor in return for cessation of hostilities. Belisarius accepts the offer, and sends envoys to Constantinople to inform the Emperor Justinian of the new state of affairs. Unlike OTL, Belisarius follows through with the coronation ceremony, and does not use the occasion simply as a guise to obtain Ravenna for the Empire. Simultaneously, he is crowned the King of the Goths, being raised on a shield in their ancient custom. From here on forward, Rex Gothicus becomes one of the titles of Roman Emperors.
541 - Justinian, furious at what he perceives as insubordination and outright rebellion, attempts to recall Belisarius, sending a detachment of troops under eunuch Narses to bring rebellious general home for trial. The result is a civil war. Belisarius and his troops, which by now include large detachments of Gothic warriors, defeat Narses decisively, largely due to greater numbers available to him. After several defeats, Narses realizes he does not have too much to lose, and reluctantly (for the two commanders had not been getting along well personally) throws his lot with Belisarius.
542 - While Justinian attempts to raise another army to retake Italy, the Persian king Khusro I invades the Eastern provinces. Thus the troops and resources that would have been used in Italy now have to be used to repel the Persian attack. Still Justinian does not accept the idea of a rogue Western Emperor, and attempts to buy the Persians off.
543 - The Persian war is going badly for the Romans, with two of their best generals in Italy in open rebellion. Armenia is virtually lost, and there are reports of plague, while the Persian raiding parties reach as far as Palestine and even Egypt. In Italy, Belisarius finds himself in a strong position, able to consolidate his realm, although not to expand. From his capital in Ravenna he watches with concern as flames of war consume the East, and the provinces fall away one by one.
544 - The remaining Vandals in North Africa revolt, and are successful due to the Roman forces being distracted elsewhere. Knowing that their independence is largely due to Romans being occupied elsewhere, they offer Belisarius to become "foederati" in return for him guaranteeing their independence. Thus, the state of Neo Vandalor is born, technically a subject to the Western Emperor, but practically independent. Also, a group of Pagan Greek philosophers, fleeing persecutions against Pagans initiated by Justinian, lands in Arabia. Chief among them is a scholar of some reknown named Artemius.
545 - Plague finally reaches Constantinople, where one of the deaths has been that of Emperor Justinian. With no clear successor, the Senate votes to confirm Belisarius as the Emperor of both East and West. Leaving Narses as his viceroy in Italy, Belisarius departs East with an army consisting both of the Latin Italians and Goths, who by now are considered full citizens of the Empire.
547 - With Belisarius in command, the Roman armies sweep through Armenia and Syria, expelling the Persians. A great battle ensues under the walls of Edessa, where the Persian army is virtually annihilated by the Roman army under a brilliant young Gothic commander Totila. Now that the positions are reversed, the Persians are suing for peace, which is granted only because of rumours of discontent in Constantinople that could become a serious disturbance if left unchecked. By the terms of the treaty, status quo is reestablished, with Persia paying an annual tribute.
548 - The Greek philosophers led by Artemius are by now somewhat well established in Arabia, having found their way into graces of a local ruler whose sons they are now tasked to educate.
551 - After a reign of eleven years, Belisarius could congratulate himself on succeeding where his former master has nearly failed. His borders secure, and the West once again in his Empire's possession, he turns his attention to consolidating and reorganizing his Empire. The territories are divided into Exarchates, each under the military ruler appointed directly by the Emperor. The exarchates are: Italy (covering all of Italy, Sicily, Corsica, and Sardinia), Africa (covering the conquests west of the Vandal kingdom as far as Gibraltar), Carthage (the Vandal kingdom, being a vassal of the Emperor, is considered an Exarchate, the Vandal king being an Exarch - or at least so the Imperial propaganda would lead one to believe; practically the Vandals are independent), Egypt (including the province of Egypt as well as the Sinai), Achaia (covering Greece proper, Epirus, and Moesia), Anatolia (being the Western part of Asia Minor), Mesopotamia (including the eastern portion of Asia Minor all the way to the Persian frontier), and Syria (including Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria).
556 - After death of his first wife Antonina, Belisarius remarries, producing a son. His son is named Tiberius, and is crowned co-Emperor shortly thereafter.
559 - The monophysite controversy gains strength again, beginning much of the religious infighting that would mar the following decades. Most of the fighting is in Constantinople itself, but there are significant outbreaks of violence in Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria. The revolts are suppressed by force of arms, with hundreds killed in street battles. The heaviest casualties are in Alexandria.
562 - In response to the Avar and Bulgar incursions into Thrace, Belisarius leads an expedition into the Transdanubian regions. While no major conquests are made, the war seems to have gone well for the Romans, that is until a stray arrow hits Belisarius in the skirmish. Belisarius lives long enough to be transported to Constantinople, but is dead before the end of the year. His six year old son is now Emperor Tiberius II, although the real power is in the hands of Goth Totila, who by now is magister militum, the commander of the armies. Totila arranges for Tiberius to be married to his daughter, and continues to direct the Imperial affairs with competence and conviction.
565 - Another outbreak of hostilities in the East results in another Persian war, which will drag on for most of the decade. Fighting is inconclusive, and by 574 both sides are exhausted with no gains to show. Peace is not slow to follow.
569 - In Arabia, a young prince named Omar ascends to the throne vacated by his late father. Omar is educated by the renegade Greek scholars, and thus has many ideas on the republican government, philosophy, and ideas of religion. He founds a university at Medina, which becomes a haven for pagan philosophers and scholars who are fleeing the Roman Empire en masse. The university will prove its worth in the decades to come.
574 - With the Persian war over, and Tiberius now reaching majority, a power struggle ensues in Constantinople. Totila, though long an actual ruler of the Empire and the Emperor's father-in-law, is now viewed with suspicion by the Senate party, who would like him removed. Young Tiberius, tired of being a figurehead and no longer content with paying lip service to either the Senate or his father-in-law, takes matters into his own hands. Totila is captured, found guilty of attempting regicide, and quickly exiled to an island in Aegean, while purges in the Senate ranks ensure that there is no outspoken dissent.
575 - In a year of effective government, Tiberius II acquired a fearsome reputation. Yet, on other fronts, he proved to be a competent, if occasionally heavy-handed, ruler. His reign saw increased attention to Italy, where settlements were expanded, and Gothic citizens more fully integrated within the Imperial framework, while many Greeks from Anatolia and Thessaly were resettled in Jerusalem and Antioch.
578 - A son is born to Tiberius, named Constantine. In Arabia, prince Omar starts to eye his neighbours for potential expansion. He founds a council of elective advisors, who provide minimal representation to the nobility and the merchants of his dominion.
581 - An incursion of Slavic tribes leaves portions of Moesia devastated. Some raiders penetrate as far as Thrace.
583 - The fighting between the monophysite and orthodox factions reaches a new climax. While it is relatively contained in Constantinople, major cities in the Eastern provinces soon see its many adverse effects. Alexandria has the worst of fighting, leaving several thousand dead. It is at this time that the Emperor Tiberius utters the famous words, "better heathen than heretic", starting a new wave of persecution of monophysites and other Christian minorities. Strangely enough, there is no effort to convert the non-Christians, other than extra taxes levied upon them, and laws generally favoring Christians in disputes.
584 - In order to combat the monophysite insurrection in Egypt, the Emperor Tiberius orders settlement of large numbers of Orthodox Greeks from the Greek mainland in Egypt, and an attempt to resettle many of the native Egyptians and monophysite Greeks in Asia Minor. A surprisingly moderate Orthodox Patriarch Athanasius is installed in Alexandria. In a meanwhile, Lombards attempt an incursion into Italy, however, the local Exarch swiftly defeats them, and settles them north of the Appennines, thus creating another "foederati" buffer state.
585 - The attempt to pacify Egypt severely backfires, since the local Copts have no love for the Empire's crippling taxation and ever-increasing demand for grain. Simultaneously there are risings in many major cities of Egypt, including a full-scale rebellion in Alexandria, where the Copts try to get their hands on any Greek they could find, committing unspeakable atrocities upon any who might be suspect of Orthodox sympathies. By then, despite a number of monophysite Greeks, the Egyptian Copts begun to identify the Greeks with religious orthodoxy, and thus as enemies. Incidentally, this marks the birth of an independent Coptic Egyptian state. The Patriarch Athanasius flees with unseemingly haste only to find out that the Orthodox Synod in Constantinople has removed him at the Emperor's bidding, installing an Orthodox hardliner in his stead (who, ironically, has no way of getting to Alexandria with Coptic rebellion in full force). By now, the Emperor Tiberius is widely seen as being insane and blood-thirsty, wanting to eliminate anyone who he believes a threat or a failure. With no place to turn, and rightly suspecting that once he sets foot on Imperial territory he will be a dead man, Athanasius flees to the Arab lands, where the famed University of Medina flourishes among what is perceived as more religiously tolerant society than the most.
586 - The dethroned Patriarch arrives in Medina, where he is received with honors by prince Omar. There, the Patriarch, already very disillusioned with both stringent Orthodoxy and monophysitism, begins to preach a new doctrine that would be viewed as extremely heretical in both East and West of the Roman Empire. He makes a number of converts, among them the successor of Omar, Ali. In the following decade, Athanasian doctrine spreads like wildfire through the Arabian peninsula, morphing along the way to where it is almost only nominally Christian. The doctrine, in particular, states that the divinity of Jesus is due to him being chosen by God, not due to him being born of God. The implifications are such that a person, or even a nation, can be chosen by God for greatness - thus forming a blend between the more heretical versions of OTL Christianity and what formed the base for OTL Islam. It took well with the Arab people, who had been practically ignored by the rest of the world for most of their history up until the point, giving them a sense of additional national and religious identity.
587 - The Imperial army sent to Egypt to restore control mutinies, and instead proclaims their general, Justin by name, Emperor. Tiberius, by now increasingly unpopular because of famine resulting from the grain supply being cut off from Constantinople and due to numerous purges among enemies real and perceived, attempts to restore order in the city, but by then his Excubitors have had enough, and he is murdered. A loyal servant ships the young Constantine out of the city, where a group of loyalists shelter him. In a meanwhile, rebellious general is crowned Justin II in Hagia Sophia.
588 - After a long travel, ten-year-old Constantine and a number of loyalist arrive to the Persian court at Ctesiphon. Seeing the golden opportunity that may not come again soon, the Persians promise military aid in return for enormous territorial concessions, which include much of Syria and Mesopotamia, all of Armenia, and a large tribute. The war preparations consume most of the year, over the course of which Justin II proves himself to be not much of an improvement on his predecessor. Paranoid and constantly watching over his shoulder for threats both real and imaginary, he is more concerned about eliminating his enemies in Constantinople than about recovery of Egypt. In Italy, his rule is recognized only very reluctantly, and in the first year of his reign Justin already had to face several small rebellions in the army.
589 - Ever since the revolt, and a nearly-accidental independence, Egypt has been polarized in several different factions, all vying for control. By 589, leader of one of the factions, Nestor, has been able to successfully eliminate all his major opponents and crown himself a King of Egypt in Alexandria. Eager to use his chance, he seeks to ally himself with the Persians, and to promise military help to young Constantine's bid for the Imperial throne in return for recognition of Egypt's independence. Both the Persians and the Byzantine loyalist are quick to agree, having one less enemy to be concerned with. In Arabia, Omar, by now an adherent of Athanasian doctrine, begins a program of expansion, increasing the size of his kingdom at the expense of his neighbours.
590 - The Persian armies march against the Roman troops in Armenia and Mesopotamia. Dreading to leave Constantinople, Justin entrusts command of the army to his brother Maurice, who is soundly defeated in two major engagements. Egypt, while allied to the Persians, does not do much other than supply their armies with grain - most of Egypt's military is tied up defending its Western border from Vandal incursions.
591 - The army, having apparently developed a taste for rebellion, mutinies and kills Maurice. They declare one of their centurions, Thomas, Emperor. Thomas quickly patches up an agreement with the Persians, and marches on Constantinople. Justin lures him out under pretense of truce, and has him assassinated. By now, Justin has alienated the army, the Senate, the Church, and the people with his methods, and discontent in the remaining Imperial provinces reaches the boiling point.
592 - The second Imperial army finally manages to stop the Persians around Ancyra in Asia Minor, although at the cost of heavy casualties. This buys Justin some additional time, which he uses not to strengthen his remaining possessions, but to indulge in orgy of purges, torture, and assassination. Anyone suspect of sympathies to the Belisarian dynasty, or of any kind of discontent is summarily executed, their property confiscated.
593 - Fifteen-year-old Constantine, held practically hostage in the Persian court, escapes, and is ferried to Italy, the powerbase of Belisarian house. A local Exarch Liberius receives him with open arms. A rival court is now set up at Ravenna, and a new army is raised from the Italian population.
595 - The Persian war continued indecisively, with the Persian armies deeper than ever in the Roman territory. In a meanwhile, Omar of Medina dies, to be succeeded by his eldest son Ali. A fervent follower of Athanasius, and a somewhat skilled theologician himself due to education received at the University of Medina, he creates a number of further doctrinal changes that remove the new faith even further from its origins. But, besides his theological skills, Ali is also an inspiring leader, and a fearless soldier, able to command his men's loyalty just as well as he could command the discussion floor at the University. Over the next several years, all of the warring states and tribes of the Arabian peninsula pledge allegiance to Ali, who begins to style himself "Caliph", both as a sign that he is a representative of his people, as well as the sign of divine inspiration he believed himself to possess - the living representative of God.
596 - A great fleet containing an army estimated at fifty thousand strong sails from Italy towards Constantinople. It is commanded by Nicetas, son of Exarch of Italy, and carries with it the Emperor Constantine IV. At the first sign of the fleet's approach, rebellion in Constantinople removes Justin from the throne, and opens the city's gates to the Italian army. Justin and his henchmen are then summarily executed.
597 - The Italian army of Constantine IV and Nicetas achieves its first major victory over the Persians, pushing them out of Asia Minor into Armenia. The Egyptians, realizing that the tide of the war has turned, seek negotiations that would ally them to Romans, in return for the guarantee of independence. Knowing well that the war is far from won, and that there is a precious shortage of allies available, Constantine IV reluctantly accepts.
599 - The unification of the Arabian peninsula is complete. Also, a thrust into Syria results in a Battle of Homs, at which Persians are decisively defeated by the Roman force.
600 - Persian army captures Jerusalem, where there is a general massacre of Christians. The Holy Cross is captured and sent to Persia.
601 - The capture of Jerusalem sent the population of the East into religious fervor, actively encouraged by Constantine and his advisors. The war with Persia, though a familiar sight for centuries, is now a holy endeavor to the Christians of the Empire, swelling the ranks of the Roman armies. Constantine divides his forces in two, taking personal command of the greater portion of the forces, and leaving a smaller (although still a rather large) army under command of Nicetas. Nicetas is ordered to attack in Syria, while Constantine's army is to undertake an ambitious invasion of Persia with the goal of not only recovering the sacred relics and reclaiming lost territories, but to destroy Persian power once and for all.
602 - The Roman troops enter Persia, destroying everything in their wake. In a meanwhile, two subsequent Persian armies sent against Nicetas are similarly routed and annihilated. Nicetas enters Jerusalem, being hailed as a hero by the population.
603 - A Roman army of about forty thousand meets a Persian force more than twice its size under the walls of Ctesiphon, the Persian capital. Despite numerical superiority, the Persian army includes many recent conscripts and foreigners, with only a partial core of elite deghans (heavy cavalry), while the Roman army is composed of the best troops the Empire has. The battle is long and bloody, but the outcome is clear. The Persians are massacred, with only relatively minor (but still numerically large) losses on the Roman side. The siege of Ctesiphon begins.
604 - Ctesiphon falls to the Roman army, with the Persian Great King taken prisoner. The Persians are quick to sign the peace treaty, which results in return to pre-war borders, an enormous indemnity, and return of the sacred relics. Persia is now but a shadow of her former self, with much of her military destroyed, her lands devastated, and a dynastic crisis arising due to Great King's authority plunging to all-time lows after such a decisive defeat.
605 - Constantine IV enters Constantinople in triumph to the enthusiastic reception from the population. The Arab Caliphate starts considering expansion outside of its current borders.
606 - A huge Arab army erupts from its desert homeland, looking to spread the message of Athanasianism. Egypt, which has been building up its forces throughout the years, is able to resist their attack, but Persia is not so lucky. By 611 all of Persia would be engulfed by the Arab tide.
608 - Arab incursion into the Roman territories leads to a major battle, in which the Romans lose control of Syria except for its coastal regions. At the same time, Avar and Bulgar raids into Thrace become a permanent stream of settlement, which over the next decade would overrun Moesia and much of Dalmatia.
610 - The Vandals break off from the Roman control completely (even though the Roman control has been mostly nominal over the last fifty years).
612 - The Arab advance is finally reversed at Antioch, although not before much of the Roman Middle East is lost for good.
613 - Emperor Constantine IV dies of a fever in Constantinople. His sixteen-year old son Arcadius succeeds as Arcadius II. Also, the Arab attention starts to turn East towards Afghanistan and India. The new Emperor's task is daunting, as years of warfare, foreign invasions, and civil strife left the Empire economically prostrate, its armies in dire need of funds, and many of its outlying provinces lost. With his father's chief lieutenant Nicetas being confirmed in his position of magister militum, the new government begins to eye Italy, long a powerbase of the Belisarian house, as the key to survival of the Empire.
614 - A massive relocation program is started by the Empire, sending many of the refugees from the Arab occupied territories to Italy as colonists. Within a decade, population of Italy swells, creating a large pool of manpower for the Empire to draw from, as well as greatly increasing its tax base.
615 - Massive quantities of Bulgars and Avars pour into Moesia, Thrace, and Epirus. As a result, large portions of the Greek peninsula are no longer under the Imperial control. This provides further proof to Arcadius II and his government that the future of the Empire lies in the West, as the Eastern portion of his dominions is constantly whittled away by the Slavs, Bulgars, and Arabs. Economically, too, Greece is ruined, although Asia Minor, reorganized under military governors in the days of Tiberius, holds its own fairly well, being relatively self-sufficient, although not much more than that.
616 - The Imperial Senate in the West is revived. Prominent citizens and nobles of both Latin, Greek, and Gothic origin are invited to join. By now, especially in the large cities, the various population groups that now make up the citizenry of Italy are practically indistinguishable from each other.
619 - After a brief respite, the Arabs turn their attention West again. Coptic Egypt is able to buy them off with large tribute and promise of safe conduct for the Arab army should they choose to use it as a base, but the Georgians and Armenians are not so lucky. Both Georgian and Armenian kingdoms (the latter being a Roman protectorate until recently) are crushed, their lands added to the ever-growing Caliphate.
621 - After a forced march through Asia Minor, defeating the provincial forces sent against them, the Arab army is within sight of Constantinople, while a newly built Arab fleet sails against the Imperial capital. The Empire's salvation comes from an invention of a young Greek, later dubbed "The Greek Fire", a fiery concoction that could be sprayed on enemy ships, setting them on fire. While the Arab army attempted to cross the straits into Europe, the Imperial fleet, hastily outfitted with their new weapon, swept upon them, sinking the Arab fleet and a large portion of their army with it. Only in the following year the remnant of a once-glorious Arab host arrives home. Of the army of seventy thousand that attempted to besiege Constantinople, only twenty thousand soldiers survived.
623 - With the Arab threat under control, Arcadius sends a military expedition to dislodge the Bulgars and Slavs from the Balkans. While not a large-scale disaster, it achieves little. Now the Empire firmly controls only the coastal areas in much of the Balkans and Moesia, while much of the peninsula's interior is under the control of the invaders. In a meanwhile, the overall shift west for the Empire continues.
626 - Arcadius II announces that from now on, his official capital shall be in Ravenna. This creates a general mood of discontent, resulting in riots in Constantinople.
628 - The first recorded appearance of Khazars in the Roman annals. They are reported as "fierce warriors of the steppes, swift on their horses, and deadly with their arrows" by a contemporary chronicler.
631 - A massive building program is initiated, the cities of Italy being the primary beneficiaries. In particular, both Rome and Ravenna are partially rebuilt, while many older buildings in danger of collapsing are restored.
632 - A dangerous split in the Imperial politics occurs between the factions supporting the interests of the Eastern and Western portions of the Empire. There is a growing pressure on Arcadius to amend his policies to benefit the East of the Empire more, which many in Constantinople feel has been neglected.
633 - After long consideration, Arcadius decides to appoint his son Belisarius co-Emperor, responsible for the Eastern provinces, while he himself could concentrate on the West. Accompanied by a group of elite Gothic Guard, Belisarius II sets sail for Constantinople.
635 - Belisarius II, in two years since his ascention, has not shown a slightest interest in politics or administration, preferring to leave it to his advisors while he himself indulged in the pleasures of his capital. Chief amongst his advisors was Narses (no relation to his more famous namesake), the minister of finance. While ambitious, Narses, as a eunuch, was debarred from the throne - however, he was perfectly content with being a kingmaker. Of Narses' two brothers, one was a eunuch like himself, but the youngest, John, had shown some promise already as a civil servant. Thus, all of Narses ambitions were centered on ensuring his own family's elevation to power.
636 - While out hunting, Belisarius II is shot by an arrow, and killed. The official story is that the shooting was accidental, and the servant responsible is swiftly killed, however, there are suspicions of foul play. When the news reach Ravenna, Arcadius II is crushed by grief, and dies shortly thereafter. With no male heirs to the throne left behind by either Arcadius or his son, Arcadius' younger daughter Theodora is seen as path to the Imperial throne. Narses attempts to bethrothe Theodora to his brother, however, with the suspicions that he was involved in Belisarius' death, he gets a denial from Ravenna. Instead, a platoon of Italian soldiers shows up at his doorstep, with orders to arrest him and his family, and carry them to their judgement. Narses and his brothers are never heard from again. In a meanwhile, a Gothic noble named Apsimar, who held the position of magister militum in the West, is proclaimed Emperor by the army in Italy. He hastily changes his name to a more appropriate Constantine, and is crowned Emperor Constantine V, taking late Arcadius' daughter as his wife to cement his link to the throne. The Senate of both Ravenna and Constantinople confirm his ascention with unseeming haste - that is, when confronted with a few well-placed threats of an army intervention.
637 - The Bulgar Khanate's star is ascendant as Khan Tervel increases his dominions at the expense of the neighbouring tribes, and Rome's Balkan holdings. By now, the Danube frontier has long been overran, and coastal cities are all that remains of the former province of Moesia.
638 - A pretender in the East claims to be Emperor Belisarius II, who had somehow miraculously escaped death, and wants to reclaim his Empire. While almost certainly not genuine, it did create large degree of discontent throughout the Empire, as Constantine V is largely seen as a usurper, and only tolerated for the lack of better candidates. Constantine/Apsimar sends an army, mostly consisting of Italians and Italian Greeks to deal with pretender under command of a Greek general Theodosius Phocas.
639 - The Imperial army, once reaching Asia Minor, mutinies, raising Theodosius Phocas on their shields and proclaiming him Emperor. Since there are doubts that Constantine V, an Arian prior to his ascention to the throne, still does not fully adhere to the Orthodox faith (which at this point means the official doctrine of sees of both Rome and Constantinople), the army, Orthodox to a man (with exception of small Gothic contingent, which, finding themselves in minority, wisely join in the popular sentiment) would rather see an Orthodox Emperor on the throne. Yet, with the pretender still in his rear, Theodosius' first move is against the rebel instead of marching in Italy.
640 - The rebel pretender is defeated and captured, being strangled shortly thereafter. Theodosius III Phocas enters Constantinople in triumph, and starts to plan an expedition against his counterpart in Ravenna. A new army is recruited from the Greek population of Asia Minor and Greece proper, and is sent to Italy.
641 - After decisive defeat Constantine V abdicates, is tonsured, and packed up to a monastery in the Aegean. Theodosius arranges for Constantine's ex-wife Theodora to be remarried to his son, another Theodosius, who is then crowned co-Emperor and is left in charge of the West.
643 - The Visigothic kingdom in Spain grows in power, expelling the Romans from the south of the Iberian peninsula once and for all. The Roman holdings on the southern side of Gibraltar are all that remains of once-Roman Africa and Iberia. Occupied with unrest at home and a certain difficulty in asserting their authority, both co-Emperors are unable to react.
647 - Over the course of a previous few years, Khazars made somewhat of a name for themsekves as being a threat to Arab holdings in the Caucasus. They overran Georgia, and inflicted decisive defeats upon the Caliphate. Realizing that if left unchecked, the Khazars pose a major threat to the Eastern provinces of the Empire, the elder Theodosius decides upon a diplomatic solution, and sends an embassy to the Khazar Kagan. The Kagan is impressed by the richness of the Emperor's presents, and by the implied power of the Empire, and agrees to an alliance treaty in return for a large subsidy.
649 - An active effort to convert the Khazars begins as Imperial missionaries travel to Khazar territories. They have to contend with both the existing pagan Khazar religion, and with the Athanasian missionaries sent by the Arabs who came to a similar conclusion that "if you can't beat them, make them join you". While both missions make a number of conversions, neither is a full-fledged success, as majority of the Khazars are indifferent to the foreign religious influence.
650 - With their hold on power now relatively secure, the Theodosii now start thinking about expansion. It is deemed that, due to Caliphate experiencing succession crisis, recovery of some of the Eastern provinces might be a distinct possibility. Theodosius III issues orders to attack the Caliphate in Syria and Palestine, in attempt to recapture the long-lost provinces, and to undermine the Arab power and influence.
651 - The Byzantine/Roman army meets little resistance as they recapture the coastal cities in Palestine and Syria, until they meet a large Arab force near Edessa. Resulting battle ends in a draw, although both sides claim victory. The new Caliph Suleyman, whose position is still contested within his own realm, agrees to concede the coast of Palestine, with Jerusalem, as the Holy City, being under joint Arab and Roman control. In the eyes of Theodosius, this justifies a triumph, which is a splendid and lavish affair even by the standards of Constantinople.
652 - Theodosius III dies in Constantinople, and is succeeded by his son, already reigning in Ravenna as Theodosius IV. Already an experienced administrator, even if less publicly prominent during his father's reign, the younger Theodosius immediately saw the problems facing his Empire. The East and the West, while quiet since the elder Theodosius' ascention, have been drifting apart steadily, with Italo-Gothic, Latin speaking West and Greek East constantly being at odds with each other. In order to combat this, and to promote internal unity, he attempts to resettle large numbers of Goths and Latins in Asia Minor. This idea is met with such resentment among both Goths, Italians, and Greeks, that it is not followed through with.
653 - First mention of iconoclasm, "smashing of icons" in the Roman literature. The movement, starting in Coptic Egypt, gains in popularity in North Africa, and gains momentum when a prominent Athanasian cleric declares that painting images of the saints and Christ clearly violates the Second Commandment, and thus smacks of idolatry. The resulting wave of destruction makes many dedicated iconodules ("icon-loving") Christians, both Athanasian and Orthodox, flee the lands of the Caliphate for the Imperial territories. An unintended effect is that despite them fleeing iconoclasm, the exodus actually helped to increase awareness of iconoclastic ideas, thus spreading them across Asia Minor.
654 - By now, Theodosius IV realizes with some alarm that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to effectively manage both Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor without having to delegate much of his authority. The previous solution to the problem has been appointment of a co-Emperor, but with no adult males of the Imperial dynasty available, promotion of a non-related co-Emperor could create more problems than it would solve. Thus, Theodosius creates theme system, which replaces the previous administrative division of the Empire into Exarchates. Each theme is designed to be large enough to be able to defend itself in case of a foreign incursion until the Imperial army arrives, but not large enough to be able to successfully revolt. Major incentives and large tracts of land are offered to citizens of any ethnic origin to settle in the new themes in return for hereditary military service. The initiative is an instant success, and allows for more centralized style of government, which in turn strengthens the Empire immensely.
658 - Finally able to turn his thoughts to reconquest of the lands that were part of the Roman Empire of the old, Theodosius IV plans the military expedition against the Vandals, whom he intended to punish for their previous breakaway from Rome, as well as to put a stop to Vandal pirates operating near Sicily. A great fleet of over a hundred galleys is assembled, while the land army, composed of soldiers from every corner of the Empire gathers in Naples.
659 - The Second Vandal War begins. A great naval battle is fought between the Roman and the Vandal fleets, with the Romans emerging victorious despite enormous losses (although the Vandal fleet, mauled as it was, was not completely destroyed). The Vandals attempted to delay the approach of the Roman fleet by asking for a three days' truce, however, Theodosius, fully aware of Basiliscus' error two centuries earlier, pressed on. The battle is fought under the walls of Carthage which sees the Vandals defeated, however, the remainder of their force walls themselves in the city, and stoutly resists attempts at subjugation.
660 - The Second Battle of Carthage, in which the reserve Vandal army in combination with the defenders of the city defeats Roman force. The Roman army withdraws from the city's surroundings and both Romans and Vandals attempt to sway Egypt on their side. The Copts in Egypt do not want to get involved in the showdown, and stay neutral.
662 - The fighting in North Africa continues, with neither side able to get a clear sustainable advantage. The Roman reinforcements finally arrive from Asia Minor, swaying the tide of battle to the Roman side just enough to bring the Vandals to the negotiation table. The resulting peace treaty makes no territorial concessions, but does extort a large tribute from the Vandals, as well as demands that the Vandal King makes formal obeissanse to the Emperor. In effect, it is a return to status quo, however, the Imperial prestige has been maintained.
663 - Theodosius IV crowns his eldest son Leo co-Emperor in an elaborate ceremony. As was the case with many of his immediate predecessors, Leo III is sent to Constantinople as both a test of his governance abilities, and a measure to strengthen Ravenna's control over the Eastern territories. In a surprising move, Theodosius succeeds in having his youngest son Valentinianus elected to the Papacy, vacated since the previous Pope passed away. This places the Western Church under more complete Imperial control.
665 - A Frankish king Pepin dies without naming a successor, resulting in civil war within the Frankish dominions. The fighting polarizes between two factions, representing his sons Charles and Lewis. Charles' faction is stronger of the two, however, he is suspected of being in favor of aggressive expansion at the expense of his neighbours. Therefore, Theodosius IV is inclined to support Lewis, who he believes to be less of a potential threat. In subsequent fighting, by 670 the Frankish dominion is split in two, Francia proper, which is given to Charles, and Aquitaine, which is given to Lewis under the terms of peace treaty brokered by Theodosius. He believes that with potentially strong rival at his side, Charles' expansionistic designs would be severely hampered.
666 - (OT: sorry, couldn't resist this one) An Ecumenical Council of Church, gathered in Rome, proclaims Athanasian teachings an anathema, and the followers of Athanasianism heretics, condemned to death. A massive wave of persecution follows, both in the East and in the West of the Empire. Interestingly enough, no representatives of Patriarch of Alexandria were invited to the Council, as Egyptian Christians, living in the shadow of the Caliphate, developed a much more tolerant philosophy towards religion when dealing with its subjects.
667 - Outraged at what seemed like a persecution of the believers, Caliph Muawiya marches into the Roman Syria, destroying every trace of resistance in his path. In marked contrast to the Romans, the Caliphate does not engage into the wave of religious persecution, despite much provocations to that effect.
668 - A Roman force sent against the Caliphate is completely annihilated. A second force, now under Leo III's personal command, fares not much better - while it is not completely destroyed, it is routed, and retreats towards the hearland of Asia Minor with huge casualties. The Caliphate forces overrun Syria, Cilicia, and Armenia.
670 - The Caliphate advance is finally stopped at Chalcedon, almost within sight of Constantinople. At the price of nearly exhausting the Imperial exchequer, Leo III bribes the Bulgars and the Khazars into attacking the Caliphate's flanks, while the Roman fleet's Greek Fire weapons sown the toll of death among the Caliphate fleet. Despite the Caliphate's defeat, the cost has been severe, especially at the time when the Empire could ill-afford it. This led to much popular resentment, especially among the army, where many place blame for disasters of the war on Leo.
671 - Disappointed at the developments in the East, but not willing to accept even partial responsibility for the things that created them (the Ecumenical Council of 666 being a construct of Theodosius, who, later in his life, became rather ridiculously religious even by the standards of the time), Theodosius recalls Leo from the East, and places a second son named Antonius in charge. While not a great military leader by any means, Leo is, however, a politician through and through, and is able to sway the public opinion in his favor, blaming the defeats on inadequate resources given to him by the senior Emperor, as well as on the senior Emperor's obvious provocation of the Arabs.
672 - Antonius' galley never arrives to Constantinople, official version being an attack by the Saracen pirates when Antonius' galley separated from its escorts, but in fact there is little doubt that Leo had a hand in his rival's murder. However, shortly thereafter Leo is found dead in his apartments, believed to be a victim of poisoning - probably ordered by Theodosius. Old Theodosius appoints his third son, Constantine, to be his successor.
673 - A war breaks out between Aquitaine and the Visigothic Kingdom of Iberia. To a surprise of all involved, it results in a crushing victory for Aquitaine, whose king Lewis, once a rival claimant to the Frankish throne, proves himself as able and ruthless as his brother Charles was feared of being.
674 - Theodosius IV dies in Ravenna, his third son succeeding as Constantine VI. Constantine VI is a timid, unremarkable young man, whose reign is dominated by his advisors, and his remarkable wife, Eudocia Macrembolitissa. At her insistense, he moved his court to Constantinople.
676 - The Great Iconoclast Schism. As the Athanasian doctrine that images of saints and of Jesus himself are nothing short of idolatry spreads through Asia Minor, the rulings of the Ecumenical Council of 666 are directly challenged, as it ruled Athanasianism and all its branches as being the vilest heresy. It does not create much of a stir in Italy, however, it is a major issue in Greece, Asia Minor, and in the areas closer to the Caliphate frontier. A charismatic bishop of Nicaea named Stephen is in particular a vocal proponent of iconoclasm, and when he is elected to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, he proclaims that the failures of Leo III's reign are due to the loss of purity of faith, and rampant idolatry of the Emperor and population.
677 - The Emperor deposes the Patriarch, and replaces him with an iconodule bishop. Fighting on the streets of Constantinople escalates, with hundreds killed. Army of the East, overwhelmingly iconoclast, mutinies, and demands Patriarch's reinstatement. In face of such overwhelming odds, Constantine VI capitulates to their demands. The Patriarch Stephen is carried through the streets of Constantinople in triumph as the Emperor watches, unable to do anything.
678 - The Emperor Constantine VI summons another Ecumenical Council at the behest of the Patriarch Stephen, who by now is at the height of his popularity. The goal of the Council is to provide ecclesiastical support for the cause of iconoclasm, which it does, however, not until the delegates from Rome are literally dragged out of the meeting for their refusal to acknowledge the Council's authority. Enraged, the Pope excommunicates the Council, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and, for good measure, the Emperor himself. The Patriarch is quick to return the favor, while the Emperor orders a platoon of soldiers from Ravenna to arrest the Pope and bring him to Constantinople for trial.
679 - While the Western portion of the Empire viewed the theological exchange with general apathy, the attempt to arrest the Pope has proven to be a catalyst for general rebellion. The Italian soldiers flat out refused to carry out the Emperor's will, and instead raised a local aristocrat to the throne, who assumed the name of Claudius III, and receives the Imperial crown in Rome from the hands of the Pope. In the East, the situation destabilizes quickly as well, as the mostly iconodule population of the Greek mainland find itself at odds with mostly iconoclast Asia Minor, Syria (or whatever portion of it that remained in Roman hands), and Palestine. The Emperor attempts to raise an army from his Easternmost provinces, leaving the area dangerously undermanned to defend against potential attacks from the Caliphate, which are quick to follow as the Emperor's host descends upon the Greek mainland to stamp out the opposition.
680 - Swarms of refugees from the Greek mainland arrive in Italy, settling in the area long known as Magna Graecia in the south of the peninsula. The Bulgars, who by now have established a rather large Khanate in former Roman province of Moesia, see the opportunity to expand into the vacant areas. An attempt by the Emperor to stop them is an utter failure - in a resulting battle, more than a half of the Roman army perishes, the Emperor being one of the casualties. With no clear successor, the Patriarch Stephen assumes Regency of the East, being the only figure with enough authority to do so. The Empress Eudocia, universally blamed for much of her husband's policy failures, is forced to take a veil and is shipped off to an island monastery on the Marmara, along with her two young daughters.
681 - Having solidified his rule in Italy, Claudius III turns his attention to the East. The situation he inherited is rather grim. By now, much of the Balkans is lost to the Bulgars and Slavs, with even the interior of Greece no longer subject to the Emperor's will. The Arab incursions in the East are eating away greater and greater portions of the Empire's Asia Minor provinces, while the growing Khazar Kaganate presents a dangerous unknown factor in the Caucasus. Worse yet, the Patriarch of Constantinople has practically usurper the Emperor's place under pretense that the new Emperor must be agreed upon by the Senate - which, not suprisingly, does not seem to be able to agree on a candidate. In fact, the Patriarch's manipulations keep the Senate in a deadlock, unable to even make the simple policy decisions without his approval. Claudius decides to isolate the Patriarch from his support base in Asia Minor by sending two armies East, one to Thessalonica, where it is met with much enthusiasm by the local population, and another to Antalya, which is grudgingly tolerated by the predominantly iconoclast Easterners. He is careful to instruct the armies not to actively impose the cult of the icons, and not to antagonize the local population.
682 - A military expedition to the East resulted in retrieval of territories lost several years earlier to the Arabs, while the army in Greece is able to protect remaining Imperial holdings. These factors, in addition to Claudius' policy of tolerance, slowly swayed the provinces to his side, leaving the Patriarch Stephen in control of Constantinople itself, but not much else. In Constantinople, the Patriarch has instituted a virtual witchhunt, holding and executing anyone suspected of disloyalty without trial with the help of his fanatical guards. Seeing that his fall is only a matter of time, he goes as far as recall the ex-Empress Eudocia from her banishment, and proclaims her Augusta in attempt to rally his unwilling subjects, yet it is to no avail as Claudius' armies draw ever closer to Constantinople.
683 - Claudius III enters Constantinople as the gates open up to him without a fight. The Patriarch, surprisingly, accepts situation with dignity, and is packed off to Theodosia in Crimea to end his days there. As a moderate, Claudius is accepted by both sides of the debate, although there is small but growing discontent among the Greeks who distrust the Latin Emperor. Through the rest of Claudius' reign, his concilliatory policies win him much popularity in ecclesiastical, military, and commercial circles, thus earning him the epitet of Great.
685 - Knowing that successful government of the Empire meant balancing between the East and the West, but not always able to be in both places at the same time, Claudius names two Caesars, technically junior Emperors, one responsible for Italy, another one for Asia Minor and Greece. Surprisingly, Claudius passes over his sons and immediate family, and chooses a prominent Greek Senator Michael Macrembolitissa, a relative of the ex-Empress Eudocia, as his lieutenant in the East, while command of the West passes to Fabius Nepos, a Latin aristocrat from Rome. Claudius does, however, make it clear that neither of the posts are hereditary, and that only he retains the supreme authority in all matters.
686 - Both East and West experience a period of rebuilding and consolidation of the Roman territories. Through a variety of methods including forced loans and monopolization of trade and certain industries, state finances are restored to a manageable level, while army is significantly reorganized along the thematic lines. In the north, a war erupts between Aquitaine and Francia, resulting in a Frankish loss. Alarmed, the Romans enter into alliance with Francia and Visigothic Iberia to keep Aquitainian ambitions in check.
689 - Attempting to heal the rifts between the Churches, Emperor Claudius summons another Ecumenical Council to be held at Nicaea, the site of the first Ecumenical Council centuries ago. He takes special care to invite delegates from all five Patriarchal sees, even the representatives of the heretical Athanasians. The Council, however lauded, goes only to show that the essential unity of the Christian faith lies in tatters, and that whatever doctrines the various branches of the faith espouse are often in direct contradiction with each other. The Council would go on for another two years, however, it achieved very little, as none of the concilliatory doctrines proposed by the Emperor, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Pope of Rome take root, leaving Christendom as divided as ever. It has even been rumoured that after a bitter disappointment of a Council, the Emperor Claudius even contemplated abandoning Christianity altogether, as it had done nothing but divide his subjects. Of course, such rumours are quietly silenced in due time.
695 - First mention of missionaries sent to the Bulgar Khanate. At this time, the Bulgar mission meets with little success.
698 - As Claudius III grew older, a question of who would succeed him arose. Both Caesars lobbied heavily to be recognized as successor, while Claudius' son, Tiberius was attempting to get recognized as a legal heir based on hereditary principle (which, incidentally, was not formally recognized). The old factionalist violence between the Blues, the Greens, and the Whites, supporting respectfully Tiberius, Michael, and Nepos, broke out in a number of major cities, and it was only with a great difficulty that the Emperor restored control. His son and the Caesars, he declared, were fine young people, but neither of them possessed the kind of vision, he believed, that would be necessary to lead the Empire. Thus, he shall entrust the Patriarch of Constantinople with a document naming his successor, that shall be only announced after his death to prevent any threats against his chosen successor.
701 - As he lay in his deathbed, Claudius III could congratulate himself on what amounted to an excellent reign, both in the eyes of his contemporaries, as well as those of the subsequent generations. The frontiers were secure, the treasury full, and a semblance of internal peace was restored. Yet, not soon after he breathed his last, his subjects were sorry that he was gone. Tiberius and the two Caesars formed an informal alliance, ensuring the ascention of Tiberius, as the two Caesars are simultaneously promoted to the rank of the Augusti. Through intimidation and bribes, the Patriarch and the Senate acknowledge Tiberius III as the Emperor of the Romans, with unprecedented two other Augusti of technically equal rank. The people had good reasons to mourn Claudius the Great. They will not see a likeness of him for more than half a century.
January 20th, 2006, 06:36 PM
703 - It becomes apparent early on that Tiberius III is not even close to his late father in terms of abilities, leadership, or, as a matter of fact, in any other qualities. Preferring a life of pleasure in the comforts of Constantinople, he pays little attention to the affairs of the state, which are handled by his two co-Emperors pretty much in the same way they have always been handled. Unfortunately, while his father had been able to control both Nepos and Macrembolitissa and channel their ambitions for the good of the Empire, Tiberius does not possess the same degree of authority, thus resulting in tension between the two. Both the Eastern and Western co-Emperors, having tasted the power, and having been elevated to the highest positions in the Empire, are now centering their ambitions on sole possession of power. Plot follows plot in quick succession in the palaces of both Ravenna and Constantinople, as the Bulgar presense in the Balkans strengthens.
705 - The Emperor Tiberius travels to Italy at behest of Flavius Nepos. After only a month's stay, he is found dead in his luxurious apartments in Ravenna. The accusations start to fly immediately that Nepos has somehow contrived to remove Tiberius - the accusations Nepos is quick to turn against his Eastern colleague, accusing him of murdering Tiberius and framing the Western Emperor.
706 - By now, previous tensions escalate into a full-scale civil war, with the entire Empire split in two camps. Both rival Emperors by now claim to be a sole lawful ruler of the Empire, and the heir named in late Claudius' will, the story of which now circulates throughout the realm. Most fighting at this point is between the rival fleets in the Adriatic, as neither claimant, rightfully so, believes their authority sufficiently secure from any insurrections.
707 - The Eastern Army lands in Apulia, and proceeds north, expecting to find little resistance from the primarily Greek population of Southern Italy. The Western Army withdraws north to defend Rome and Ravenna, while a small force arrives in Epirus by land and starts ravaging the countryside around Durazzo, taking that town later in the year.
708 - With the fighting in a stalemate, Nepos takes a fateful step, approaching the Bulgars and offering them rich rewards if they attack his rival. The Bulgars, long covering Constantinople and the wealth of Asia Minor, do not hesitate, soon overrunning much of Macedonia.
709 - After a prolonged siege, the Bulgars capture Adrianople in Thrace. Michael Macrembolitissa, not to be outclassed, summoned the aid of the Vandals, Aquitainians, and Lombards, promising both portions of respectfully Sicily and Northern Italy to settle in if successful.
711 - As the civil war goes on, it becomes clear that the opposing sides are evenly matched, and even with the outside help, the stalemate could not be broken. In fact, the only sides that could claim some tangible gains are the very barbarians that the rival Emperors employed to gain the edge on one another. Already Bulgar dominion covers much of interior of Greece, casting its shadow over Thrace; and while the Lombards and the Vandals made no territorial gains to speak of, the young Kingdom of Aquitaine grows by leaps and bounds, chewing away at the Northern Italian frontiers. Worse yet, the patience of the armies, clergy, and the populations of both East and West is by now wearing thin with two so-called Emperors that, while being competent lieutenants of a great ruler, made their own lack of greatness even more so apparent by squabbling over the remnant of his dominion. The matters are brought to head in Ravenna when a disgruntled officer slays Nepos. Ironically enough, despite no competitor Emperor, the Eastern Emperor Michael I is still refused recognition in the West. Without leadership, the army and people of the West turn to the Senate, which, in turn, elected a septagenerian general Lotharius to the vacant throne.
712 - Michael I conducts a quick peace treaty with the Bulgars, acknowledging the territorial gains they already made, and attempts to fully concentrate on bringing the West into submission. The great fleet that he prepares, however, is destroyed in a massive sea engagement near Corfu, in what proves to be a decisive battle of the war. As the news of defeat travel to Constantinople, a palace coup removes Michael, who is then blinded and forsibly tonsured. Michael dies later that year. The leader of a coup, the one Basil Ducas, quickly has himself crowned Emperor, and sends ambassadors to Lotharius to negotiate a settlement.
713 - The agreement between the Eastern and the Western Emperors is finally reached after seven years of fighting, and both of the original antagonists in their graves. The treaty practically confirms the status quo, that is, that both Emperors agree to acknowledge the claims, titles, and territories of the other. What it does not mention is that for the first time in two centuries, it establishes a precedent of two Roman Emperors, acting completely independently of each other, while respecting the other's equal claims.
715 - The Western Emperor Lotharius, already advanced in age, dies peacefully in Ravenna. Since he left no clear instructions regarding a successor, the Senate convenes again, conferring the crown upon the one Antonius, known in Italy both for his powerful connections (being nephew of the Pope and son-in-law of former Emperor Nepos being not the least of them), and for his political acumen. Recognition from the East is quick to follow, as Basil Ducas is more concerned with founding a dynasty in his part of the Empire than he is with a perilous and risky business of taking over the West. Thus, Basil I crowns his eldest son, another Basil, co-Emperor.
716 - The year 716 sees the first distinguished appearance of the one Anthemius of Paphlagonia on the scene. Despite being of obscure origin, during the reigns of Tiberius and Michael I, he held high military positions in the East, being entrusted with command of the legions defending the frontier, and displaying great skill and courage in his position. To Basil, however, Anthemius has little loyalty. Claiming to be a natural son of Claudius III, Anthemius quickly gathers a host of followers, including many of the Eastern legions. Soliciting support of the Caliph, he sets up his court at Trebizond, letting Basil Ducas make his moves.
717 - Basil Ducas crowns his younger son Andronicus co-Emperor while he and his eldest son march at the head of the army against the rebel. They are aided by Khazars, whose Khagan is promised large payments of gold as well as the hand of one of the Emperor's daughters in marriage for his assistance. The rebel forces advance East, and the decisive battle is fought near the town of Amorium. The battle is inconclusive until, in the heat of the fight, Anthemius is accidentally shot at by his own archers and killed. Lacking stomach for the fight after their leader's death, the rebel army routs and is slaughtered by the Imperial and Khazar forces.
719 - A semblance of normality returns to the East as most challenges to Basil Ducas are eliminated. In the West, the rule of Antonius is stable and unchallenged, however, much of it is due to the weakening of the Imperial power, much of which is usurped by the favorites and various factions to whom Antonius owes his election, as, despite his political skills, Antonius is not gifted with great leadership ability. In a meanwhile, the clouds for the storm that would rain over both Empires in the coming decades are gathering.
720 - Omortag is probably one of the greatest leaders Bulgaria has ever produced, rising from humble beginnings to become a Khan of the Bulgars, and making a name for himself in the Byzantine civil wars, as well as in wars against the Avars, Slavs, and other tribes. Unifying the tribes into one cohesive force, by 720 Omortag rules over what used to be the Roman province of Moesia, large parts of Thrace, and the interior of Greece. No longer satisfied with his dominions, his eyes are by now centered on a greater goal, Constantinople itself, and the establishment of a great Bulgarian Empire on the ashes of the Greek/Roman one. Knowing very well that such an undertaking, though offering potentially great rewards, is also extremely demanding in resources and manpower, he begins attempts to integrate lesser tribes into Bulgaria proper. Within a space of a few years, a semi-tribal Khanate is transformed into a centralized, aggressive power that appears destined for greatness.
721 - In the West, much of the political energy of the government is wasted in factional strife on the Senate floor, which is almost deliberately encouraged by the Emperor Antonius, as it seems to be about the only thing he really excels in. Nevertheless, the frontiers of the Western Empire are peaceful, as King Francis of Aquitaine's kingdom is nearly split by civil war, Franks, Visigoths, and Lombards are tending to their own issues, and a war between the Copts of Egypt and the Vandals ties up their respective kingdoms.
723 - An obscure preacher named Peter reaches a large audience in Central Anatolia, claiming to have been visited by angels that revealed to him the truth of some teachings of Athanasius. While his own version of Athanasianism would be considered heretical to the extreme by the Caliphate, he does make a convincing case for iconoclasm, breathing new life into the iconoclast movement.
724 - Peter is summoned to Constantinople, where he is given an ecclesiastical trial. Though the question of iconoclasm has not been given prominence as of recent, the feelings on both sides of the debate ran strong, and with iconodule Patriarch presiding over the trial, there was no doubt over what the outcome would be. Peter is thrown in three different jails, before his sentense of death is somewhat softened by exile to Cherson.
725 - Iconoclast riots break out in Constantinople and the cities of Asia Minor. Despite the Patriarch and the Emperor's best efforts, the riots barely subside. The angry mobs are calling for Patriarch's resignation, and for the Emperor to publicly profess iconoclasm. At this inopportune moment, Basil I Ducas dies of fever, to be succeeded by his two sons, who are jointly enthroned as Basil II and Andronicus I. The younger son, Andronicus, is quick to see a chance to be elevated to sole supreme power, and openly associates himself with iconoclasts. The guards sent by Basil to capture his brother and to bring him for trial for heresy flat out refuse to acknowledge the order, and seize Basil instead, who is then blinded at Andronicus' behest, and sent off to a monastery on an island in the Marmara.
726 - By now, the Bulgar Khan Omortag is ready to make his first move. Using an escalated merchant dispute as a pretext, he launches his great host upon the Black Sea ports, still under Roman control. Varna, and the cities around it fall without too much of a struggle, giving Omortag complete control of the coast.
727 - Andronicus Ducas sends a Byzantine army against Omortag, which advances deep into Bulgar territory, plundering and ravaging the countryside and the cities. Finding no trace of enemy, it turns back towards Constantinople. This is the moment when Omortag chooses to strike. As the Roman army enters a deep ravine, the Bulgars encircle them, massacring most of the army. News of the disaster are heard with horror in Constantinople, imploring Andronicus to seek help from the West.
728 - Despite impassionate appeals for help from his Eastern colleague, the Western Emperor Antonius refuses assistance unless Andronicus, as a heretic and a usurper of his brother's throne, abdicates, restores Basil II (or, due to Basil's blindness, Basil's infant son Nicephorus) to the throne, and renounces iconoclasm. Faced with such terms, Andronicus could do nothing but watch his Western provinces eaten away by the Bulgar tide.
729 - Using loyal troops from Asia Minor, Andronicus is able to restore a semblance of normality to the capital and the cities still under Imperial control. His attempts to incite the Avars to attack the seemingly unprotected Bulgar rear, however persuasive, have failed. In a meanwhile, the rumors circulate that the Bulgars, instead of burning the Byzantine cities and returning with plunder, as they have done in the past, are actively settling in the coastal ports, while building a massive fleet of warships.
730 - The Bulgar fleet makes its way into the Marmara, as Omortag's land forces approach Constantinople, starting the siege that was to last for two years. The fortifications of Constantinople, however, proved to be too strong for Omortag and his troops to overcome, while the Greek Fire sent most of the Bulgar fleet to their watery graves.
731 - The Western Emperor Antonius dies, to be succeeded by his nephew Justinian. The new Emperor, conscious of his namesake's attempts of reconquest, wastes no time in making his intentions known. Unfortunately for the Eastern Empire, he is content leaving the "heretical usurper" Andronicus to his fate, as he contemplates incursions into Gaul, North Africa, and Iberia.
732 - The Bulgar siege of Constantinople is lifted as the Bulgar army falls victim to pestilence and famine. Despite this unexpected deliverance for the Byzantines, the Bulgar determination and resolve had not been broken. Instead, Omortag will put the lessons learned to good use in the years to come.
733 - Finally feeling secure on the Western throne, Justinian II initiates an ambitious program of expansion. After evaluating strengths and weaknesses of his neighbours, he believes that the Vandals, just recently coming out of war with the Egyptians, are least likely to offer serious determined resistance. Patching up an alliance with Egypt, Justinian begins a major naval buildup, while the Imperial recruiters scout Italy day and night, looking for able-bodied men for conscription into the army.
734 - Andronicus Ducas crowns his two-year-old son Leontius co-Emperor. Simultaneously, ex-Emperor Basil is strangled in his monastery cell, ostensibly on the orders of his brother. Basil's son Nicephorus, believing that he would be marked for death or worse, escapes to Italy, and pleads with Justinian II to remove the usurper, and restore him to his rightful throne. To such effect, he makes formal obedience to Pope, and publicly denounces the cause of iconoclasm. This puts Justinian II in a quandary. On one side, the restoration of Nicephorus in the East would do much to unify the divided Empire, as well as to provide him with additional base of resources and manpower in case of success. On the other hand, the preparations made for the new Vandal war would have to be scrapped, the military and the navy put to different use. After long deliberations, Justinian decides that restoring the Eastern provinces is of more pressing importance, and gives orders to set sails for Asia Minor.
735 - Peloponnessus and Thessalonica surrender to Nicephorus and his Western army without as much as a pretense of struggle, however, the cities of Asia Minor, where the iconoclast sympathies run strong, throw their support behind Andronicus. As the European provinces of Byzantium fall away from Andronicus' control, he evacuates his court to the East, to the city of Trebizond, chosen both for its strategic location, as well as for being a bastion of iconoclast feeling.
736 - Andronicus enters into an alliance with the Caliphate, obtaining the Caliph's assistance in the upcoming civil war. In a meanwhile, the Khazars decide to stay neutral, raiding into the south indiscriminately. Instead of entering Constantinople, Nicephorus lands in Asia Minor, and besieges Nicaea, believing that after major strongholds of his cousin's supporters fall, the capital would surrender on its own.
737 - The Bulgars seize their chance, and send another great armada towards Constantinople. In a meanwhile, Bulgar army penetrates into Macedonia, and takes over most of remaining Byzantine Thrace, leaving only Constantinople itself and Thessalonica in the Imperial hands in all of northern Greece.
738 - A series of inconclusive skirmishes are fought between the forces of Nicephorus and Andronicus. While not displaying neither rival having a clear advantage, it has a side effect of allowing the Bulgars practically a free rein in Europe, with both Eastern and Western armies tied up in a fratricidal struggle. Using the Imperial navy's distraction in civil war, the Bulgars ship a large army to Asia Minor, where it takes Bursa and parts of Paphlagonia. Having to guard against Andronicus, Nicephorus cannot do much.
739 - Andronicus, whose position is getting increasingly desperate despite Arab support, offers the Bulgars a formal secession of already occupied territories in turn for their support in civil war. Khan Omortag, finding Constantinople impregnable, and having exhausted opportunities for plunder, accepts. The resulting Bulgar raids against Nicephorus distract him enough to allow Andronicus to rebuild his forces and to strengthen his position.
740 - In the West, Justinian II's plans of reconquest of lost territories are paralyzed with a large portion of his army occupied in the East, and the fear of domestic rebellion tying up the rest of his forces. In a meanwhile, Andronicus' forces, supplemented by a contingent of cavalry sent by the Caliph, launch a major offensive through Anatolia. Nicephorus is defeated on two separate occasions, however, neither defeat is crushing, and he is able to recover easily.
741 - Justinian II grows increasingly frustrated with his gamble to restore order in the East, and to put his protege on the throne of Constantinople. Unfortunately for Nicephorus, Justinian's attention is distracted by Avar incursions into Italy, which get serious enough to where even a portion of the Eastern army has to be recalled. In a weaker position than before, Nicephorus is practically abandoned by his Western colleague. Thus, Nicephorus decides upon a desperate gamble. With his army, that by now was not believed to exceed ten thousand men, down significantly from the fifty-thousand-strong force he received at the beginning of his Eastern misadventures, he marches straight on Trebizond, abandoning his former positions and hoping to surprise his rival, and to achieve his surrender.
742 - Nicephorus chose the right moment to strike at Trebizond, as most of his rival's army was advancing towards the Western portion of Asia Minor, still in Nicephorus' hands. Trebizond was only defended by a handful of elite guards, and a detachment of Arab cavalry provided by the Caliph. A surprise assault on the city leaves few survivors, with a general massacre following. Andronicus is caught trying to flee and is slain with the rest, although not before getting a messenger through to the main army. The main army of Andronicus is too late to save their Emperor, but soon enough to capture Nicephorus' forces unaware, and to slaughter them in their turn. Nicephorus himself is among the casualties.
743 - The year 743 finds the Roman Empire in shambles. In the West, the Emperor Justinian II only barely holds on to his throne after military misadventures in the East. In the East, with both claimaints to the throne dead, a general chaos prevails, the main beneficiaries of which are the Arabs, quick to take advantage of disorder, and taking territories as far north as the Black Sea. The Caliph installs Andronicus' surviving younger son Michael as a puppet Emperor in Trebizond, while the city itself is surrounded by Caliphate's newfound possessions. In Constantinople, plot follows plot until commander of Excubitors, the elite military guard, throws his support behind one Isaac, Logothete of the Treasury, as the next Emperor. The Bulgar Khanate strengthens its hold on Thrace, Macedonia, and the portion of Asia Minor it was able to occupy.
745 - The Emperor Isaac dies in Constantinople, poison being suspected. Humiliated and brought low, the Byzantines accept the young Michael Ducas as the Emperor, fearing an attack from the Caliphate should they choose not to, an attack the Empire could not defend against. Michael II Ducas is brought to Constantinople in hopes he will give the Eastern Empire new stability. The Caliph, believing that the benefit of having a recognized Emperor sympathetic to his cause far outweights the risks of letting him rule independently from Constantinople, throws his informal support behind Michael, arranging for the young Emperor's marriage to one of the Caliph's daughters.
746 - The great Bulgar Khan Omortag dies of fever, aged sixty one. His son Vladimir is a weak and indecisive figure, able to preserve his father's conquests, but not able to press forward the advantage. As a result, the Bulgar Khanate's expansion is halted. He is followed to the grave by Justinian II, Emperor of the West. Justinian II is succeeded by his half-brother Claudius.
748 - In response to Avar and Lombard incursions that penetrated as deep as Ravenna, Claudius IV announces that he will be moving the capital to previously little known town of Veneto, or Venice, due to its better defensibility. Incidentally, this move, resounding through the history, made the future historians refer to the Western Rome as the Venetian Empire, just like the Eastern Rome was frequently referred to as Byzantium, or Byzantine Empire due to a town that stood on the location of Constantinople before the Eastern Empire's capital was founded.
750 - As Claudius IV reasserted his position in Italy, and strengthened his borders against future incursions by the barbarians, he became determined to make his brother's expansion plans a glorious reality. The first step, however, was a reconcilliation with Constantinople. To that effect, an embassy was sent to the court of Michael II, with the promises of peace, recognition, and eternal alliance. For the first time in almost fifty years, the Roman world was finally in peace. Alas, peace proved to be only temporary.
752 - Despite his apparent youth and inexperience, Michael II is shaping up to be a capable and responsible ruler. Moreso, he is lucky to have as his chief advisor the most famous scholar of the day, the one Leo of Caesarea. While not going as far as to completely renounce iconoclasm, Michael does strive to reconcile the differences between his Eastern and Western provinces, ever mindful of the silent but powerful presense of the Caliphate at his borders. In the West, his colleague Claudius IV sees his chance of expansion at the first signs of civil strife in Iberia, where a civil war obliged the ruling King Alfonso to flee to the Roman-held southern shore of Gibraltar, seeking protection and assistance against his usurping nephew Theodoric. With a casus belli aptly justified, Claudius is only too happy to promise the Iberian King assistance in restoring him to the throne, at a hefty price and major territorial concessions. Finding Aquitaine and Francia embroiled in their own internal issues, Claudius believes that the time is right to make the Western Mediterranean a Roman lake once more.
753 - The Roman army, supplemented with regiments of Avar and Lombard mercenaries, as well as the troops of Visigothic loyalists, lands in Granada, and marches north, defeating all Visigothic resistance it meets. The climactic battle is fought between the Roman and Visigothic forces, resulting in a complete defeat of Theodoric and his army, the remnants of which flee north to prepare last-ditch defence.
754 - Roman forces besiege Valencia, where Theodoric and a handful of supporters are holed up. By the end of the year, the Visigoths are reduced to eating the corpses of their horses and dead men's flesh. Claudius offers terms of surrender that are surprisingly merciful, ordering for Theodoric to be handed over with a few of his chief ministers, but allowing the remaining Visigoths to go free. The catch is that the terms only bind the Roman army, but not their native Visigothic allies, who fall on the rebels and attempt to slaughter them while the Romans watch impassively. Even then, Claudius was able to double-cross his allies, secretly warning the remnant of the rebel army of the impending attack, and doing nothing to intervene on either side. Without Roman support, the royalists are still victorious, but only after taking large casualties that include King Alfonso himself - some rumours have it that the blow that killed the King came from behind... With Alfonso's son still a minor, Claudius is easily able to set up a puppet Visigothic rump state in Western Iberia, while the entire Eastern coast, for the first time in three centuries, returned to Roman control. Upon return to Italy, Claudius gives himself a triumph in the ancient manner, marching the spoils of war and many of his captives, including Theodoric, behind his chariot.
755 - In the East, Michael II is quick to take advantage of internal instability in the Bulgar Khanate. The Byzantine troops march into the Bulgar-occupied portion of Asia Minor, as the Imperial fleet provides effective blockade preventing the Bulgars from sending reinforcements. Instead of massacring the captive Bulgars, however, the Emperor orders them resettled in the interior of Anatolia and in Cyprus, under condition of their conversion to Christianity.
756 - Byzantine wars of reconquest continue, this time in Macedonia. The Bulgars are driven back from the coast of Greece into the interior as many smaller towns and lands around Thessalonika are retaken. The Bulgars who are taken prisoner are once again forced to convert to Christianity, and resettled in Asia Minor. At the same time, a program of relocation of Greeks from Anatolia begins, resulting in a resettlement of much of the Balkan peninsula with Greek settlers, and return of many areas to the Byzantine control.
757 - Encouraged by the success of his Iberian campaigns, Claudius IV is looking for other opportunities for expansion. Obsessed with the idea of restoring the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries, he is nevertheless conscious of limited resources at his disposal, and is thus picking his way with care. Using instances of Vandal pirates attacking Imperial merchant ships as an excuse, he assembles an army that later that year sails for Vandal-held North Africa. Not willing to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors, he lands his forces in the Western portion of Vandal dominions, closer to the Imperial territory and giving him the ability to supply his army efficiently, while an alliance with Egypt opens a second front against the Vandal forces. As his forces march through Tunisia, the Vandals attempt to stop him, however, with the Egyptian incursions threatening Carthage from the East, they are unable to stop the Imperial army, which presses forward with dogged determination.
758 - As the Egyptian assault on Carthage is rebuffed, main Vandal army marches to meet Claudius in battle. Initially, the Vandals are successful, breaking the Roman vanguard and pressing hard upon the main force, however, a moderately sized cavalry regiment that Roman navy landed behind the Vandal lines attacked the Vandal host from the rear, quickly turning an almost certain victory into a general rout. Demoralized and disorganized, the Vandals are no match for successive Roman advances, which culminate in the Roman army advancing to within the sight of Carthage.
759 - Carthage falls to the combined Roman and Egyptian forces. Most of the Vandal territory is annexed into the Roman Empire outright, with the Eastern portions of it incorporated into Egypt. A rump Vandal client state is left in Cyrenaica, mostly as a buffer between the now-reluctant allies. As staunch Arian Christians, the Vandals were never very popular among their Coptic, Berber, Latin, and Greek subjects, even after the rule of two centuries, and thus the reincorporation of North Africa into the Western Empire is relatively smooth. While the occasional hotspots of Vandal pirate activity remain in the Mediterranean, over the next decade they would be stomped out one by one by the Imperial navy, now in full control of the seas around Italy. Claudius sees this success as deserving of another triumph, which is held twice, once in Venice, and once in the ancient capital of Rome. As the importance of Venice as naval base grows, even though one of the original reasons for moving the capital has been eliminated, Claudius is hesitant to move the capital back to Rome or Ravenna, despite his love of ancient customs. By now, he realizes, much of the Roman power is in control of the seas, and Venice is a perfect spot to conduct such a strategy from.
760 - A peculiar characteristic of the Caliphate is the fact that the office of Caliph is theoretically elective, even if ever since the ascention of Athanasian Caliphs the election has usually been a pure formality, formally acknowledging the ascention of previous Caliph's designated heir. The downside of this system is if the previous Caliph fails to name a successor, or dies before getting a chance to do so. The great Caliph Harun, whose support originally helped Michael to gain his throne, dies suddenly during a hunting accident, without naming a clear successor. As such, the struggle for the Caliphate polarizes between three factions, two of them supporting late Caliph's sons Omar and Akbar, and one supporting the Grand Vizier Nureddin. Through ruse and treachery, Nureddin manages to lure Akbar into a meeting, supposedly to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement, and has him slain in cold blood. Ever a conniving politician, Nureddin manages to convince Akbar's chief officers that an assassin sent by Omar has penetrated the palace defences, and that he himself was guiltless. Thus, in the resulting civil war, Omar's faction initially appeared the weakest.
761 - As Omar's brother-in-law, Michael II believes this is a golden opportunity not only to repay his own debt to Harun, but also to restore Imperial control in much of Anatolia. He conveys the message to Omar that the Imperial army would be available to assist him in civil war in return for the provinces taken over by the Caliphate in the previous Byzantine civil war. Pressed on all sides, and in desperate need for allies, Omar has no choice but agree. Michael is as good as his word, sending a large army to his brother-in-law's dominions.
763 - The Caliphate's civil war is now at end, Omar's faction coming out on top with Byzantine help. True to his word, Omar relinquishes control of Arab portions of Asia Minor back to Byzantium, while Michael promises to respect and tolerate the Athanasian minorities within his dominions.
765 - With the recent conquests, the Empires of both East and West are busy consolidating their newly regained territories, rebuilding the infrastructure, and hammering out agreements and treaties with their neighbours. In a meanwhile, a new power is rising to prominence in the frigid lands of the North. In the summer of 765, monks of an abbey on the Eastern shore of Angleland are terrified to see a fleet of dragon ships rowing towards their shore. The monastery is pillaged and burnt, with most of the monks slain or taken into slavery. This is the first recorded appearance of the Northmen in the Western history, sometimes known as the Vikings (although it would be fair to say that the term "Viking" only referred to the Northmen warriors, even if the other nations often used it to refer to all Northmen). Over the following decades, the Viking raids will become less an annoyance, and more of a permanent threat to the emerging nations of Western Europe and what would one day become Rus.
766 - Aquitainian raids across the Pyrenees into the Roman and Visigothic territories prompt a swift retaliatory strike. The opportunist he always was, Claudius quickly attempted to strike an alliance with Francia, promising a mutual division of Aquitainian territories obtained in conquest. The Frankish King Lewis is apprehensive of the idea, but declines to enter the war at the time, believing the Romans may be overextending themselves. The subsequent events prove him right, as after two years of war neither side made much gains, and, in fact, a few Roman border towns even fell to the Aquitainian army.
768 - Emperor Claudius IV does not live to see the end of the Aquitainian war, dying in Venice a month before the final peace treaty which signified a return to status quo. Just days before his passing, Claudius nominated a successor, his grandson Aurelius, with Claudius' son-in-law Septimius (the father of Aurelius) a Regent until the Emperor (eight-year-old at the time) reaches majority. Nevertheless, succeeding where many of his predecessors failed, Claudius IV left the Empire incomparably stronger, wealthier, and larger than he inherited it, thus earning the epitet of the Conqueror from the posterity.
769 - The Pictish tribal coalition that covers the northern half of Britain is the first to feel the full force of the Viking assaults. The Picts, who had only recently started building a centralized state, are powerless to stop the invaders who appear seemingly out of nowhere and disappear before a reprisal could be made. Their more civilized neighbours to the south, the Angles, are less warlike, devoid of major conflict since the failed invasion of the Saxons over two centuries ago, and thus they are seen as an easy prey by the Viking warlords.
770 - Despite the outward alliance and seemingly warm relations between the Caliphate and Byzantium, there is an unseen war going on between the two, a war of a kind never before fought. It is a struggle to convert the border nation of the Khazars to the prevalent religions of the states, Orthodox Christianity for Byzantium, or Athanasian Christianity in case of the Caliphate (for the Caliphate stil considers itself to be a Christian nation, even if its version of Christianity is nothing like what is taught in the West). Over the years, waves of missionaries pour into the Caucasus, swaying few of the Khazars, and seriously alarming their Kagan that the foreign religious influence may destroy the degree of independence that his people prize above all. In late 770, the Kagan Ziebil announces to the Byzantine and Arab ambassadors that, while he does not wish to antagonize his powerful neighbours, the Khazars will follow their own way in spiritual matters. It is then that Ziebil publicly announces his conversion to Judaism, not as much a statement of faith as a proud statement of independence and neutrality in the other nations' affairs. Much of the Khazar nation converts immediately thereafter.
772 - Seeing their religious ambassadors fail, and not wishing to risk the fragile alliance, the Caliphate and Byzantium both agree to leave the Khazars to their own devices. Now, there is a different target for their religious ambitions - Bulgaria. After unsuccessful reign of Khan Vladimir, the Bulgar throne passed to his son Boris, who is a much more capable and fearsome leader. Fortunately for Byzantium, his ambitions are centered more around Dalmatia, and in the Avar lands, thus for most of his long reign the Bulgars are not going to be a major concern for the Eastern Romans. Ever conscious of an opportunity presented by competition from two major powers, Boris skillfully manipulates the Byzantines and the Arabs without promising conversion of his person or his people. Such manipulation allows the Bulgar Khanate to expand unchecked into the West and North, more than compensating for the lands lost to Byzantium in the recent years by Transdanubian conquests.
773 - Septimius, the Regent of the Western Empire, successfully gets crowned co-Emperor by his young son. Suspiciously, young Aurelius falls sick shortly thereafter, and dies (although in a recent study it has been established that death of Aurelius was in most likelihood natural). The Senate and the military command, suspecting Septimius of regicide, issue an order to arrest him, which is promptly executed. Septimius is imprisoned, and starved to death while awaiting trial.
774 - The Western Empire is in a crisis, as the Senate and the army cannot seem to agree on a single candidate to fill the vacant throne. Despairing, a delegation is sent to the court of Michael Ducas in Constantinople, agreeing to submit to his judgement as the sole rightful Roman Emperor still reigning. While Michael does not appoint a senior Western Emperor, he sends one of his sons, David, to Italy, invested with the rank of a Caesar, and with the implied authority to rule in Italy in his father's stead. It was later argued that this move was a thinly-disguised last-ditch attempt by the Eastern Emperor to regain at least some control of the Western Empire, which over the course of the last century drifted so far away from the Eastern to where they were practically two completely independent entities, technically allied to each other, but practically able to make their own domestic and foreign policy decisions independently.
776 - Michael II Ducas dies in Constantinople after a long and glorious reign, over the course of which the Eastern Empire rebounded from what seemed like a nadir of its fortunes. His eldest son Andronicus succeeds without an incident as Andronicus II. Simultaneously, his brother David in Venice is raised to the rank of Augustus. It is a little known fact with significant ramifications that much of Andronicus' smooth succession was due to the price of having David as an independent Western Emperor. Thus, despite the Eastern and Western Emperors both being scions of the House of Ducas, the Empires remain as divided as ever.
777 - The raids of Germanic tribes into Francia escalate into a full-scale war of conquest, forcing the Frankish King Charles to commit much of his military to defending the frontier. King Albert of Aquitaine, ever mindful of his own (by now rather distant) claim to the throne of Francia, senses an opportunity and orders an invasion. Believing the Germans to be a greater threat than the Aquitainians, Charles leaves only a token force behind to protect his back, hoping for a quick victory.
778 - In an encounter with the German army, the Franks suffer a calamitous defeat that, despite not causing large numbers of casualties, deals a critical blow to their morale. Frankish feudal lords flat out refuse to continue the border war, and demand that Charles regroup his forces and march against the Aquitainians, believing their estates in immediate danger of being overran. When Charles tries to reason that the Germans present a greater danger, and that the cities of southern Frankia could resist the Aquitainians for a long time, while the north is vulnerable, the barons rise up and depose him, locking him up in a secluded monastery. An embassy is then sent to Albert by the barons, agreeing to swear an oath of loyalty to him as long as their estates and privileges are confirmed. Albert agrees, and is promptly crowned King of All Franks, thus beginning the Twin Monarchy of Aquitaine and Francia.
780 - The principles of iconoclasm, once strong, are starting to lose ground in Asia Minor. With a greater religious tolerance during the reign of Michael II, and peace on the frontiers, a flowering of arts and sciences soon followed in both Byzantium and Caliphate.
781 - Egypt annexes the rump state of Nea Vandalor, by now consisting of a small portion of Cyrenaica and surviving only due to tolerance of the other powers. The Western Emperor David protests, but does not take action, being more concerned with the possible territorial ambitions of Aquitaine, and the ways to counter them.
782 - A large Egyptian force lands in Crete, promptly occupying Candia and surrounding areas. For Andronicus II, this means war. A great Byzantine fleet is assembled and sent towards Crete, however, most of it is destroyed in a freak storm. The survivors, lacking a stomach for a fight, return to a naval base at Rhodes.
783 - The Egyptians finish their conquest of Crete. Now seriously alarmed, Andronicus II starts a major fleet building program, taking after his Western colleague, whose navies control the seas in the Western Mediterranean. An appeal for help is sent to the West, while preparations for an assault are made.
784 - David agrees to dispatch a portion of the Western fleet to Crete, which sails to meet the Copts in battle along with the Eastern fleet. While the main force engages the Coptic navy, a small squadron of dromons sneaks past Egyptian defences and attacks in the Nile Delta, setting fire to Egyptian ships caught in port, and taking numerous prisoners. While the naval battle for control of Crete is only a marginal victory for the Romans, the psychological effect of the raid is far greater, resulting in Egypt agreeing to evacuate Crete, restore the independence of Nea Vandalor (which is considerably enlarged at the Egyptian expense, though still not to an extent of becoming too powerful) as a vassal state to the Western Empire, and pay a large indemnity.
785 - Sensing a temporary Egyptian weakness, the Caliphate advances into Sinai, which is captured. The Egyptians, demoralized and humiliated, could offer little active resistance.
786 - The first mention of Viking raids on the northern coast of Francia.
787 - In the lands of the Caliphate, an alarming trend begins. A hardline, fundamentalist movement claims that the recent rapproachment with Byzantium has corrupted the pure Athanasian faith, and a religious reform was needed. They are opposed by the moderates, who include Caliph himself, and most of the aristocracy, while the hardliners are supported by large portions of the army, and much of the peasantry. Already much of the Arabia proper supports this new reformation of the faith, while the moderates struggle to keep order.
788 - A radical cleric by the name of Majid starts gaining popularity, and becomes a centerpoint of the reformation movement. He calls the reform of the faith "Islam", meaning "submission" to God's will. He takes his message one step further, denying the godhood of Christ, and proclaiming that through God's choice, one can only be a prophet (which he admits Christ of being), but not His son. He implores his followers to honor the memory of "prophets" Omar and Ali, whose exploits brought the Caliphate to greatness, and to spread their message throughout the world in what he calls a "jihad", a Holy War. Understandably, the Caliph and the Arab moderates are horrified at the prospects of militant religious fanatics taking power, and attempt to imprison Majid.
789 - The cleric Majid is captured by the Caliph's soldiers, however, an angry mob of his followers frees him, slaughtering the troops. Soon, many small-time local nobles and militia commanders flock to Majid's side, proclaiming that only he is righteous enough to be the Caliph, representative of his people, and representative of God. The War of Faith begins.
790 - The Athanasian Caliph's followers are hard pressed on all fronts, and generally outnumbered, thus forcing the Caliph to ask Byzantines for help. The Byzantines, recognizing the danger that Majid and his followers represent, commit much of their Eastern forces to the war, however, ironically their participation in the war on the Caliph's side precipitates even more of Caliphate's citizen support falling away from the Caliph and going over to Majid, who claims that by having foreign army suppress the "faithful", the Caliph has betrayed his people, and thus is not worthy of leading the nation.
791 - Adding to overall chaos, the Egyptians attempt to retake the Sinai, and to extend their rule into the Arabian peninsula, hoping that with both Romans and Arabs occupied elsewhere, there should be easy pickings to be made. Initially, they are successful, extending their dominions into Palestine, and even besieging Jerusalem itself, where a small joint Byzantine/loyalist Arab force barely holds them off. In the West, the Emperor David reinforces his garrisons in North Africa, while occupying Nea Vandalor in strength to prevent aggression in that direction. He also invests his son Marcus with a rank of a Caesar, and sends him to Carthage, to direct defense of Roman North Africa in case of an Egyptian attack.
792 - After much deliberation, the Western Emperor David decides that Egypt, already having grown in strength considerably taking advantage of chaos in the Middle East, is a major threat that needs to be subdued before it gets completely out of hand. The Eastern Emperor Andronicus could only offer marginal support of the Greek fleet, as most Eastern forces are tied up holding the battle lines through Eastern Anatolia and Middle East, where the Athanasian Caliph holds on only because of Byzantine support. Nevertheless, with the Roman control of the seas, sending an army from Italy into Egypt is a reasonable undertaking, which is followed through with.
793 - The forces of Majid break through the Byzantine lines in Mesopotamia, inflicting a major defeat on the Romans. In response, the Byzantines fall back to more easily defendable positions. Their loyalist Arab allies, however, are not so lucky, with the remaining Caliphate forces decimated, and the Caliph himself evacuating only with great difficulty. Seeing that the military solution to the problem only drags the Empire into a quagmire of an endless war, Andronicus II attempts to find a way out of the fighting that would still maintain Imperial prestige without sacrificing any of the Imperial power. Unfortunately, any terms Majid offers begin with "immediate conversion to Islam, or else". In a meanwhile, the Western army rolls into Egypt, not finding much opposition until Alexandria itself shuts its gates in front of them.
794 - The Egyptian King is able to whip his subjects into a state of semi-religious fanatical fervor in defending against the Romans, as the main Egyptian army arrives from the Sinai. In an ensuing battle, the Romans are victorious despite taking many casualties. They besiege Alexandria, which falls after seven months' siege, and immediately advance to the Nile Delta, attempting to block the strategic passage from the Sinai into Egypt proper. Despite these victories, the Egyptian resolve is not broken, and the Roman troops are continuously harrassed by the Egyptian guerilla-style activity. Despairing to force an advantageous end to the war in Egypt, the Romans and their loyalist Arab allies attempt to get the moderate Athanasians fleeing from the lands where Majid's troops have prevailed to settle in the areas of Egypt under Roman control. The Romans hope that by such large resettlement they will be able to change the demographics of Egypt, and thus pacify it.
795 - The last of organized Egyptian resistance is destroyed by the Western Roman army, as the King of Egypt is captured and sent to Venice, to be led in a triumphal procession. In the Middle East, the war has reached a stalemate, as Majid's followers are in control of most of the former Caliphate's territories, and the remaining Caliphate loyalists are mostly in Byzantine controlled provinces. An uneasy, somewhat informal truce prevails, as both sides are licking their wounds and reassessing their positions.
796 - Realizing that much of his power depends on the success of his leadership, Majid calls off the assaults against the Byzantines, believing the continuation of war, instead of increasing his followers fervor, is more likely to sap it away without major breakthroughs. He declares that the new Caliphate's destiny lies in the East, and that the God has decided to forsake the West. This leaves the Byzantines in a difficult situation, as they are neither able to restore the former Caliph to his throne, nor are they willing to secede any of their territory to him to rule, fearing (rightfully so) that such an Arab state on Byzantine land would easily fall if left on its own. Then, the Western Emperor offers a solution. Egypt, with a dramatic increase in its Arab population, and located in an easily defendable position, is an ideal spot to start a Caliphate-in-exile, allied to both Roman Empires, able to defend itself, but not so powerful to actually threaten the Romans. Thus, the Athanasian Caliphate of Egypt is born.
799 - The Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II dies, crushed to death by a ceiling of his new study that fell on him unexpectedly. Shortly before his death, he officially recognized a young general named Leo as his successor, giving Leo one of his daughters in marriage. Since Andronicus had no sons, the succession is not disputed either in the East or in the West.
800 - David I Ducas officially crowns his son Marcus co-Emperor, in order to ensure the latter's succession. In the north, the Viking raids intensify, penetrating as deep as Paris in Francia.
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801 - The Viking raids show a disturbing (to the denisens of their victims, that is) pattern. By now, instead of simply raiding into the territories of Europe, they are attempting to set up chiefdoms in parts of Northern Russia and Britain. It will be several decades before the permanent settlement is obtained in sufficient numbers to make a major demographic difference, however, into the IXth century the Norse sphere of influence expands rapidly.
803 - The Eastern borders of Byzantium are settling into a pattern to be repeated for the next two centuries, that of an incessant warfare against the Islamic Caliphate. Generally, such warfare is limited to the areas immediately adjacent to the border, however, as a result of it, the no-man's land between the two powers is perpetually devastated, and is home to a number of semi-independent principalities, sometimes technically owing allegiance to the Emperor, sometimes to the Caliph. The Eastern feudalism is getting its start.
804 - David I dies in Venice, succeeded by his son Marcus (or, in a contemporary Italian language, Marco). He is crowned Marcus II (Marcus I being Marcus Aurelius in the IInd century). At this time, the ancient Latin language has morphed with the influx of Gothic, Greek, and Lombard influences, as the society of Italy begins to view itself more distinctly "Italian" than "Latin" or "Roman" - or, rather, they view themselves as Italian Romans, as opposed to the Greeks (or Greek Romans) of the Eastern Empire.
805 - A major war erupts in the lands around Egypt, over the Islamic Caliphate's attempt to subjugate and forcibly convert the Ethiopian kingdom of Axum. The Axumites, who could boast a long and venerable Christian tradition, appeal to Egypt for help. The war would last nearly a decade, however, it would do much to strengthen Axum's reputation as being a power able to resist the Caliphate's onslaught, and to bring it into prominence as a major player in the North African and Middle Eastern politics. The Romans of both East and West do not actively participate in a war, however, they do send significant financial support to Egypt and Axum, hoping to occupy the Caliphate with enough problems for it not to seek to conquer the Roman provinces.
806 - Marco II establishes the Imperial Mercantile Academy in Venice. As the Venetian Romans are by now undisputed masters of the waves in the Mediterranean, the Academy serves to train and educate both the Imperial navy captains as well as the leaders for a new generation of adventurers, part merchants, part pirates, drawn both from the Roman as well as foreign sailors - the Legione Delle Onde, Legion Of The Waves. In the following centuries, the members of the Legion would prove their worth more than once.
808 - The Axumite fleet manages to score a major victory in the Red Sea against the Caliphate. Upon hearing the news, the Eastern Emperor Leo IV is impressed enough to offer a dynastic union to the Ethiopians, who, as Orthodox Christians, are in his eyes a natural ally against both the militant Caliphate, and presently friendly, but potentially hostile down the line Athanasian Egypt.
809 - The cleric Majid, responsible for the emergence of Islam, dies in Baghdad, which is the new capital and the holy city of the Islamic Caliphate. His successor Muhammad is more interested in push towards India and rumoured Empire beyond, and thus for the next several decades the Caliphate does not make a serious attempt at incursion into Byzantine territories.
811 - Pepin the Tall succeeds to the throne of Aquitaine and Francia. He is an able and ambitious ruler, and has his eyes firmly set on extending his empire. Despite the Norse menace, he is able to expand his authority into parts of Iberia, as well as to push into the lands of Germany, establishing numerous duchies and lesser kingdoms, subject to him over the next decade.
812 - The Viking raids reach as far south as Iberia, spreading devastation among the Visigoths there. The Visigoth king pleads with both the Franks and the Romans to provide naval protection. Since the Aquitainian navy is still in its infant stages, the Venetian Emperor is convinced to send small detachments of Imperial navy to patrol the Atlantic coast of Iberia. Of course, nothing comes without a price - under the pretense of maintaining the navy and protecting the Visigothic foederati from the Norsemen's depredations, Imperial garrisons in Iberia are not only greatly increased, but also spread to the lands still technically independent from Venetian rule.
814 - A peace is made between the Caliphate and Axum. While the peace terms basically state that the Caliphate recognizes Axum's right to exist, it is seen as a major victory by the Axumites themselves, and Christians in Europe. The Axumite Negusa Nagast (roughly meaning "High King") starts a program of expansion and fleetbuilding, exploring the coast of Africa, and establishing colonies and trading posts as far south as Madagascar. Over the next century, the Axumite Empire would control much of the Eastern coast of Africa.
817 - The Aquitainian king Pepin requests of the Pope in Rome that his people be allowed their own Patriarch. Pepin is conscious of Church's influence in the secular affairs, and would like to subordinate the Frankish and Aquitainian church to his and his nation's interests. His request is refused straight out of hand.
818 - A major rebellion against the Roman rule begins in Iberia, after, despite the best efforts of the Venetian navy, few of the Norse raiders sneaked through the patrols and landed, permeating unspeakable horrors upon local population before withdrawing again. What the Romans do not know is that king Pepin was able to enter into agreement with few of the Norse chieftains, and used Norse raids as one of the methods by which to engineer the Iberian rebellion. Pepin offers the Venetian Emperor to mediate and to help quell the rebellion down, both due to having a strong force available close-by, and due to his presumed neutrality - for a price of having a Patriarch of Gaul officiated by the Pope. Pressed for time, and already having to commit large numbers of troops to garrison North Africa and to defend against the Lombards and Avars crossing sporadically into the Alps, Marco II agrees to Pepin's terms.
819 - A Roman Cardinal of Frankish descent named Albert is officiated as the first Patriarch of Gaul, with residence in Paris. Shortly thereafter, the rebellion in Iberia is subdued, almost too quickly, it seems. In a meanwhile, the Norse longships descend down the great rivers of what would some day become Russia. A group led by the one Ingvar takes over a small settlement of Novgorod, where Ingvar (who is better known to posterity as Igor, a Russified version of his name) sets himself up as "kniaz", a prince. Novgorod would serve as an entry point for much of the Norse migration into the lands of Russia.
821 - Marco II's sanity seems to be slipping away, feeding rumours in and out of the court. Worse yet, in his less lucid moments he is subject to fits of bloody savagery, ordering his guards to conduct massacres of anyone he suspects of treachery. A court official named Lotharius decides to take matters into his own hands, and leads the Senate to depose the mad Emperor, forcing him to enter a monastery and replacing him with his young son Michael, who takes the throne as Michael III. Since the new Emperor is only six years old at the time of his ascention, the Senate takes the reins of power. The beginnings of constitutional monarchy in the Venetian Empire are sown.
822 - The Eastern Emperor Leo IV receives an embassy from a land far east the Byzantines call Cathay, previously known only from scattered travel stories, and for being the home of the silk worm, smuggled into Byzantium during the reign of Justinian I. During the ambassadors' visit, they present the Emperor with a dozen primitive rockets, explaining those to be a great item to be used in festivities. To celebrate the birth of his youngest son, Andronicus, Leo orders the rockets to be used in an ensuing celebration. The resulting accident costs several servants major injuries, but also gives Leo a few things to ponder about the military use of such explosive as that presented to him. Ironically, the Chinese themselves never considered the military applications of their invention, preferring to think of it as a potentially dangerous, but ultimately useless toy.
823 - A Pictish king Duncan unites the tribes of Northern Britain in an attempt to resist continuous Norse incursions. While within a few years' space he will be soundly defeated and killed, his early successes do much to inspire the inhabitants of the British Isles.
824 - Leo's attempts to have his scientists duplicate the explosive substance end up in failure, as the concoctions his servants create do not seem to have significant explosive power. He becomes convinced that a secret of the substance, and significant quantities thereof must be obtained from the Chinese. Using a time-tested tactic, he sends a group of agents disguised as monks to ostensibly spread the Orthodox faith to the East - but in reality to obtain the secret of gunpowder, and bring it back to Constantinople for manufacture.
825 - The Aquitainian king Pepin has now solidified his rule over most of Gaul, the Pyrennees, and even parts of Germany conquered by his troops. Having strengthened his army with elite corps of Norse mercenaries, he is looking towards what he sees as his ultimate goal - the rich, fertile lands of Italy, and the unification of Roman Empire's European dominions under one crown, that being his own. Believing that during the minority of young Michael III the Venetian Empire would be easy prey, he marches his troops south of the Alps in a greatest invasion of Italy since Belisarius' reconquest three centuries earlier.
826 - Pepin's troops capture Ravenna after a long siege, enslaving and slaughtering many of the inhabitants. In Venice, a general mood of panic prevails. An army is hastily assembled, while additional troops are being recalled from Sicily, Iberia, and North Africa. This army is placed under command of one Vitale Romagniani, an admiral turned general considered the ablest military leader of Venetian Empire. He bides his time, preparing his troops for what he believes to be an ultimate showdown over who would control the Roman Empire in the West. Several attempts by Pepin to force battle are unsuccessful.
827 - After months of maneuvering, the battle of Modena is fought between the exhausted Frankish army, already suffering from effects of the plague and guerilla activity of Venetians, and a new Venetian army. The Franks number over seventy thousand; the Venetian army is roughly half the size. Vitale draws the Franks into a carefully planned ambush, where the rest could quickly be surmised. The Franks are slaughtered in droves, with many captives transported to North Africa. Vitale is hailed the savior of the Empire, and is allowed to hold a triumph in Venice.
828 - The Venetian Senate decides, after much deliberation, to revive the office of a Consul. The office has been allowed to lapse towards the end of Justinian I's reign, and has not been reinstituted in either East or West. A Consul would have a second duty, as well - considering the Emperor's minority, he would act as a guardian and protector of the young Emperor while still technically subject to the Senate. Vitale Romagniani is nominated to be the Consul for the West, and is elected to the post without surprises. He will hold the Consulship seven more times, inviting comparisons to ancient Gaius Marius. An invitation to elect a Consul of the East is received in Constantinople, whereas Leo has his eldest son Nicephorus nominated Consul. Leo believes that humoring the West could do much for an outward display of unity of the Empires, even though both Empires have long been practically independent of each other.
830 - The Norse raiders establish permanent principalities in the south of England. The most prominent is the Earldom of Londinium, established on the ruins of wealthy Anglish principality.
831 - The Eastern Emperor Leo IV dies in Constantinople, having previously ensured the succession of his own firstborn as Nicephorus II. Only a month after his death, the surviving agents of mission to China arrive back to Constantinople with small quantities of precious explosive substance. On the way back they had to endure hardships, disease, robbers, the conquering armies of the Caliphate, and many other obstacles, however, with the substance in Byzantine hands, and a basic understanding of how to make it available, gunpowder made its appearance in the Western history. The early Byzantine gunpowder weapons came in two qualities, ship-based rockets to fire at the enemy naval vessels in conjunction with the Greek Fire (although the range and accuracy of these projectiles left much to be desired), and hand-thrown grenades, that in their first several incarnations cost many a Byzantine soldier an arm or a leg. Over the next decade, the designs would be improved to where these weapons would have a greater chance of hurting the enemy than the weapon's wielder.
833 - In the West, young Michael III expects to rule in his own stead after turning eighteen years of age. Instead, Consul Vitale and the Senate, fully aware that the relative freedom they had enjoyed during his minority might be over, force him to sign over the document confirming the privileges and rights of the Senate, and limiting the Emperor's power. Years later, reflecting on the event, Michael III Ducas would say to his son, "I leave you a throne less elaborate, but much stronger"; at the time, however, the passions run high, almost amounting to a coup, averted only because the army supports the Consul to a man. The first decade of Michael III's supposedly independent reign is thus primarily occupied by a power struggle with the Senate. The Eastern Emperor Nicephorus II is concerned about developments in the West, however, due to trouble with the Caliphate brewing on the Eastern frontier, decides not to interfere.
835 - A great Ecumenical Council of the Church is held in Alexandria, the first time leading theologians and churchmen of the Mediterranean world met on the territory nominally in clutches of both Athanasian and monophysite heresies. While the crucial issues such as iconoclasm are not resolved, the dialogue under the protection of a nominally neutral power does much to increase if not acceptance, then at least tolerance of Arabic Athanasian Christians and their Coptic Christian subjects' faith in both Eastern and Western Roman Empires.
836 - In the East, the Emperor Nicephorus is seen as an ineffectual leader, more concerned with his numerous mistresses, wild drinking orgies, and racing horses than with the business of government. Such state of affairs is to the advantage of one Romanus of Cyprus, who rose to the position of High Chamberlain in no small part due to being one of the Emperor's constant drinking companions. Although Romanus' origins are humble, he is smart enough to play the various cliques and political parties in the Senate against each other to become a key player in an increasingly more intricate web of Byzantine politics.
838 - The legend has it that the great city of Kiev (or Kyiv, depending on whether you ask an OTL Russian or Ukrainian) was founded in the late Vth century AD by brothers Kij, Schekh, Khoriv, and their sister Lyibid', the city being named after the eldest brother (Kij - Kiev/Kyiv meaning "Kij's"). By the IXth century, it is a major trading center on the Dnepr (or Dnipro, if Ukrainian pronounciation is to be used) river, and a center of bustling Slavic principality. Early in 838, a Norse Prince named Oleg establishes himself as the ruler of Kiev by slaying the local princes, and taking their place. Over the next several decades, the Norse would be mostly assimilated into the Slavic population of the city, who are now taking the Norse name for their people, Rus (meaning "south", for the direction in which the Norse explorers, traders, and conquerors went).
839 - Despite Pepin the Tall's disastrous Italian expedition, his son Lewis still dreams of expansion. Worse yet for the Venetians, at a stroke of a pen he abolishes the Gaulish Patriarch's dependency on Rome, instead making the Patriarch a head of an independent Gaulish Christian Church. Lewis' plans of expansion are usually scouted out by missionaries, who set out in force to convert the neighbouring nations to Christianity. Such a mission is sent to Bulgaria, where for many years the Byzantine conversion efforts were unsuccessful. Not now, though, as the Bulgar Khan Stanislav is seriously alarmed at the prospect of not only Frankish version of Christianity, but outright attempt at conquest. Worse yet, a pagan nation sandwiched between the spheres of Christian influence offers a fair game for conquest without a need for excuse, especially if it is done in the name of God, with other Christian nations standing by idly at best, and trying to grab a piece of the spoils at worst. To this effect, Stanislav sends ambassadors to Nicephorus II's court in Constantinople, informing the Emperor of his and his people's wish to embrace Orthodox Christianity.
840 - In Constantinople, Romanus of Cyprus is by now all-powerful, and his eyes are firmly set upon the throne itself. He convinces bumbling, by now always drunk Nicephorus II to crown him co-Emperor, to "lessen the burden of managing the Empire". He makes no difficulties over the Bulgarian ambassadors' request, inviting the Khan over to Constantinople for his baptism. The Khan arrives with a suite of most illustrous of Bulgarian nobles, and is then baptised in Hagia Sophia, with the now-Emperor Romanus I Cyprioticus standing godfather. Moreover, he is granted the rank of Caesar - a purely titular distinction, designed to further attach Stanislav to Byzantium politically as well as religiously, and not implicating him in Roman government. From now on, Stanislav of Bulgaria begins to style himself Tsar of the Bulgars.
841 - The first Russian raid on Constantinople is defeated by judicious use of Greek Fire and new, improved rockets. In the city itself, Nicephorus II is found dead in his apartments, apparently suffocating in a large goblet of wine his face fell into while intoxicated. Of course, whether or not his head just happened to land in a goblet, or if it was held to be made look that way is open to much speculation... Thus, Romanus I Cyprioticus became the sole ruler of Byzantium, and the founder of the Cypriote dynasty. Any surviving relatives of Nicephorus are, in a meanwhile, quietly disposed of, with his two brothers castrated and tonsured, and his sisters and daughters forced to take the veil.
842 - The first mention of gunpowder in the Arabic manuscripts. After observing the efficiency of the weapon (explosive grenade in this case) in a border dispute, the Caliph of Baghdad orders that his men obtain the secret at any cost. Within only a year, and through liberal use of bribes, they are successful. In the next century, the basic use of gunpowder will spread uncontrollably throughout the Mediterranean world.
843 - Lewis, the King of Aquitaine, expands his territories checked only by the Venetians in the South and Byzantines and Bulgars in the East. With throngs of Norse mercenaries serving alongside his Frankish and Aquitainian armies, he conquers much of Germany, and finally subdues the Avars, creating a Frankish enclave within a relatively short distance of Venice itself. However, when in 843 he decides to attack the Lombards, the Venetians decide to intervene, as the Lombards are still technically the Imperial foederati. Unfortunately for Venetians, the great Consul Vitale Romagniani has died only months before the hostilities, leaving few generals able to resist the Frankish onslaught and carry the war to the enemy.
844 - The Venetian army under command of the Emperor Michael himself is annihilated, and the Emperor barely escapes with his life. Wisely, with his popularity and power significantly damaged, Michael presents himself before the Senate and gives up the conduct of war to them, confirming the Senate's authority and agreeing to further limit his powers in exchange for their support of him on his throne.
846 - The army of Aquitaine overruns most of Iberia, frequently with enthusiastic help from the local Visigoths. The only areas still in Venetian hands are few scattered coastal fortresses that held out thanks to Venetian naval superiority. With the situation looking increasingly dire, the Western Imperial Senate sends a plea to the East for help, where Romanus Cyprioticus strengthens the Imperial hold on Greece and Anatolia.
847 - Despite fierce Venetian resistance, Lewis' army crosses over into Italy, defeating two smaller Roman armies sent against them. Lewis sends a delegation offering peace terms to Venetians, which include cessation of all of Iberia, acknowledgement of his suzerainty over Lombards and Avars, one of Michael III's daughters as a bride for Lewis' son, another Lewis, and most of Northern Italy as a dowry. Not surpisingly, the ambassadors returned in two pieces, heads detached.
848 - In Norway, a local chieftain named Olaf is quickly making a name for himself, not only uniting many of the tribes and principalities, but getting himself crowned the King of Norway by 840. In 848, his dominions include Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and his appetite only grows. Olaf sends an expedition to subdue the still-independent states of Angleland and Pictland, and to obtain full control over the British Isles. In a meanwhile, small detachments of Byzantine troops, armed with the first versions of firearms in addition to their usual armaments, arrive in Venice just in time to join the Italian army, which has assembled to protect the capital against Lewis.
849 - Lewis marches south in Italy, sacking many towns, until he is within sight of Rome itself. It is his hope that, with threat to Rome, the Venetian army would attempt to protect the old capital due to disastrous loss of prestige the government would suffer should Rome be abandoned to its fate. Sure enough, the combined Venetian and Byzantine army arrives, and the battle of Tiber starts. In the beginning, the Franks seem to be winning, however, the new (even though very primitive) handguns have a terrifying effect on the Frankish horses, who throw their riders down in attempts to escape the battlefield. Only with great difficulty Lewis was able to prevent a general rout and to withdraw in orderly fashion.
850 - Lewis' army, reorganized to place more emphasis on infantry, takes Milan, claiming it as the base for any future incursions into Italy. In a meanwhile, Venetian agents are hard at work convincing Frankish and Aquitainian barons to revolt, forcing Lewis to deal with domestic issues first. One of the Venetian agents makes it to the court of Norse King Olaf, who is very enthusiastic about potential assistance - very enthusiastic indeed, as the rich lands of Gaul would offer him not only a chance for plunder, but also a good opportunity to expand his dominions. And, for Venetians, the fact that Olaf and his nation are, for the most part, devout pagans, does not get into the way of business.
851 - By now, after eight years of war, Lewis still does not have much to show for his trouble. The Iberian Visigoths, while initially his willing instruments, are creating as much trouble for him as they were for the Romans, while the Frankish barons are getting restless, having had enough of the long campaign. Worse yet, the Viking raids are now rumoured to be giving way to a full-scale invasion, while Venice stands as impregnable as ever. Lewis calls for a general withdrawal, having himself crowned the Emperor of the Franks and Romans in Aachen by his ever-faithful Patriarch of Gaul. The Venetians, grateful to be rid of their mortal enemy, are indifferent - in fact, an old Senator wryly commented that Lewis could call himself the Negusa Nagast of Axum for all he cares.
853 - The Islamic Caliphate's newly-improved gunpowder weapons are proving to be a large factor in Islam's expansion eastward. Much of the Indian subcontinent is now claimed by the Caliphate, and its raiding parties occasionally penetrate into China. A large factor in the Caliphate's success is the relative adaptability of the Islamic faith, and the concept that the religious bonds are more important than national or ethnic ones - in other words, anyone professing Islamic faith automatically qualifies for all benefits of citizenship, regardless of their national origin. Many of the lower-class and lower-caste Indians willingly convert to Islam, and join the ranks of an ever-growing Caliphate army.
854 - A few of the Caliphate's missionaries travel to the lands north of China, where they find nomadic tribes whose fierce demeanor and harsh surroundings forged them into a formiddable force - providing that they turn their weapons agains the outsiders and not against each other. The missionaries make a number of conversions, and then depart - however, not before converting a number of key tribal leaders.
855 - Locked on different sides by hostile Caliphate, Russians, and neutral, but potentially dangerous Khazars, Byzantines are looking for different trade routes to reach India and China. An ambitious undertaking is suggested by Emperor Romanus, proposing to build a canal at Suez in Egypt, that will allow the Byzantine ships to travel East. He has a hard time convincing the Egyptian Caliph and the Axumite [i]Negusa Nagast[i] of the benefits of such a canal, but by promising regular "rent" payments to Egyptians, and very favorable trade terms to Axumites, he is able to get them to agree on the project.
856 - Frankish and Norse armies meet in a decisive battle, resulting in the Norse withdrawal into their own territories. While there would be still occasional Norse raids into the Frankish territories, the result of the battle is that most of the Norse expansionist zeal will be directed West rather than South - to Britain, and lands beyond.
857 - Using the opportunity presented by Franks occupied elsewhere, the Western Empire retakes their Iberian holdings previously lost to Franks, Aquitainians, and Visigoths. In Constantinople, Romanus I dies, to be succeeded by his eldest son as Basil III.
859 - The first mention of a primitive cannon in Western literature. The weapon is called a "bombard", and is used by a resourceful Venetian commander attempting to take a fortress a rebel band of Visigoths holed itself in. In India, the Caliphate enters a period of consolidation, restructuring its holdings, and looking at the next target of its expansion - China.
860 - The Norse assault on the British Isles is renewed, with neither Picts nor Angles standing much of a chance. This time, the Norse come as conquerors, not as raiders, destroying everything that stands in their way. Within only a few years' time, most of Britain is in Norse hands, with many Angles and Picts fleeing for the relative (but only so) safety of Hibernia (Ireland).
862 - The Eastern Emperor Basil III institutes "Varangian Guard", an elite corps of mercenaries fanatically faithful to the Emperor's own person. The Guard is mostly recruited from the Norse and Russian adventurers, with a few Franks and Arabs rounding out the ranks.
863 - Having fought off most of his enemies, Lewis the Frank is now determined to crush Venetians once and for all. As he makes preparations for the greatest onslaught on Italy since the time of Attila, he has what seems to be a stroke, dying instantly. He is succeeded by a noble named Otto, who is more concerned about internal matters than expansion. A peace is quickly made, with Venetians recognizing Otto's Imperial title (which, they believe, is a pragmatic matter of letting a toddler have his toy and play with it without disturbing the adults), and Otto refuting claims to Imperial possessions.
864 - The Western Emperor Michael III dies, to be succeeded peacefully by his son as Constantine VII. Shortly after Constantine's succession, Basil III of the Eastern Empire takes as his second wife (due to his first wife's death) one of Constantine's younger sisters, attempting to strengthen the ties between the Empires. Of note is that by now, the relationship between the Empires could be best described as a strong alliance of two independent nations - not as simply two parts of the same nation.
866 - The conquest of much of Britain by the Norse is complete. In a meanwhile, a city-state of Kiev grows in power in Russia, subduing neighbouring towns and expanding into the steppe, where it came into conflict with the Khazars. The ensuing conflict is swift and brutal, with the tales of both heroism and atrocity rampant on both sides. Surprisingly, the Kievans emerge victorious, and force the Khazars to pay them tribute. While not noticed by older nations of Europe and Middle East, there is a new power in the making, with Imperial ambitions of its own.
-Europe & Russia-
867 - A son of a Norse chief exiled from his land for murder sets sail West with a small group of followers. This expedition finds and settles in Iceland, an island to the northwest of the British Isles. Over the next decade, the word of a new land spreads out, and Norse immigration to Iceland increases.
868 - The Bulgar nation is entering a period of uncertainty as Tsar Simeon dies after only a two year reign, leaving no issue. The resulting anarchy polarizes the Bulgars into two factions, one supporting a prominent boyar (noble) named Krum, and another supporting Simeon's brother-in-law Boris. The Byzantines throw their support behind Boris, however, Krum has an ace up his sleeve - an alliance with Aquitaine, to whom he promises his support against both Eastern and Western Romans should he win. A third, unknown factor is represented by the Kievans, who are by now looking at the Bulgar lands with more and more interest.
869 - In the East, Byzantines are generally successful carving up portions of Caliphate's land, and restoring it to Byzantine dominion. As the Caliphate's attention is focused on India and China, no significant reprisals follow. In the West, the Franks are finally able to check the Norse expansion, thus directing it west rather than south.
871 - The Bulgar civil war is over, with the peace settlement brokered, by which Boris, the previous Tsar's brother-in-law is recognized as Tsar. Krum escapes to Aquitaine, where he continuously plots to restore his power in Bulgaria.
872 - The great canal connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Seas is finally completed, and the first vessel travels through it. The Byzantines immediately send exploration ships into the Red Sea, and beyond. In Aquitaine, a weak and easily manipulated Charles V inherits the throne, virtually ensuring no trouble for either Venetians or the Byzantines for most of his reign.
874 - Basil III dies in Constantinople, succeeded by his son as Andronicus III. Andronicus is ambitious, headstrong, and very popular within the military and commercial circles. It does not help much that when Constantine VII of the Western Empire falls ill and dies leaving only daughters, Andronicus decides to press his claim for the Western throne, something the Venetian senators would not have. The result is a civil war of magnitude not seen in many years, as the Western Senate elects a distinguished politician to the throne, who is crowned Claudius V.
875 - Most of the military engagements are naval in nature, and fail to produce major victories for either Andronicus or Claudius. In order to resolve the war once and for all, Andronicus entrusts a large army to a general named Leo Paleologus, which then marches through Illyria and Dalmatia towards Italy, defeating a Venetian army sent against him. However, when he reaches Venice, the lack of naval support makes it impossible to impose an effective blockade or to effectively besiege the city.
876 - Venetian task force manages to penetrate through the Adriatic, and lands in Epirus, capturing the island of Corfu and Durazzo. In Constantinople, this is seen as an affront to the ruling house, and only with great difficulty Andronicus III manages to restore order. In a meanwhile, despite the use of bombards, Venice holds out as Leo's troops ravage countryside in desperate attempts to sustain themselves.
877 - The Kievans attempt to raid Constantinople, sending a huge fleet against the Byzantine capital. They pillage monasteries and villas, and completely obliterate several small towns before an army hastily raised by Andronicus shows up. Instead of taking the battle, the Kievans, seeing easy opportunities for plunder exhausted, and finding Constantinople itself impregnable, load up back into the ships, and sail north. Andronicus' popularity, already damaged due to prolonged war, plummets to all-time low. Outside of Venice, hearing of the raid, the Byzantine army mutinies, raising Leo Paleologus on the shield as the Emperor. Venetian Senate and its Emperor are finding this turn of events to their liking, and offer Leo to recognize him as the rightful Emperor of the East and to assist him to obtain the throne. Leo V is quick to come to agreement.
878 - Finding all support for him evaporating, Andronicus III raises a mostly mercenary army of Khazars, Arabs, Russians, Bulgars, and just about anyone else he could find, while a forced conscription virtually depopulates parts of Thrace and Asia Minor. The expenses involved, combined with the effects of civil war, nearly bankrupt Byzantium. When the army marches to meet Leo in combat, the result is disastrous, as many mercenaries demand impossible increases to their pay, the increases Andronicus is willing to promise, but unable to pay. As a result, a large portion of the great army deserts, with many of the Bulgars and Greeks going to Leo's side.
879 - After a year of maneuvering, the much-diminished army of Andronicus III is soundly defeated, and the defeated Emperor flees for the relative safety of the capital. He is now prepared to meet at the negotiations table, offering Leo the rank of Caesar and the assumption that Leo would succeed after Andronicus' death. In either case, whatever Leo's reaction may have been, we may never know, as Andronicus is set upon and killed by a disgruntled palace guard only a week after arrival in the capital. Thus, Leo arrives to be properly crowned in Hagia Sophia as Leo V, beginning the Paleologus dynasty.
881 - A Norse ship wanders off course and in the process stumbles upon a large island. A ship's captain, the one Harald Thorfson, may not possess much navigational skills, but would, in fact, be considered a marketing expert in a different time. Even though the land is barely inhabitable outside of the immediate coastal area, he gives it a name of Greenland, founding a settlement there, which sees some immigration in the following years.
882 - In the far East, the faith of the Caliphate is by now very widespread among the Mongol tribes. While they refuse to acknowledge the secular authority of the Caliph, the part about spreading the faith by sword is, indeed, something the tribes are very enthusiastic about. Moreover, as all major tribes are now united in religion, the Mongols turn their eyes to the ancient empire that has been their sworn enemy for generations - China.
January 20th, 2006, 07:06 PM
Before I go into this update, one thing needs to be explained. Due to much confusion regarding the ATL religion named "Islam", I believe a name change for it may be necessary, to avoid both the confusion with OTL religion of the same name, as well as to not let any preconception about said religion one may have color the idea of what it is in ATL.
Thus, many thanks to Leo Caesius for suggesting an alternate name that would still make sense in the context of the TL. From now on, and with respect to the previous updates, any references to ATL "Islam" should be replaced to references to a religion called al-Din (pronounced ad-DEEN), which in Arabic means "The Religion", and would make sense with the people who believe theirs is the one true faith.
Therefore, the al-Din and the Islam in ATL are one and the same. Now, on with the update:
883 - The first Mongol raids into China are dismissed as nothing more than minor nuisanse - after all, the Chinese Emperor commands a numerous army, and could hide behind the walls of his well-fortified cities. Things do get serious enough within a short period of time where the Emperor sends a large army contingent to do a preemptive raid on the Mongols. This "preemptive raid" goes only to prove that the Mongols are much stronger opponent than any the Chinese have ever encountered. The Chinese army is slaughtered, and, to add insult to injury, Mongols retaliate, striking northern China and spreading devastation all around.
884 - In Constantinople, Leo V begins a massive building program, renovating much of the city that had been neglected by many of his predecessors. In a meanwhile, he is rather concerned with restoring some of the provinces that had been Imperial territory in the centuries past. By now, his eyes are centered on the Vandal state of Nea Vandalor, which occupies a relatively small stretch of land between Egypt and the Western Empire's possessions. His reasons for wanting to occupy Nea Vandalor are twofold, one, the glory of his Empire, two, a need to have a base from which to strike into either Egypt or the African territories of the Venetians should any problems with either nation arise.
885 - The kingdom of Nea Vandalor owes its continued existense to the desire of the Venetians to keep a buffer state between themselves and Egypt. In the days when relations between the two Roman Empires were much better, and they considered themselves a part of unique, inseparable entity, the Eastern Romans allowed this state of affairs to continue, especially considering that the Western Romans brought Nea Vandalor under their protection - the protection that has been recently withdrawn as a part of an agreement between Claudius V and Leo V. Thus, the Vandals appear to be an easy prey, not able to resist the onslaught of the Imperial army, and not possessing the manpower or resources to do significant damage. However, the Vandal nation is ruled by one Otto, a recently enthroned king of some vision and talent. Knowing all too well that not only he is locked between major powers and the desert, but that one of those very powers desires the land his kingdom is built on, he is rather desperate for any means of salvation. These means come in shape of a Norse mercenary, who casually mentions about the Norse exploits to the West, and about the new lands they had found. Despite the fact that most of those lands so far are rather worthless in terms of resources and ability to sustain large population, Otto is intrigued. Maybe, he hopes, the Pillars of Hercules are not the edge of the world, and there may yet be a way to save the Vandal nation from becoming one of the many Roman provinces. Secretly, he commissions an expedition to the West, disguising it as a trading mission to avoid its potential destruction by the Venetians. Using the new developments in ship design made in Venice and borrowing more than a few tricks of the trade from the Norse, the Vandals are able to construct three vessels, which are relatively ocean-worthy, and are able to operate beyond the confines of the Mediterranean.
886 - The Vandals receive an ultimatum from Constantinople to either accept a Byzantine governor and give up their independence, or to be destroyed. Many of the young Vandal nobles despise the very idea of surrender, preferring to go down in a blaze of glory; however, Otto is well aware that resistance is rather futile, and instead of rebuffing the Byzantines, all he could hope to do is to damage their forces enough - and infuriate them enough in the process - to where the eventual conquest would be not only more brutal, but more oppressive on any Vandal survivors. Besides, there are some good news to report - out of the three vessels sent out, two were lost to storms and navigational problems, however, one did return with tales of islands that seemed like paradise, strange creatures, and strange people inhabiting them. Otto believed he found his solution. In the general assembly of the Vandals, he addressed his subjects, telling them that they may yet shake off the chains of Roman oppression, and found a new, greater Vandalor - Magna Vandalor he calls it, the Great Vandalor, beyond the ocean. Alternatively, they may stay behind and fight, knowing their cause is doomed. Many of the Vandals present vow to join their king in a difficult travel many may not be able to survive - yet still, many decide to remain and fight on. Otto, in a meanwhile, tried to get his hands on any kind of a ship he could - resulting in a motley flotilla of some hundred ships being assembled, some relatively modern, but some barely able to float. Under the cover of the night, the Vandal fleet sails west, miraculously bypassing many Venetian and Byzantine patrols, and setting course into the unknown. The remaining Vandals' fate could be told quickly. The Byzantines show no mercy in subjugating the kingdom, relocating many of the survivors to the Caliphate frontier, while settling some others in Thrace and Macedonia. All traces of the Vandals in the Old World have been completely removed.
887 - Despite losing almost two thirds of the fleet, Otto himself among the casualties, the remainder of the Vandal host reaches an island that appears to offer ideal conditions for rebuilding. They name the island Ottonia, in the name of the monarch that led them on their perilous journey. The island is OTL's Cuba, located strategically to be able to expand into the mainland just a short travel beyond. In Constantinople, Leo V celebrates a triumph, looking for his next conquest to the northwest. Despite being fellow Orthodox Christians, the Bulgars do occupy many of the ancestral Imperial lands - this state of affairs, he believes, may not continue. Previously the Aquitainian and Venetian influence would have left these thoughts just that - thoughts; however, Aquitaine fell into civil war after disputed succession, and Claudius V of the Western Empire has his hands tied battling the Senate in the realm of political influence. Thus, he is free to interfere as much as he would like. He, however, did not account for one potential rival - the Kievan Russians, whose prince Svyatopolk has been determined to extend his already massive dominions to the south. As the Byzantines sweep into Bulgaria, so do the Russians. Leo manages to reach an agreement with the Russians, dividing the Bulgar lands into two sections - however, this only whets Svyatopolk's appetite.
889 - Leo V Paleologus dies of fever, leaving a three year old son Andronicus. Due to the new monarch's minority, the regency is assumed by the Patriarch, who maneuvers around the Empress Irine and the Senate. The Empress suspects that the Patriarch plans to murder young Andronicus IV, and to install his own younger brother to the throne instead - thus, she appeals for help to the commander of the army, Nicephorus Acropolites. Nicephorus arrives in the capital, where he proclaims himself the protector of the young Emperor's rights. Shortly thereafter, he marries Irene, and is crowned Nicephorus III in Hagia Sophia - his coronation being part of an agreement between them to ensure the survival of Andronicus IV.
891 - The full might of the Mongol horde sweeps into China, eradicating any opposition. Driven by both the desire of conquest as well as the religious fervor, the Mongols slaughter everything in their way, resulting in millions of dead. As the terrified Chinese, both noble and commoner, flee south for their lives, the Mongols establish a new Empire on the territories formerly under Chinese control. The Mongol Khan Batu takes the title of the ruler he has defeated, and proclaims himself to be the Emperor of China, the chosen of God, the defender of faith of al-Din.
892 - In Venice, an old archivist goes through the centuries-old records, categorizing them to be properly catalogued in the Imperial library, when something catches his eye. He sees a mention of a device called aeoliphile, built in Roman Egypt seven centuries ago. Luckily, the archivist's favorite pasttime is constructing mechanical contraptions, many of which end up as toys for his younger children and grandchildren. Intrigued, he decides to give it a try, and to build a miniature one at home. If nothing, it would prove to be a good way to distract his youngest grandchild from interfering with the adults' business. While doing its fair share in distracting said grandchild, it also caught attention of the boy's father, a supervisor at mining operations. Even though the aeolophile is not very practical, and has very limited use, the man reasoned that with sufficient improvements, it could make his subordinates' job quite a bit easier. Thus, he sets to work, and comes up with a new and improved version of the engine, the one that actually could replace much manual labor. Over the next century, the age of the steam engine will come into full force.
893 - The Caliphate's expansion is by now grinding to a halt. Despite it taking over most of India, and the Mongols' conversion to al-Din, the Mongols are not willing to happily hand over the power to Caliph and walk to the side. Rather, they are empire builders themselves, creating a first time in Caliphate's history where there was another power following the faith of al-Din not recognizing political or religious claims of the Caliph. In China, the Mongols take over larger and larger chunks of the territory, completing their conquest by the end of the decade. Instead of pillaging and destroying everything in their way, however, they decide to settle in China en masse, permanently altering the balance of power there.
894 - The Russian prince Svyatopolk invades Byzantine territories, requiring Nicephorus III to take to the field. The battle, fought at Varna near the Black Sea coast, is a total Byzantine victory. The Russians, tired and battered after waves of Byzantine assaults, sue for peace, promising to vacate the Byzantine territory, asking only for enough provisions to make it home. Next year, the Russian ambassadors will arrive in Constantinople, negotiating a commercial treaty. From there on, the Russian ambitions would be centered elsewhere.
895 - Claudius V of the Venetian Empire, feeling mortally sick, abdicates the throne, asking the Senate to choose his successor, which they gladly do. They choose the one Giovanni da Vinci to be the next Emperor, and he is dutifully crowned in Venice. The new Emperor comes from a distinguished senatorial family, and his election sets the precedent of the Senate choosing the Emperor, rather than any kind of hereditary succession principle.
897 - The Vandal settlement in Ottonia thrives, despite initial difficulties. Several expeditions are sent to explore the mainland, returning with tales of many wondrous things, and of great riches. Many a young Vandal noble decide to try their luck on the continent, where the devastation caused by European diseases, steel and gunpowder weapons allows many to establish semi-independent principalities, all owing allegiance to the High King at Ottonia, but, due to low manpower available to the Vandals, practically independent in every respect. What the Vandals do not know is that the Norse longships by now have located what we know as Newfoundland. Calling the new island (for they believe it to be one) Vinnland, the Norse follow the shore south, eventually finding OTL's New England area, and establishing settlements there.
898 - Aquitaine and Frankia are by now somewhat recovered from civil strife, and establish renewed efforts to expand the kingdom. Through a complicated series of events, one Erik II establishes himself at the throne of Denmark, and conducts an alliance with the Aquitainian king. What makes Erik different from his predecessors is the fact that he is a Christian, and is very insistent in proselytizing among his subjects. The result is a civil war, which sets Erik and his supporters, mostly the merchants, the commoners, and many of the lower and middle classes, against the old pagan aristocracy. The pagan aristocracy of Denmark loses after a climactic battle at Copenhagen, making Erik's methods of converting his population more and more heavy-handed. Thus, by 900 there is a steady stream of Norse immigration from Denmark and rapidly Christianizing Norway and Sweden to the lands west - many of the refugees making it to Vinnland, strengthening the settlement there to become a viable state of its own.
899 - A Vandal explorer discovers the Mayan civilization on Yucatan peninsula. Awed by their perceived power and level of what he termed as "barbaric sophistication", the explorer decides that peaceful relations must be followed, as these organized, developed people are nothing like the relatively primitive tribes his people had encountered beforehand.
900 - The kingdom of Vinnland is established, with the capital in Odinheim. The new High Kings of Vinnland are a proud and defiant breed, seeking to spread their faith by sword, if needed, among the local native tribes. Being that the Vikings' religion and society emphasize martial values, many of the local tribes are more often than not willingly accepting the ways of the foreigners who, after all, are warriors like themselves, willing to respect warrior values. Thus, the kingdom of Vinnland in the following years develops an identity much different from that of the original European Norse
January 20th, 2006, 07:08 PM
901 - The Venetian Empire is finally successful in subduing the Visigoths in Iberia all the way up to the Aquitainian frontier. By now, the Venetians control all of the territories of the old Western Roman Empire minus Gaul, Germannia, and Britain. The parallel is not lost on Giovanni I, who believes that by now, centuries-long process of reconquest might be getting close to completion. By now thirty one years old, he believes it is his life's work to bring the rebel provinces back into the fold - never mind the fact that said provinces had been independent kingdoms for centuries. The main problem is, of course, the resources, and the manpower necessary for such a task. With Iberia still not fully pacified, and North Africa being poorer, and sparcely populated, unlike in the days of the old, Giovanni knows he can only rely on limited manpower of Italy, and on mercenaries - the latter, being inherently unreliable in his mind, are not suited for the task. However, the Aquitainian Empire does have an Achilles heel - its feudal nature and the relative power of the nobles are the cracks that Giovanni intends to drive his strikes through. He hopes that he can play on the divisions within the Aquitainians themselves to eliminate the ancient enemy of the Venetian Empire once and for all. Thus, he openly allies with some of the prominent feudal lords of Aquitaine and Frankia, promising them lands and wealth in return for their allegiance. Not surprisingly, the Aquitainian response is what one may expect - and just what Giovanni wanted.
902 - Using an army of both Italians and mercenary Norse and Lombards, Giovanni captures the southern Gaul without much resistance - in fact, by a liberal use of carrot-and-stick style diplomacy, he ensured that the local nobles swear their allegiance to him, then being left undisturbed. The rest of the population of Frankia does not seem to care much - in their minds, they are simply exchanging one overlord for the other. It is at Toulouse that the Venetians encounter the most serious resistance - a loyalist group of barons holed up in the castle, and decreed that they shall not submit to a Roman tyrant. The Roman tyrant's bombards and cannons were happy to prove them wrong.
903 - As Andronicus IV reaches adulthood in Constantinople, tensions are high between him and his supposed guardian, Nicephorus III. Soon, there is rioting in the streets, as both the populace and the Senate are polarized into factions supporting each. Andronicus' supporters claim that Nicephorus' time as a regent is over, and thus he must abdicate the throne and retire into private life. Nicephorus, after fourteen years on the throne, is understandably angered, and retorts that while young Andronicus was playing with his toy soldiers, he had been busy saving the Empire from threats external and internal. When the Empress Irine tries to meddle, she finds the hard way that both parties do have one thing in common - they have very little appreciation for her, as both agree Irine tries to take on the power that should be rightfully theirs. Thus, as Irine speeds up on her way to "honorable retirement" (which just happens to be on an island of Proti, in a "large, luxurious monastery" belonging, ironically, to a particularly austere and, shall we say, "unworldly" order of monks), an uneasy temporary peace sets in. In a meanwhile, the Frankish and Aquitainian army assembles in Gaul, commanded by Aquitainian king Henry in person. Giovanni I tries not to give battle, instead, methodically taking cities and towns one by one, and concentrating his forces where he believes the Franks would not dare to attack him - especially considering that many of the Frankish barons are by now openly allying themselves with Venetians.
904 - An uneasy peace in Constantinople is broken as a plot is revealed to murder Nicephorus. While there is no direct proof, all fingers point at Andronicus, who refuses to take blame. As both Emperors' supporters take to the streets, the fighting rages on. The fighting is the worst Constantinople had seen in centuries, and when the fires start, they not only add insult to injury, but devastate large portions of the city. Finally, Nicephorus manages to sneak out a loyal servant with orders to the army officers to enter the city, which, with help from the inside, they do. This is when things get from bad to worse. The military slaughters supporters of both parties indiscriminately, which results in pretty much the entire population of Constantinople battling the Byzantine soldiers. While Nicephorus does manage to restore some degree of order, the damage has been done, and young Andronicus, who managed to sneak out of the city using a secret passageway out of the palace, is quick to accuse him of massacre. Andronicus assumes personal command of the Army of Thrace, and marches on the capital, intending to depose "the usurper" once and for all. Nicephorus, unfortunately for him, is calamitously unprepared, while Andronicus' propaganda successfully agitates the population of the capital and much of the local military against him. Thus, he decides that abdication may yet save his life, and the doors of a monastery close behind a rather reluctant monk "Matthew". Unfortunately for him, Andronicus decides that it is better to be safe than sorry, and has Nicephorus' eyes put out before sticking the old man back into his cloister.
905 - Giovanni's maneuvering resulted in Aquitainian and Frankish forces being split in two, as his army now controls the corridor between Aquitaine proper and Frankia, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. King Henry's army attempts to break through from Frankia into Aquitaine to reinfoce the defenders there, finally being able to force a battle. The engagement is not as much a disaster for Venetians as an embarrasment - however, Giovanni does have to pull back and to replenish some of his forces. Henry claims victory, and proceeds to make an example of several captive Frankish barons who switched sides earlier. For the rest of the Gaulish War, incidents of feudal barons switching sides got to an all-time low.
906 - A Kievan prince Yaroslav succeeds in uniting enough of the Russian principalities to where he begins to style himself Veliki Kniaz (Grand Prince). By now, Christianity begins to spread into the Russian lands, which are still predominantly pagan. The cause of Christianity is greatly helped by Yaroslav's favorite wife Svetlana, who adopts the religion, and is able to convince her husband to allow the Christians to continue unmolested.
907 - After licking his wounds Giovanni I returns to Gaul with a new army that consists both of veterans of his previous campaigns, and fresh recruits. This time around, he believes Aquitaine itself is where his enemy is the weakest - removing the main powerbase of Henry from the contest will bring, he believes, the trembling Frankish barons to the point of revolt. Henry knows this well, too, and wastes no time in calling his army up for a decisive battle. Under the walls of the capital of Aquitaine, Bordeaux, the battle is joined by some fifty thousand Franks and Aquitainians, and around forty thousand Venetian Romans. At first, things seem to be going well for Henry, until his forces wander into a carefully prepared ambush where Giovanni used what he believes to be a battle-winning weapon - "the flute of Pan", which is a series of handguns and small cannon tied together, resembling the musical instrument of the ancient god (incidentally, the OTL version of the weapon is known as the "Organ gun"). The result is a rapidly firing stream of death that is unlike anything the Franks had seen before. Its major advantage is that the "flute" could be operated by a small crew, therefore allowing for a battery of these weapons to be operated by small, easily hidden regiment. The Franks break and rout, as the Venetians are in hot pursuit. Thousands of Franks and Aquitainians, including the king Henry's son and heir Phillip, make it for the relative safety of Bordeaux, while the rest of the army flees for their lives. What they don't realize is that being holed up in a city is a Bad, Bad Idea (tm). When the food runs out, they have to start eating the horses. When the horses run out, it is on to dogs and cats. When there are none of those left, it is the flesh of the dead. By the time the Franks were looking at each other hungrily and debating who should be drawing the shortest straw, Venetian bombards mercifully breached open the gates of the city. It is here that Giovanni's most famous and most ignominous action occurs. He orders the entire male population of Bordeaux, including all of the Frankish and Aquitainian soldiers, put to death as an example to any who may resist the Roman power, selling the women and children into slavery. It is said that the slaughter lasted three days, and the Romans only stopped after their horses walked knee-deep in blood. Upon hearing the news, king Henry fell into deep depression, and died, signalling the beginning of the end of the war.
908 - The Mongol rule over China is solidified. The Khan-Emperor is now looking for a next target of expansion, and finds it just within sights. The islands of Nippon, or Japan, are rich and well developed, and despite the Japanese warriors' willingness to defend their islands to the death, would prove to be no match for the Mongol dragoons and Chinese handgunners employed in enormous numbers. With this in mind, the Mongols start building a great invasion fleet, which will take two years to complete.
909 - The Khazar Kaganate is facing a crisis. With the Kaganate's position in between regional and major powers of Kievan Rus, Arab Caliphate, and Byzantine Empire, its opportunities for expansion are rather limited, especially considering its ever-growing population. Thus, the Kagan looks to the steppes in the East. By now, the Khazar society has changed quite a bit from their nomadic days centuries ago. The Khazars have all the beginnings of a true state, borrowing many of the Arab and Byzantine social institutions, as well as much of the military technology. As such, the Kagan believes that orderly, organized expansion is the key to growing the Khazar state, as well as provide space for his people to settle on. Although they may take centuries to fully blossom, the beginnings of great Khazar Siberian Empire are sown.
910 - The Venetians have been busy mopping up remaining Frankish resistance in Gaul for the last three years. Despite the brutal massacre at Bordeaux that earned Giovanni I the nickname of "The Butcher Of Aquitaine", in victory the Venetians are generally rather accomodating, allowing many of the Frankish nobles to keep much of their land and ancestral privileges. Of course, wherever these privileges are in direct conflict with the Imperial authority, the "hierarchy of order" is reinforced, leading to the Franks becoming apparently loyal subjects in record time. Upon return to Venice, Giovanni I gives himself a triumph, proclaiming to the Senate and the citizens that he has restored Roman rule in Gaul. In a meanwhile, the Mongol attack into Japan starts, with the Mongol army landing on the northern island. The subjugation of Japan will take an entire decade, with periodic rebellions springing up for years afterwards, but ultimately the Mongol juggernaut proves to be too much for the Japanese to stop.
912 - The Norse kingdom of Vinland grows considerably, incorporating the natives - the weaker tribes as slaves, the stronger, more warlike tribes as equals, providing they acknowledge the Norse gods and pay them proper respect. In Cuba, the Vandal kingdom incorporates the native tribes by frequent intermarriage and assimilation - the outright large-scale conquest outside of setting up of small principalities is hard due to relatively small numbers of the Vandals. As such, the Vandal kingdom is more influenced by the Mayans and the other native cultures, giving back the knowledge of iron, and Christianity. While the Mayan Empire does not convert to Christianity for another three decades, smaller states around it and lesser tribes do, leading to the virtual political isolation of the Maya and to the Vandal-led alliance of Christian states of this new land rising to prominence. The one direction the Vandals do not explore in, however, is the east, for this is where those that persecuted their ancestors are, still plotting to eradicate every trace of the Vandal nation - or so they believe. Thus, the Vandals of Ottonia institute the Eastguard, a group of patrol ships designed for speed and armed with cannons and rockets. Their mission - to intercept any intruding ship that wanders too far into the new world, and to capture or destroy it. Over the years, the design of the Eastguard ships is improved, making them easier to hide in the ocean by partially submerging most of the ship's structure. The early experiments on hiding the entire ship underwater are unsuccessful, partially due to the lack of adequate propulsion - the actual submarines are still many years away; however, the advancements in ship design techniques learned by the Vandals are priceless.
913 - The Empire of Axum covers most of East coast of Africa, with the trading posts and colonies established as far east as Australia. Due to large amounts of cultural and technological exchange between the Axumites and nations of Europe, they are just as technologically advanced as both Roman Empires, and the Caliphate, whereas Axumite traders' travels take them through many parts of the world, ensuring that most news of foreign lands have passed through at least one Axumite. As much as the Byzantines try to match the mercantile profits of Axum, they could only watch in awe at the great trading empire that originally initiated in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, news and trade goods are not the only things carried by the Axumite naval merchants. An outbreak of the plague in China is spread to most corners of the civilized world through a combination of Dini pilgrims, Mongol conquerors, and Axumite traders. In 913, the plague strikes India. In 914, it reaches Ethiopia. In 915, the plague hits Alexandria, from where it spreads to most of Europe.
915 - The plague kills the Venetian Emperor Giovanni just as he plans to execute an expedition to Britain, attempting to retake that land for his Empire. The Senate chooses Giovanni's nephew Michael to take the throne as Michael IV.
916 - The large outbreak of the plague ends, although not until causing some devastating results. North Africa, Gaul, Anatolia, Italy, and Greece are all depopulated, with misery reaching gigantic proportions. The Khazars, however, seem to show more resistance to the plague, resulting in fewer deaths. Therefore, their expansion to the steppes in the east proceeds unimpeded as their immediate neighbours struggle with the aftermath of the plague.
January 20th, 2006, 07:12 PM
917 - Andronicus IV of Byzantine Empire dies, one of the last victims of the plague. He is succeeded by his son, who at fourteen years of age may not be the youngest monarch to assume the Eastern throne, but who is definitely not the most responsible nor able. Romanus II is a hedonist, believing it is his god-given right to enjoy the spoils of the Empire he inherited - and thus much of his reign is consumed by court intrigue, increasingly elaborate (and costly) public spectacles, and near-bankrupcy of the Empire due to Romanus' showing of obvious favoritism to landed aristocracy that quickly usurped much of the Imperial revenue they would be now supposed to collect for their suzerain. In Venice, Michael IV does proclaim that the Empire is indeed "Roman", and the official capital should be in Rome - but since by now both the Emperor and the majority of the Senate permanently reside in Venice, the Imperial dignity is maintained with a semi-annual showcase of the Emperor and the Senate in the old capital. For all practical purposes, all business of government - as a matter of fact, pretty much all business is still done in Venice.
918 - The Khazar presense is first felt beyond the Caspian, as their territorial ambitions bring them in conflict with the Pechenegs, a nomadic steppe tribe of probably Turkic origin. Despite the Pecheneg ferocity and undoubted fighting skills, it is the superior weaponry and organization of the Khazars that carry the day. While the Pecheneg raids would be a nightmare of many a Khazar colony, the Pechenegs would never become the kind of threat to the Khazar survival as they were in OTL.
919 - The Vandal settlers in what would be OTL Florida (the land they call New Carthage) meet with the people of Ocmulgee nation, who are a part of what OTL historians call "the Mississippian culture". The Ocmulgee had only recently converted their way of life to sedentary agricultural society, and, due to their higher numbers, initially are able to hold back the Vandal expansion. Over the next five years, as the diseases and advanced weaponry of Vandals take their toll, the Ocmulgee are pushed back, finally converting to Christianity and acknowledging the overlordship of the Vandal king.
920 - The last independent Chinese kingdoms on Chinese mainland are subdued by the Mongols. The heir of the last Chinese Emperor flees to Taiwan, where a rump successor state is established, claiming to be a direct continuation of the non-Mongol China. After a failed attempt at naval assault, the Mongols pretty much ignore it, being more concerned with subjugation of Japan.
921 - A major rebellion in Gaul takes two years to subdue, and much longer to restore Venetian control to the province. Gradually, the Gaulish nobles are incorporated into the Venetian structure, being given Senatorial seats and Roman titles - at the same time there is large penetration of Italians into Gaul, thus resulting in increase in centralized control from Venice, as more and more Italians end up in positions of local power.
922 - A new society takes shape on the shores of Newfoundland, as the Norse and the native influences merge to create a new culture, separate from its predecessors and yet borrowing liberally from them. When the Norse King of Odinheim takes a daughter of prominent native chief as his wife, the integration of two nations into one is given a major boost. From there on, a mixed blood Norse-native dynasty will rule in Vinnland.
924 - The Russians, having rebuilt much of the plague's damage, are looking at the tribes of Prussians, Poles, Lithuanians, and others that are occupying an area to the west of them. By now, Christianity represents a significant minority religion in Russia - however, between the Norse paganism, Khazar Judaism, far-away al-Din and the native Russian pagan religion (which in turn borrows heavily from Norse mythology and ceremony), it faces serious competition, threatening to tear up the Russian kingdom apart. Realizing that a uniform religious policy must be followed, and that having a respectable non-pagan religion would greatly improve his relations with his neighbours - not to mention would give a very good pretext for expansion into pagan-controlled territories, the Kievan prince Yuri, the heir of Yaroslav, decides to inquire on the different religions, and to align himself with the one that would benefit the Russian people most. He believes that the Dini are too far off, and to be the only Dini power in a predominantly Christian, pagan, and Jewish area is rather unwise; at the same time, seeing the Khazar expansion to the east, he believes there may come a time when the Russians would need to spread their dominions there - and a religious difference is as good a pretext as any. There remains only Christianity, both of Byzantine, and of Venetian varieties. By the sheer virtue of relative closeness, and the fact that much Russian trade depended on Byzantium to the south, Yuri is strongly inclined towards Orthodox Christianity. The one problem is that he would rather make the Byzantines pay very high price for his nation's conversion. An opportunity presents itself when a disgruntled Byzantine general Photius decides to revolt, leading large portion of the Byzantine army. As Romanus II panics, a Russian ambassador tactfully approaches him and reminds him that his neighbours to the north are more than willing to help - in exchange for a few concessions. The few concessions are, of course, a king's ransom, and a hand of Romanus' younger sister, the porphyrogenita Zoe, for Yuri in marriage. To spice things up, Yuri promises to convert to Christianity if he will be allowed his own Patriarch. A stronger monarch may have tried to resolve the problem by his own means; Romanus preferred to let the others do the talking, the fighting, and negotiating. Even though the Russians were still not allowed their own Patriarch, having to settle for an Archbishop of Kiev, the other terms of their demands were still met, and shortly thereafter a large Russian force landed in Constantinople, with the help of which the defeat of Photius was all but assured. For his contributions to the cause of conversion, the Russian prince Yuri was later canonized by the Orthodox Church, and became known as Saint Yuri.
926 - Converting his people to Christianity proved to be more troublesome than Yuri has imagined, however, after two years of clandestine politicking and unmasked "aggressive persuasion", he could look at what has been his target all along - Prussia and Lithuania. Under the pretext of a holy war to convert the heathen, Yuri successfully defeats and annexes various tribes one by one, until his dominions extend well into what would have been OTL's Poland and Germany. Better yet for him, remembering some of the problems he had during his own succession (for he was not his father's eldest son, and a small civil war had to be fought for him to ensure that instead of his gavelkind-promised small lot, he would become the ruler of all of Kiev), and taking a number of ideas from the Byzantines, Yuri changes election laws in Russia to where only one of his sons would inherit, the rest given honorary titles, but no land. This helps to centralize the power in Russia in the hands of Veliki Kniaz, and to prevent the dissolution of power over his sons.
928 - By now, Romanus II's government has run into serious debt due to unforeseen expenses of civil strife and to unwise government spending. However, a sudden solution walked through the doors of the palace. Ever since the fall of the Roman power in the West, due to much Christian prejudice against certain occupations such as moneylenders, such crucial, albeit not very glamorous duties were delegated to non-Christians. In the general atmosphere of relative prosperity in the West, Jewish bankers and lenders had prosperred, being a voice of sound economic policy that guided many an Emperor. Unfortunately, the prejudices do run deep, and with very few exceptions, Jews were still considered second-class citizens in the West and throughout most of the East. While the Khazar Kaganate follows Judaism, many of the more Orthodox European Jews feel that the Khazar religion is Judaism in name only, and have a desire to build their own state that follows the tenets of Judaism and provides a free place for European Jews to move to and live their lives free of persecution. Thus, hearing of Romanus II's monetary troubles, a group of Jewish bankers offers to pay him extraordinary sums of money in return for a free Jewish state in Palestine. Such a state would be self-governing, and promised to ally to Byzantium and to pay tribute. Seeing that Palestine itself, with exception of Jerusalem and few of the richer trading cities, is rather worthless to him, Romanus accepts. While some of the Jewish faithful are not happy that Jerusalem remains under Christian control, the vast majority celebrates the founding of the new state of Zion, which covers most of Palestine sans Jerusalem (which is technically a "free city" with the right of religious pilgrimage for both Christians and non-Christians, but practically controlled by the Byzantines).
930 - The Norse kingdom of Angleland officially separates from Denmark - even though for practical reasons, Denmark never had any real control there. The king of Denmark chooses to let them go, instead being more concerned with increased Venetian presense near his borders, and maintaining his Scandinavian territories. In a meanwhile, the nation of Eire (Ireland), strengthened by streams of Celtic, and Anglish refugees from Britain, is facing a population crisis, as the island is simply too small to support all of its inhabitants, and retaking of Britain is nearly impossible due to Norse military supremacy. Hearing of Norse explorations to the West, Eire sends ships in that general direction. While only some of the ships return, they do find Vinnland, and the lands to the south of it. The largest Irish settlement would be closer to OTL's Virginia, and would grow exponentially as the flow of people from Ireland into the New World continues.
933 - The major difference between New Eire and the other colonies is that it still is subject to the mother country, whereas the rest (including the Vandals, who are at this point still unknown to the other colonizing nations) are independent and self-sufficient in every respect. Within a few years, New Eire occupies the territory of roughly OTL's Virginia and Maryland, with the largest city named New Londinium by a descendant of an Anglish immigrant who rose to prominence in the colonization scene.
935 - A Venetian engineer experimenting with the recently employed steam engines finds a way to use the steam engine for horseless propulsion. The land-based machines are slow, unwieldy, and still somewhat expensive to make, however, on water the steam engine proves its worth. Soon, the Venetian fleet trades its sails and rowing galleys for steamers, which then spread to most of the Mediterranean, and to the Indian Ocean by the enterprising Axumites.
936 - The influx of already sophisticated civilizations of Gaul who were integrated as citizens instead of being directly enslaved, along with the growth of urban population of free men and women resulted in shortage of serf or slave labor in the Venetian Empire. With the new technological innovations' impact felt in industry and manufacturing of the Empire, a shift to a more industrial base developed. The first factories, initially producing military supplies, but later developing to produce more mundane items like clothing, paper, and other commodities, are built in Venice, Ravenna, Milan, and Naples. Over the next several decades, the industrial might of Venetian Empire would be the envy of all Europe - and something that the European rulers will quickly attempt to duplicate.
938 - An Axumite trader travels in the interior of Africa when he discovers a group of people calling themselves Bantu. While they had only recently discovered iron working, they had been building an empire of their own, with the capital at the city of Zimbabwe. Over the next several decades, as the Bantu trading missions become more profitable, much of the Axumite technology spreads to the Bantu kingdom of Great Zimbabwe.
939 - Romanus II of Byzantium dies, and is not mourned very deeply. His eldest son takes the throne as Andronicus V. Conscious of developments taking place in Italy, and of the fact that much of Byzantine economy is still rather backwards, driven by semi-enserfed peasants and agricultural production, Andronicus' first action is to hire experienced Venetian engineers and to attempt to improve his Empire's infrastructure.
940 - The Viking Kingdom of Vinnland comes into contact with the Iroquous tribe, who are by now a leader of confederation of various tribes, bonded together by mutual need. The initial contact is mostly described as a few arrows being shot this way and the other, but once the initial confusion is overcame (not in the least due to burning of few settlements on both sides), both the Vinnlanders and the Iroquous are able to settle into a uneasy, but, nevertheless, mutually profitable as far as the merchants on both sides were concerned, peace.
942 - The bustling metrolises of Asia Minor and Greece are undergoing a drastic, rapid, and frightening change. Where the pastoral landscapes and many small farms once dwelled, rise titanic bulks of factories, refineries, and multi-story buildings where the poorer residents dwell, only to live in the shadow cast by the opulent palaces of the rich. Where the human traffic mostly consisted of peasants hurrying about their business, artisans and soldiers, and occasional procession of a rich noble and his or her entourage, now there is a multitude of strange and fascinating people from every corner of the world plying their wares, heavily armed mercenaries with weapons and armor of both antique and modern design, alchemists of every kind, charlatans trying their best to cheat the naive out of their money, and unseen, but always felt, the multitudes of the new dwellers of the city, abandoning their farms and ancestral lands to try their luck in the new spirit of Industrial Revolution. While the Byzantine Empire's industrial might is still second to their Venetian cousins, the first results of Andronicus V's industrialization program are bearing fruit. In the next decade, the Byzantine economic development would grow at exponential rate, finally eclipsing any and all of their competitors.
943 - The Vandals living in the land beyond the Atlantic are already beginning to develop into a completely different kind of society. Three generations after the flight from the victorious Byzantines, the number of those possessing only Vandal ancestry has significantly decreased, as the low numbers forced mass-scale intermarriage with the local population. In addition, despite converting many of the local population to Christianity, the branch of Christianity followed by the Vandals is starting to take on many native-influenced overtones. There is a end-of-the-world tale, almost a myth, of the continent beyond the sea that is inhabited by malevolent, evil men who are themselves but servants of a greater demonic force, seeking to corrupt the Vandals and their followers and to destroy them completely - to which effect it is considered to be every Vandal's duty to prepare for the final battle that will save or damn their nation for all eternity. As most who remember Europe pass away, the tale of their origin acquires more colors of a legend, a heroic myth that reassures proud and valorous people of their manifest destiny, and gives hope in times where there is none. In a meanwhile, final conversion of Mayans to Christianity is a cause for major celebration for the kings of Magna Vandalor, just as the time for trial comes close.
944 - An Irish seafarer in the New World accidentally stumbles upon a Vandal settlement in Florida. His appearance presents a dilemma to the local elders. On one side, the fear and hatred of other Europeans are still running strong in their midst - on the other hand, they do realize the need to be kept up to speed on the happenings in the rest of the world. Intrigued, the Vandals decide to investigage closer without letting themselves be needlessly discovered. A company of mixed race spies pretending to be the natives is sent to New Eire, while the unfortunate seafarer is spending his time in a somewhat uncomfortable confinement of the local prince's jailhouse. By this time, the Vandals had invented a steam engine, the first application of which is to power a ship. Believing themselves to be technologically superior of anything the Europeans may be able to throw at them, the Vandals take an extra step of adding metal armor plating to their first ironclad. The ship is christened as "Sword Of Carthage".
945 - A Chinese doctor experimenting with rockets in his free time realizes that the power of a rocket is sufficient to deliver a cargo of some weight. He theorizes that with a rocket powerful enough it may be possible to lift a man in the air and to glide. His Mongol rulers, known to never pass on a good idea, decide to give the idea a try. Fortunately for them, the prototype works and does lift off... unfortunately for the Chinese pilot who must have realized that there was a whole new meaning to the term "bullet ride" in the last few seconds of his life. More experiments are being made, usually involving a cliff, or the other sharp decline in the ground level; most of these experiments cannot boast the results much more spectacular than the first "flight" - however after a few tries, and a plethora of explosions, crashes, and eternally curing insomnia of whatever peasants and farm animals were unlucky enough to end up in range of the tests, the first flight is achieved where the pilot survived to tell the tale. Sadly, the pilot lived only long enough to do so, but the next few penal batallion "volunteers" took advantage of the lessons learned, with one actually being able to walk away from the scene of the landing - although it has been observed that the more proper way to describe what happened would be in the words "ran like hell".
946 - After overcoming much resistance to the idea domestically, the Vandal king Gelimer decides that a contact with New Eire must be established, if only to keep up on the happenings in the Old World. Having studied the Irish ship, interrogating the captain, and getting information from their spies, the Vandals came to conclusion that the Irish are not the people who had once chased their ancestors across the sea, and thus represent no immediate threat - however, caution must be exercised, to which effect very few foreigners would be allowed on Vandal lands as to hide the true technological and military capabilities of the Vandal kingdom. The initial contact is a success, resulting in a treaty between the Vandals and the Irish agreeing to maintain a level of contact, and to respect each other's borders. The Irish, upon meeting a civilization which lays claim to European descent, and which appears to have the numbers and the military technology comparable to their own, are somewhat wary, but decide that diplomacy is the way to go with these strange natives armed with muskets and coursing the waves in their low-riding steamships.
948 - A dedicated research into the properties of steam engine and its capabilities yielded some results to Byzantine researchers. They realized that with additional resources now made available to them by technology-savvy Emperor, and with manufacturing capabilities at their use, they are able to construct a new weapon, unheard of before - steam-driven siege tower loaded to the gunwhales with the most advanced weaponry, and armored to withstand all but the most concerned assaults. There are many drawbacks with such a weapon, one being its still awkward mobility, the need for large crew, and its tendency to fall over, but with additional research, the Byzantines were finally able to come up with the design that did not fall victim to most of the original design's flaws - at least not very frequently. The Venetians, always on the top of things, make a "machina" of their own within a year. Thus begins an era of cold distrust between the Venetian and the Byzantine Romans, marked by the Venetian talk of the "despotic Greeks", and the Byzantine talk of "those mob-loving Latin snobs". By now, both sides are staring at each other across the uncomfortably narrow strip of the Adriatic Sea, and trying to see how they can turn another's blunder into their own advantage.
950 - The Byzantines are seeking to found new colonies, and to spread the power of Second Rome beyond the Mediterranean, sending a steamer convoy through the Egyptian Canal to look for the lands beyond. With the assistance of Axumite guides, they eventually find islands of New Zealand, where a colony is established. Over the next decade, Byzantines found settlements in many previously unclaimed lands, including Tasmania, southeastern coast of Australia, and where would be OTL South Africa, directly neighbouring Zimbabwe.
951 - In response to the continuous harrassment by the Mongol raiders, the Caliphate declares war and marches into China. The Caliph must have had his Bad, Bad Idea (tm) moment, as the Caliphate armies are mercilessly crushed. However, as the Mongols approach the new Caliphate heartland in India, the Arab and Indian resistance proves to be too much for them. The war will mark the first time two Dini powers fought an official war between them, and will mark a major rupture in the essential religious unity of that faith.
954 - Seeing the Byzantines successful in colonization, the Venetians attempt a different route, and sail west instead of East. What they end up finding is the coast of OTL Brazil, where they land and found a colony of Giovannia, named both after the current Emperor, and after his great predecessor, the Butcher of Aquitaine.
January 20th, 2006, 07:13 PM
Quoteth from the original postings......
Originally Posted by Historico
Great Timeline...I do have an few questions however
1. What is Political, and Social structure of the Venetian Empire?
Generally, the Venetian Empire could be described as constitutional monarchy, somewhat along the lines of 1600s-era England. The Emperor still holds the titular power, however, he is seen more an an executive of Senate's legislation, and as a "supreme justice". After being a hereditary or appointed office for centuries, the Senate, since the recent first Constitution is technically an elected body, although since in order to vote for the Senatorial candidates one has to be a Venetian (well, Roman, but the Venetians make it a great deal to ensure than only the people from the Western Empire's core territories are allowed to vote) citizen, Catholic Christian (although because both major branches of Christianity had been heavily under Imperial control in the East and West, "Catholic" would be fairly close to "Orthodox" in TTL), male, and meeting minimum property requirements. In other words, the only people "qualified" to vote for the Senate are generally the rich Senatorial families, and few of the merchants and up-and-coming industrialists that are able to boast of wealth and influence as is.
While the Venetians still depend somewhat on large portions of their population being devoted to agriculture, there had been an increased movement of people towards the cities, creating an urban Empire rather than a rural one. With the rise of the industry, there is a greater number of urban poor living in the cities who are not provided for by the government - in other words, "bread and circuses" are replaced by "jobs and housing".
The Venetians do maintain a medium-sized standing army, most of which is spread across the provinces, with the largest contingent garrisoned in Italy (although not in Venice itself). The army is subordinated not to the Emperor, but to the Consul, who is effectively the executor of Senate's will, and who is elected from among the Senatorial candidates by the Senate (unlike the Consular candidates of earlier Rome, which were first elected by the population, and then appointed by the Emperors). The Consul serves for a term of one year, although there had been motions to increase the term to two years. Originally there were supposed to be two Consuls, one for the West, and one for the East, but the autocratic Eastern government let the office of the Consul practically collapse, as in Byzantium the entirety of power is in the Emperor's hands, Senate being nothing more than a "rubber-stamping" body.
The provinces are ruled by governors appointed from the capital - however, the governors are generally expected to use the local assemblies as the local versions of the Senate to assist them in ruling their provinces. Conscious not to give their governors too much power, the Venetians have a strictly enforced set of rules that any governor guilty of breaking it will have serious consequences. The purpose of the code is twofold - it also prevents the governors practically looting the provinces for personal gain, with punishment for that being death.
In their time and age, the Venetians are generally seen as being extremely liberal (by the standards of the time, that is), and as making more than passing overtures to the original Roman Republic - to where the official name of their state is still The Roman Republic and their army's banners still proudly wave the letters S.P.Q.R.
2. How heavilly are the Byzantines effected by Classical Hellenism and is Greek Religon, Science, and Philosophy still bieng Practice?
After Justinian's utmost efforts to crush the classical Hellenism, the reign of subsequent Emperors saw other priorities being taken, and with Justinian reigning less than he did in OTL, there was a minor rebound of classicism. It was not enough to revive the Greeko-Roman pagan religion, or to experience a full-scale revival of classical arts and sciences, but it was enough to allow for these subjects to stay in better shape than in OTL, to where the eventual revival started happening by the late 700s instead of later than in OTL. Also, the presense of a relatively powerful and self-sufficient Western Empire that had been able to maintain continuity from the classical times (as opposed to dubious authority of "Holy Roman Empire" which stemmed from the Papal recognition and not the actual line of succession from the Emperors of the old), allowed for Italy to become a hotbed of classical Greeco-Roman revival.
In OTL, the shores of Bosphorus were the only place where much of the learning of pre-Dark Ages Europe was preserved - however, here the learning and the ability to learn more were maintained both in Greece and Italy, thus resulting in a shorter Dark Ages, and less interruptions between the periods of learning on the rise. In fact, the future historians of ATL would probably be seeing the period between about 400 AD and 850 AD as simply an extended version of "IIIrd Century Crisis" as opposed to giving it the same meaning as we do, that of the end of the era.
The current ATL Emperor of Byzantium, Andronicus V is somewhat of Peter the Great-type figure - indeed, Byzantium is becoming culturally somewhat along the lines of early modern Russia, an authoritarian state with major claims, large population base and resources, but requiring major conscious push in order to modernize and/or make significant changes to its outlook, culture, policies, and social structure.
3. Does the colony of New Eire know of St. Brendan's Tales?
Possibly as a myth of sorts, but the original motivation for the move was hearing from the Norse that there had been a confirmed land to the West, and that the Norse kingdom has already been established there.
4. Is it possible when the Giovanni explore further into the hear of South America the will encounter, The Warrior Women of the Amazon and the wealthy Chibicha Kingoms in Columbia. It would be Interesting to see an Imperial South America with the Venetians, Amazons, Chibicha, and the Tawantinsuya carving up the continent.
The Venetians are probably going to be the closest to OTL colonizers in mindset - think France/Britain with a bit of Spain thrown in; - thus it will take some technological advances, or help from unexpected places for the native kingdoms to be able to successfully compete with superior technology of the Venetians. That being said, I do see that Mayan/Vandal influence has been penetrating into South America, mostly in form of occasional trader/explorer, and, save for the disease which the Venetians are likely to bring with them (and the impact of which is likely to be less, since the Vandals arrived only about 60 years before the Venetians, and through the Mayans - who already developed immunity to Western diseases, - spread the disease and following immunity throughout the continent), the local empires may be able to resist... I am unfortunately not too familiar with "Warrior Women" culture nor the Chibicha culture, so any information would be extremely helpful... I was not able to find much useful on Google on the latter. As for the Chimu (because in the Xth century, the Inca/Tawaninsuya are still nonexistant - but they do have ability to rise to prominence if they are not completely butterflied away by XIIIth-XIVth centuries), they are going to be featured somewhat in my next update
My eventual idea for this TL is to create a world based on states as opposed to feudal domains much sooner, and to have fairly even distribution of the empires throughout races, cultures, and continents, creating a more open mindset throughout most of humanity much earlier than it had potential to be created in OTL, where the Europeans generally tended to view themselves as being superior to other cultures because "well, we did it all and invented it all, and conquered it all - and you didn't" . In ATL, some of the major empires rising to prominence are not of Caucasian European descent - Axum and the eventual Zimbabwe are African, the Caliphate is both Indian and Arab, China is Asian, whereas the Mayan and Vandal civilizations are not only completely intertwined, but created the kind of mixed ethnicity nation that prides and values both European and native roots equally instead of believing one to be superior to the other.
Thus, there is going to be much competition between the various countries, which in turn may have positive effect on technological and social development - since the Europeans cannot simply dismiss the non-Europeans possessing similar level of cultural, technological, and military sophistication as barbarians, any conquest would have to thread extra-carefully with respect to relations between various ethnic and cultural groups. The same goes for non-European empires, as the world may have a more even distribution of population and wealth than in OTL. Of course, the technological progress, while rapid in certain areas, may end up moving slowly or even stagnating in the others - the goal here is to make the "linear" progression of science very different from OTL.
January 20th, 2006, 07:16 PM
955 - The Venetian colonists in Brazil, venturing inroads into the continent, discover the Chimu Empire. The Chimu, despite their relatively remote location, are starting to develop a rather sophisticated civilization, with their lands covering most of what would be OTL's Peru. The introduction of gunpowder through the Mayan traders had given them enough time to rearm most of their armed forces, and to convince the Venetians that they will not be easy prey to colonization or conquest. Thus, true to their nature as a mercantile and naval power, the Venetians open commercial relations, forming Giovannia Company, whose objective is to formalize the trade between Venice and its South American neighbours.
957 - The end of hostilities between the Caliphate and the Mongols sends shock waves through the Caliphate. Is it possible, the Arabs say, that the Caliph is no longer the chosen of God, since he cannot enforce his political and religious authority through all Dini states? Thus, a large separatist movement is gathering strength in India, where the local Indian Dini princes are yearning for independence after seeing some of their lands devastated by the warfare. The independence movements are going to be a constant thorn in the side of the Caliphate for years to come, as with weakening of the Caliph's power many ambitious nobles make their bids for independent kingdoms of their own.
958 - The state of Zimbabwe is laying its claim to the sparcely populated lands to the north of its current location, thus spreading across Africa unopposed. A few border skirmishes are fought between the Bantu warriors and the Byzantine colonists in South Africa, however, Byzantine diplomacy soon triumphs, letting relative peace prevail. In a meanwhile, the Mongol rulers of China are perfecting their new jets. Despite many original setbacks, finally it dawns on Chinese and Mongol engineers that if the rocket engine is activated when the device is already gliding, it could be used with greater precision, and could make a frustrating experiment into the invention of new and powerful device. The new design, nicknamed "Dragon Teeth", is only suitable for few short runs, and requires a large runway and a cliff to glide from to even get into the air, but is indeed a major improvement on its predecessors, striking terror in hearts of any who oppose the Mongol Chinese Empire.
960 - Trying to repair the relations between the Venetian and the Byzantine Empires, Andronicus V insists on a personal meeting with his (theoretical) colleague Giovanni II. The meeting is heralded as "signalling a new era for the Roman Empire"; what it failed to mention is that by now it is the EmpireS, and the only thing it ended up signalling is that the Byzantines and the Venetians are so far removed from each other, to where they could hardly be called two halves of the same state, and rather two different states, with differenct aims, goals, structures, and policies. The meeting is scheduled to occur on the island of Corfu, technically somewhat of a neutral territory (even though a Byzantine possession, it was close enough to Italy and easy enough to get to where neither side was believed to attempt any trickery to achieve its aims), in the year of 961.
961 - The Two Emperors Meeting, as it was going to be called in history textbooks, was anything but amiable. From the start, there were difficulties, Andronicus V categorically refusing to discuss policies and issues with the representatives of the Venetian Senate, insisting that he would only hold such discussions with his equal. Appaled by such attitude, and by such treatment of his advisors, Giovanni II nearly left the meeting altogether, but was persuaded by his wife to not break all ties with his Eastern "colleague". When the two Emperors finally met, they instantly took to disliking one another - the tall, handsome, aristocratic Andronicus despising the short, plump Giovanni as a parvenu elected to his position, having to get a vote of confidence from the Senate, whereas he was the absolute autocrat, born and raised to rule, God's own Vice-Regent on Earth. Is this little man, he asked himself, truly my equal? Giovanni gave as good as he took, finding Andronicus to be despotic, authoritatian caricature of the tyrants that, in his mind, nearly destroyed Rome centuries ago - not to mention his immense dislike of his colleague's immeasurable ego. After such a charming introduction, the two set to business, trying to overcome their complete dislike of one another to get something accomplished. Alas, whether it was the fishing rights in the Adriatic, the new development of the mech technology, colonization of the distant lands, or the disputed bishoprics claimed by both the Pope in Rome and the Patriarch in Constantinople, the agreement was rarely, if ever reached, and when there was any agreement, it was after so much arguing to where even the staunchiest supporters of the united Roman Empire begun to lose faith. It was clear that the Empires had long gone their separate ways, and that nothing short of complete and utter reconquest would reunite them with one another - however, the question of claims remains. If the original Roman Empire were to be dissolved officially as well as practically, who would lay claim to the Roman mantle? Thus, the official dissolution of the "Roman Empire" was placed on hold, as both Andronicus and his colleague would not back down from the claim that he would be the only Emperor reigning in accordance with the ancient principles (although those principles, depending on who you ask, would also reveal two very different worldviews), and thus even the claim of Italy and Rome by Giovanni would not deter Andronicus for claiming that had the East not interfered four centuries ago, there would be no Western Empire altogether - he, on the other hand, could claim unbroken continuity from Caesar and Augustus, without a seventy year interregnum in the West. Giovanni countered this by saying that unlike the despotism of the East, the West has long returned to the republican traditions of their true Roman predecessors, and that the Empire he holds sway under may not be a true absolutism, but only because its ideals of republic give it greater strength than any kingdom on Earth. Thus dissatisfied, and even enraged, the two Emperors sailed back to their respective capitals, never to speak again, and accomplishing nothing but an understanding that the Romans had finally determined who their greatest enemies were - the Romans on the other side of the Adriatic.
963 - An Indian prince by the name of Vijayalaya finally succeeds in breaking away from his Arab overlords, forming a kingdom on the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, spreading as far north as OTL India, and bordering the smaller states under Axumite protection in the South. He calls his state "Chola", as a reference to his claim of being descended from the ancient dynasty of that name that ruled parts of southeast India before the Caliphate's invasion. The Caliphate's punitive expeditions have little effect, as Vijayalaya Chola is able to galvanize his people into resistance, and to defeat two successive Caliphate incursions. Chola will be a major naval power for the next several centuries, conquering much land from the Caliphate, and settling parts of OTL's Cambodia and even taking parts of Indonesia from the Axumites - although most of these developments are yet to come.
964 - The Khazar explorers in Siberia meet a Mongol garrison that attempts to attack them on sight. The reports of a hostile encounter warrant a larger, well armed group of Khazar soldiers to investigate. The Mongols are outclassed and outnumbered, and stand no chance. As the Khazar Kaganate spreads into more and more of Siberia, incorporating the native people, it becomes a major power, presently attempting not to interfere in the affairs of its neighbours, but still maintaining a large, well armed, and well trained military. Away from their new powerbase in China, the Mongols on their empire's Westernmost border do not stand a chance, however, the Khazars are not interested in Mongols, but rather in unclaimed Siberian lands, and thus attempt to avoid the Mongol territories in order not to draw themselves into a costly, prolonged, and, as they see it, unnecessary war.
965 - A tribe of Turks, long living on the borders of the Khazar Kaganate and the Dini Caliphate, makes a decision to convert to Judaism, awed by the power and apparent political unity of the Kaganate. In the next several years, many Turks will rise to positions of prominence within the Kaganate, becoming military, political, and religious leaders of much renown. At the same time, the other Turks will sweep down into the Rajputana in India, dealing additional blows to the declining Caliphate.
967 - A Venetian architect is surveying the site for a new building in early spring when he gets cold, and, being in the open, orders his servant to start a fire. Due to an improbable accident, a light handkerchief glides over the fire - however, before falling to meet its untimely demise, the kerchief floats higher when over the flame. Intrigued, the architect attempts to duplicate his experiment, but this time with a more elaborate contraption. He realizes that hot air rises, and is quick to point out the implications of that to his superiors, who for one take heed. It will take several years to prepare a hot air balloon that is capable of lifting a man in the air, but there is no stopping for the European aeronautics now.
970 - The rump remnant of Bulgars outside of Imperial rule now occupies a no-man's land in Dalmatia, mixing with the Lombards and Avars still nominally independent. In a chaos of tribal politics, constant conflict, and internecine intrigue, a chief named Radislav is finally able to conquer the rest of the lands being contested, but is assassinated shortly after crowning himself the King of Dalmatia. The council of elders from various tribes, fearful of continuation of the conflict, but unable to compromise upon the single candidate to succeed Radislav, takes the example of Venetian Romans to the southwest of them, and proclaims a republic, ruled by the council. The Republic of Dalmatia, from thereon a source of ferocious mercenaries available to anyone with enough money in Europe, is born.
971 - A dynastic union finally unites the kingdoms of Magna Vandalor and Maya, resulting in a new Empire which its inhabitants call Maya Vandalor. This Empire spreads to include much of what would be OTL's Mexico and Florida while its powerful navy controls the Caribbean.
974 - Andronicus V of Byzantium, already called Andronicus the Great by his contemporaries, dies, to be succeeded by his son Constantine VIII. Constantine does not possess the vision or the abilities of his great father, but he is smart enough to let the policies of his father continue, aided by most of his father's trusted advisors. Within a few months, Andronicus is followed to the grave by Giovanni II, who drowns when his yacht is caught in an unexpected storm. The Venetian Senate elects an aristocrat of mixed Italian and Frankish descent to the throne, who ascends it as Justinian III.
975 - The border conflict between the Khazars and the Mongols finally erupts into a full-scale war. Despite the Mongols' numerical advantages and comparable technology, the Khazars are well suited to stand against the Mongol hit-and-run tactics, and thus are able to hold their ground against Mongol mounted carabiners. The hostilities last for eight years, after which the Khazars claim victory by getting the Mongols to recognize the Khazar claims on the Siberian territories they already occupy. The main consequence of the war is the more rapid technological development, especially in the realm of military technology, for both sides as a result of the conflict and the subsequent standoff between two major powers who are completely distrustful of each other. By 977, the Khazars were able to get a primitive steam-powered mech on the battlefield, paying a country's worth of ransom to the Byzantines for design - yet the early advantage was countered by the Mongol use of rocket bombers against the Khazar formations. Despite the job of a bomber pilot still being considered as little better than a suicide mission, and the actual damage done by the bombers being relatively minor, the initial psychological effect on the Khazar troops was devastating - until the Khazar engineers were able to study the design of a crashed bomber, identify the weak points, and provide the troops with the means to shoot them down with ease - incendiary rounds, which required newer and more advanced firearm design to use. The last years of the war saw the introduction of primitive airships on both sides, at this point still using modified version of sea ship's sails to control the direction of their flight. The airships were used both as recon vehicles, and as tougher, more powerful versions of the bombers, able to carry more armament and deliver their deadly payloads with relative precision while withstanding much harsher punishment from the enemy fire. It was not long before the airships were outfitted with weapons of a different design, too. The previous purpose of all aircraft was to deliver a payload of bombs to strategic targets; however, with the increased abundance and relative cheapness of these first aircraft, a need arose to effectively protect one's positions, and to intercept the enemy aircraft before they are in position to drop the bombs. As such, more and more airships were outfitted with increasingly advanced guns, and even weapons like early flamethrowers (although in all fairness, these had as much chances to set their own ship on fire as they did to damage the enemy craft). The last Khazar airship built before the end of the war, the "Wrath Of The Lord" employed small rapid-fire guns that were somewhat based on earlier Venetian "Flute Of Pan" design, but that offered one important innovation - the multiple barrels of the guns rotated, allowing for longer bursts of fire. The invention soon spread to both east and west of Eurasia, and by the 990s armies of all civilized European states were in possession of the design.
977 - The levels of distrust between the Venetians and the Byzantines continue to grow, both sides suspecting each other (perhaps rightly so) of wanting to claim the entirety of the Roman Empire for themselves. Another factor was now in the mix - that of different social and political systems. The Venetians were strict adherents to the concept of constitutional monarchy, with ever-increasing representation of rising merchant class in the government. The concept of civil rights was resurrected south of the Apennines, and the role of the monarch was seen increasingly as a servant of the people, not as their divinely appointed overlord. Not so in Byzantium, where the word of the Emperor was the law, backed by the might of the Imperial armies, and the wily guile of its diplomatic tools - the churchmen, the diplomats, the assassins. The people of Greece and Asia Minor lived and died by the word of their ruler, forever obliged to bow to his every whim. The economies could not be more different, too, as the private enterprise made the Venetian Empire rich - on the other hand, centralized control of the economy and issuing of trade rights, manufacturing licenses, and research contracts made the Byzantine Emperor and select few of the aristocrats wealthy beyond what they thought was possible - with the well-being of the masses entirely dependent on the goodwill of the "powerful". Nowhere is this strife as apparent as it is in the colonial race. As the Venetians spread through South America in their colony of Giovannia, conquering the smaller tribes and setting their eyes on the Chimu kingdom to the west of them, the Byzantines spread through Australia and South Africa, where conflict with the Bantu kingdom of Zimbabwe is brewing. Both sides hope that the wealth of the new lands, and the influx of the new people - potential soldiers and workers for both Empires - will help to tip the balance over to one side. It does not - for now.
978 - The Russian territories are locked between the Byzantines to the south, the Khazars blocking the route to the east, and Venetians in the west. Borrowing heavily from the Byzantine model of government, Russia, or, as it is known at the time, Kievskaya Rus', is a heavily autocratic state, where forced industrialization finally bore fruit after series of strong princes and determined leaders. The only two ways to expand and to join in the colonial race are by sea - but both major passageways to the greater world are blocked by the Byzantines, who make it increasingly difficult to send anything but simple traders into the Mediterranean, and the Danes, who are preventing Russian expansion into the Baltic and beyond. Noticing that the Danes are somewhat behind on industrialization, and do not possess neither the manpower nor the resources of Byzantium, the Russian kniaz Svyatopolk declares war over the first excuse he can find - a minor trade dispute. His goal is nothing less than control of southern Sweden, both as a forward base for his expansion, as well as the means to limit the growth of his western neighbour, and to control the trade and the movement of ships in the Baltic.
980 - The Kingdom of Newfoundland is a breakaway set of lands that, while nominally a part of Vinnland, are practically independent, the tribute to Vinnland's High King being rather nominal. Situated in a rather infertile part of North America, the Newfoundlanders are much more concerned with day to day survival than with any sort of foreign adventures, conquests, and things of that nature. When the last king of Newfoundland dies with no successors, and the elders are not able to compromise upon a single candidate, a brief civil war is fought - however, instead of either of the three candidates for the position of a king being victorious, the true victor is Vinnland, as the Vinnlander troops augmented by regiments of Iroquois mercenaries have no problem subduing all opposition and reestablishing their control over the northern territories.
981 - The Iroquois Confederation expands west, gradually moving from tribal to at least partially urban society. Lessons learned from the Vinnlanders are not lost on the native state, which, while still rather backward by the European standards, is now firmly in the iron age, and able to steamroll over the lesser tribes of the American interior. The Iroquois dominions now extend all the way around the Great Lakes, covering what would be OTL Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa. In a meanwhile, the Vinnlanders make contact with the kingdom of Maya Vandalor, and are immediately impressed by the Mayan/Vandal military technology and advanced society. The modernization of Vinnland's military begins.
983 - A Venetian military ship is sent to investigate the rumours of a powerful empire in Yucatan peninsula. Being one of the fastest ships in the Venetian navy, the "Trajan" is expected to be able to outrun most hostiles, while its armament of cannons, rockets, and rapid fire guns is more than a match for anything the Venetians expect to meet. Unexpectedly, they are under attack by the increasingly more sophisticated Vandal submarines - however, due to its superior speed, the "Trajan" is able to escape being sunk, albeit with severe damage. When the crew of the ship realize they have to abandon the vessel, the captain orders the gunpowder stores of the ship to be set on fire, to prevent the vessel from falling into enemy hands, just as the crew makes it for the shore. They are rather quickly captured by the Mayan guards, and brought into presense of the king, who realizes that the legend of the hated Romans coming to the New World has now come true.
984 - The Venetian captain, mindful of his mission's goal to acquire a possible ally that could be relied upon to resist the Byzantine might, is finally able to convince the Vandal-Mayan king that the Venetians are going to be better allies than enemies to his people, and thus is released with some of his crew to sail to Giovannia. These reluctant allies' relations are lukewarm at best, especially considering the centuries the Vandal and the Roman contested Italy and North Africa, but since the Venetians were able to distance themselves from the Byzantines in the Vandal's minds, the logic of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" has worked admirably.
985 - The seven years of warfare finally gave Svyatopolk of Russia what he wanted - southern coast of Sweden, and with it the access to Atlantic. The Russian exploration missions are quick to follow, although the lands they find are mostly already occupied by the Irish and the Norse. Despairing, Russian captains decide to sail south as opposed to west, finally locating the western coast of sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, the first Russian colonies are established. Additionally, there is an increased Russian presense in Finland, where Norse influences give way to Slavic ones, in addition to the native population.
986 - Zimbabwe, by now a semi-modernized (although not industrialized) state, embarks on a program of expansion and conquest. While leaving Byzantine and Axumite territories alone, Zimbabwe spreads west to reach the Atlantic ocean, and extends its sphere of influence north. In a meanwhile, the Axumite traders reach the western coast of South America, roughly around OTL's Chile. The lands of what would have been OTL's Chile are split between the Axumites, who control the northern third of the coast, and the Byzantines, who initiate colonization missions from their bases in Australia and New Zealand, and who control the southern two-thirds of the coast.
988 - The Caliphate is shaken by even more internal turmoil, as a charismatic leader in Persia claims to be a long-lost descendant of the Sassanids, and leads a popular revolt. When the Byzantines step in and insist on Persian independence, the Caliphate faces a dilemma of fighting the war on two fronts against aggressive, advanced enemy and its own rebel population, or losing at a stroke a significant portion of its territory and resources. The Caliphate decides to fight on, attempting not to let its Persian provinces go the way of its Indian ones lost to Chola. Unfortunately for the Caliphate, even with the fervor of fighting the "heathen" Byzantines, it is outmatched, and by 990 has little choice but to recognize the obvious - the long-awaited Persian independence. Using the overall confusion to his advantage, the Caliph (now styling himself simply King) of Egypt pushes into Arabia, taking the entire western coast thereof not already occupied by Axum. Zion uses the moment to expand into the Sinai, while the Byzantines regain much of the territories they lost centuries ago, retaking all of Armenia and parts of Azerbaidjan all the way to the Caspian Sea.
990 - Justinian III of the Venetian Empire dies, to be succeeded by a well-respected senator taking the name of Claudius VI. Claudius adopts a wait-and-see policy with respect to the Byzantines, continuing the industrial buildup and improving the infrastructure in Gaul and North Africa. At the same time, he casts his eyes towards Britain, where a Norse kingdom still reigns. Quietly, he starts making plans for the reconquest of the territories once in Roman possession, believing it to be a great chance to test new weapons and tactics as well as to increase his Empire's resources at the expense of the British and their Norse rulers.
993 - With its provinces falling away, and its leadership in turmoil, the Caliphate enters a period of disintegration, as its neighbours constantly eat away at its borders. By now the word of Caliph is only heeded near his powerbase around what is OTL Iraq and the eastern coast of Arabian peninsula, while Rajput revolution rocks northwestern India, and Byzantines eliminate the last traces of the Caliphate's presense on Mediterranean coast of the Middle East. The Chola expands to include the entire eastern coast of the Indian peninsula, while the state of Rajputana is officially declared in the northwestern part of the peninsula. The area in between is hotly contested between hundreds of small city-states and larger kingdoms formed out of the ashes of the Caliphate's seemingly apparent demise. In the state of Chola, there is a revival of Hindu faith, which, while the elite still profess al-Din, is by now the religion of choice among the common population.
995 - From their base in Japan, the Mongol rulers of China (and now most of the Far East) send an expedition further east, attempting to find an easier way to Europe than through chaos of India or the hostile Khazaria. What they find is the coast of OTL California, where a settlement is quickly created.
996 - The Mongols using large cargo barges as a platform to launch airships from assault Taiwan, where the remnant of the Imperial Chinese state still existed. As the airships clear the coast for subsequent landing, thousands of Mongol and Chinese warriors pour out of the ships, slaughtering anyone standing in their way. The resulting conquest is brutal and quick, with all of China now under control of the Mongol dynasty. Interestingly enough, while the Mongols are not completely assimilated into the Chinese culture, rather giving it some of their own traits, the resulting society sees itself as Dini China, not as Mongol Empire.
998 - A Khazar explorer reaches Pacific Ocean by traveling through the frigid wastes of Siberia. Having reached the Bering Strait, he realizes that the land beyond offers more glory and opportunity for the Kaganate, and claims it for his nation. Thus begins the Khazar Alaska.
1000 - The turn of the millenium created some minor religious hysteria, however, in both Constantinople and Venice, it was business as usual. Upon Constantine VIII's death, the succession passed to his son Nicephorus IV, however, a bout with the plague killed him with no issue. The Byzantine Senate confers the crown of the Empire upon the one Basil Stylitzes, who is crowned Basil V.
January 20th, 2006, 07:17 PM
1001 - The rhetoric in both Venice and Constantinople gets increasingly stronger, as both Empires are ready to stand their respective ground. Upon discovery of the Venetian alliance with the Vandals, the Byzantines form a "mutual defence pact" with the Russians, who had long been eyeing German and Gaulish provinces of the Venetians. That one of the byproducts of industrialization is the invention of printing does not help the situation, as both propaganda machines do their best to indoctrinate, convince, persuade their citizenry.
1003 - The Chinese (referring, from now on, to the empire in China ruled by a Mongol dynasty, but, in itself, increasingly an amalgam of both influences - the Mongol spirit for war combined with Chinese sophistication and learning) enter into a conflict with the Chola over the Indonesian islands. The war is settled with a payment of large indemnity by the Chola, and surrender of parts of Indonesia. Emboldened by the success, China continues to pursue an aggressive policy, becoming a regional powerhouse that holds both formal and informal sway over the affairs of the lesser states. In a meanwhile, settlement in Chinese California continues to thrive, constantly enlarged through forced immigration and warfare against the local native tribes. An explorer traveling through the deserts of American southwest in search for the fabled Gold Empire whose wealth could make an enterprising soldier rich beyond belief stumbles upon a Mayan-Vandal outpost. Believing this to be the frontier town of such an empire, but not willing to raise suspicions, the explorer retires to the safety of Chinese settlements, and begins recruiting mercenary troops for the largest endeavor yet - the conquest of the Gold Empire.
1004 - If the explorer-turned-would-be-conqueror-of-America fell ultimately short of his goal, that was not for the lack of trying. The outpost he and his ragtag gang of mercenaries stumbled upon was a domain of a small-time Mayan feudal lord, who, despite having only a relatively small force, was equipped with the latest and greatest in Mayan and Vandal weaponry. When the Chinese took the outpost by force, the Mayans inflicted such casualties on them that it became apparent that continuing on is not going to be possible. Worse yet, within a few days the Chinese scouts reported sightings of the Mayan soldiers and recon airships. Making away with as much loot as they could, the Chinese hurried back to California, only to find its coast bombarded by advanced ships that bore no resemblance to anything they had previously seen. While the ships scattered at the sight of numerous Chinese patrol cruisers guarding the site, the mercenaries were amazed to notice that some of the ships submerged into water of their own will, and continued to fight, resulting in a massive slaughter of Chinese navy. After the naval battle, the Mayan/Vandal marines begun their assault on the Chinese base, where after much slaughter, they are triumphant, remnant of the Chinese either enserfed, or fleeing south of the city to what in OTL would be the Mexican part of California, where another Chinese settlement still thrived.
1005 - The Byzantines, having maintained tenuous contact with the Chinese throughout the centuries and realizing what exactly the Chinese had encountered through their spies in the Chinese court, send an ambassador to Bejing with an offer of alliance, cemented by some technological exchanges. The alliance is accepted, with Byzantines imagining a set of purposes; for one, China's quest to eliminate the opposition in the New World, two, the need to distract increasingly pro-Venetian Khazars, and three, a possible attack against the Venetian interests in South America while the Byzantines and the Russians roll over Venice's European provinces. Not to be outdone, the Venetians are quick to conclude a treaty of alliance with the Khazar Kaganate, exchanging technology for the promise that in the event of hostilities, Khazars will attack the enemies of Venice.
1006 - The year 1006 sees enlargement of both alliances, with the Chola and Egypt becoming reluctant members of the Treaty of Alexandretta (which is how the Byzantine-Russian-Chinese alliance begins to call itself), and with Axum reluctantly joining forces with Venetians, Vandals, and Khazars after being promised sole control over the Suez Canal in case of victory, and after being given much military and civil technology to upgrade its army and navy. Dozens of small principalities chose to align themselves with one of the sides in the upcoming conflict, with some of Europe's remaining countries, such as Dalmatia, Denmark, Angleland, Eire, and Norway declaring complete neutrality - which, of course, did not prohibit any of them on making agreements with both sides to lend mercenaries to their cause. All that was needed would be a spark to ignite the bloodiest, most terrible war ever seen in this world.
1008 - In the old world, and parts of the new, the standoff continued, as a reluctant peace settlement is hastily arranged between Maya Vandalor and China. The Vinnlanders, however, have by now incorporated the Iroquois into their state, and push further and further west, as single explorers and adventurers even reach the Khazar lands of Alaska. Their longships giving way to steamers, jagged-edge battleaxes to firearms, and even the ancient pagan religion transforming into a more secular faith, the only thing that did not change about these descendants of the Norse is their unquenchable thirst for adventure - and thus Vinnlander ships are by now a regular feature at the docks of many a country in Europe and Americas.
1010 - Imbibed with a desire to gain an edge on the Venetian alliance, Basil V of Byzantium commissions research into new, more efficient forms of aircraft. One of the first results is the discovery of electricity, which, besides being a rather useful means of illuminating the rooms, opens up a whole world of military possibilities. With electricity, the airships finally switch from being little more than glorified hot air balloons to contain hydrogen within their tanks, while the increased use of rubber (which, Basil cringed, must be imported from Venetians in Giovannia or, more commonly, from the Chimu barbarians) provided new fabrics, and new mobility options for the wheeled land vehicles.
1011 - Byzantine spies in Venice have a major cause for alarm. Not only the Venetians are successfully able to duplicate the discovery of electricity, but by now they are introducing a new concept to the battlefield, previously dominated by the towering mechs among the oceans of infantry - mechanized cavalry, small armored vehicles that only required a crew of a driver and a gunner, and that had much greater all-terrain capabilities. In a stroke of brilliance, a Venetian inventor decided to use tracks instead of tires, allowing his creations to have an ability to traverse almost any terrain. Still powered by steam, these vehicles are only a precursor of more advanced means of propulsion, but are a cheaper and more numerous alternative to mechs. Thus, the standoff between the Byzantine and Venetian alliances is still interrupted only by few proxy wars in the colonies and protectorates, and insane amounts of espionage activities.
1013 - Claudius VI of Venice dies, to be succeeded by a general taking the name of Hadrian II. Hadrian is one of the growing number of Venetian leaders who are advocating a more forceful foreign policy, and who believe in preemptive strike at the first opportunity in order to bring Byzantium to its knees. Of course, the Byzantines are looking for an opportunity, too, and thus are investing enormous portion of their income into research, development, and rearmament.
1014 - In Constantinople, Basil V is worried. Already the preparations for conflict are taking its toll on Byzantine economy; his only comfort is that the Venetians, despite their earlier acceptance of venture capitalism as a means to drive the economy forward, are not faring much better. In a meanwhile, allies of the two major antagonists are going through some preparations of their own, resulting even in an unofficial border war between the Khazars and China. The remnants of the Caliphate, bordered on all sides by the pro-Byzantine states, have no choice but to swallow their Dini scruples and seek protection in entering the Treaty of Alexandretta. Using the same logic, the faraway kingdom of Zimbabwe enlists on Venetian side, reasoning that in case of Venetian victory, the Byzantine South Africa could swiftly change hands, while in case of defeat they are sufficiently remote to seek favorable peace terms before the full might of Venice is brought upon them.
1015 - With the economies of the civilized world straining under weight of mobilization and mass production of military supplies, it would not be long before the economic collapse does the damage to both would-be combatants. As the peace seems to be merely a delay before the inevitable, the spark that sets wheels of fate in motion ignites. Byzantines move in to annex Dalmatia, which they claim to be a renegade part of their Empire. Despairing, the Dalmatians quickly form an alliance with Venice as the Byzantine armies march through their lands. In response, the Venetian fleet bombards Corfu. Thus, the first Great War has begun.
January 20th, 2006, 07:19 PM
About the Great War...
Also- What the heck is going on with Zion? Are they going to pick up the pieces after the whole Great War is going on?
Technically Zion is a Byzantine vassal state, but practically, they do their best to stay away from the war. The Hebrews simply see it as being someone else's fight, and apart from large tribute to Byzantium, their contributions are minimal. Practically they are buying the Byzantines off in order to ensure their neutrality, and possibly join in the fight when its direction is clear. Zion simply does not have the resources to want to participate in war - its role in European society has been more like that of OTL's Switzerland - a banking, scientific, and financial haven that plays surrounding powers off against one another to ensure its own survival. Should the opportunity, and the need to expand, arise, however, Zion could benefit from it substantially.
So- let me just get the situation at hand for the "Great War"
A) Flying gliders of "DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM"
B) Massive seige towers that are decked out with armor
C) Tank analogues that support the moving seige towers/machines
D) Infantry that come out and mop up whatever is left after A/B/C/D attacks
E) Ironclad ships (steam?)
G) Artillery ships (steam?)
As far as A), they are only somewhat prominent with the Mongols/China, and are being quickly replaced by airships that are lifted in the air with hydrogen, and are much heavier armoured and armed. Within a relatively short time these would be improved enough to where the airships become floating fortresses of the sky, and the idea of heavier-than-air aircraft as a viable (not obsolete) weapon is going to be laughed at.
B) are also on their way out, they are not sufficiently mobile, and make the limitations of steam power very apparent. Not to mention that they are expensive to build, take a lot of effort to maintain, and need a large crew, whereas a combination of tanquettes and conventional artillery is cheaper to build and operate, and is much more effective on the battlefield.
As such, the "tanks" (or, rather, "mechanized cavalry" would probably be a better description, as they are much closer to steam-powered "armored cars" with machine guns as the main armament, designed to sweep the ground with enemy infantry) are more of one half of a replacement for "siege tower" mechs, the other half being conventional cannons and artillery. In fact, some armoured cars would end up being outfitted with cannons, and specifically designed to counter the enemy "tanquettes" and to assault heavily fortified positions, but there would be no "all-purpose" tank as of just yet.
As for the true "mechs" (as in Mechwarrior series), those still have some way before coming along, until the internal combustion engine is created and perfected, but at that point, the doctrine of creating a "be-all, end-all" weapon will result in the "mech" concept being reintroduced.
The infantry is, of course, used mainly because it is cheap, plentiful, and expendable. Due to more powerful weapons available that the infantry has little counter for at the time, the numbers of infantry are less prominent than in the past, and are edging ever closer to the concept of trench warfare, especially after the invention of first machine guns.
The navy would generally have ironclad cruisers and destroyers, with "artillery ships" being basically floating gun platforms, extremely powerful for shore bombardment, but also extremely vulnerable to attacks by smaller vessels, and thus always needing escorts. The submarines are a jealously guarded Vandal technological secret, and thus are only in their possession - but the other nations, most notably the Venetians and the Chinese, are trying to duplicate the designs with varying degrees of success. By the end of the Great War, all major combatants will have if not a fleet of several submarines, then at least the means to build them.
The Great War is going to be simply another major push towards developing more and more advanced technology to get this world towards what I have in mind for it - which hopefully will be another major twist by the end, hopefully more so than the Venetian Romans and Jewish Turks. To say the least, this war is to be followed by many, many changes to the structure of this world...
and even more!
It is a pity that the Maya Vandal's are quickly loosing the tech that gave them the edge to other countries. I mean- I'm all for the isolationist "I kick you in the rear and f*** your mother if you come near" theme but I was really saddened by them being....neutered by other folks. I don't know. I just guess that I'm really fond of a concentrated violence but not a violence that is insitutionalized as something to fuel an empire of sorts.
Their tech edge is not necessarily going to be lost - the other nations are going to have subs and such, but by that time the Maya Vandals are going to start fiddling with more advanced concepts, to where they are going to be at least half a step ahead... not to mention that in the aftermath of war, the isolationist attitude may return...
Let's just say that the aftermath of the Great War is going to have a lot of pissed off nations, and much more of the "concentrated" violence - the era of the great empires is slowly but surely going away.
January 20th, 2006, 07:21 PM
1016 - If one thing became apparent from the first few months of fighting, it was that the sides were very evenly matched. Several battles were fought on land between Byzantines and Venetians in Dalmatia, ravaging the lands for little to no gain. In the Far East, Khazars and China clashed with ferocity unrivaled before, going back and forth with their mechanized cavalry, mechs, and airships in the wastes of Mongolia. The Maya Vandals launched an all-out assault on Chinese California, which fell without much of a show of resistance, while Russian assaults into Germany and Gaul were repulsed by Venetians with huge losses. In a meanwhile, the Khazars fortify their positions in Caucasus to prepare for eventual Byzantine and Russian onslaught. The first use of "tanquettes" by the Venetians in Dalmatia is somewhat disappointing, as the local Byzantine general was able to use terrain to his advantage, and trap the "tanquettes" in a deep ravine where the Byzantine artillery did the trick - however, the Venetians lay blame on the commander, and still stand by their design.
1017 - An ambitious Venetian plan is put into action, nicknamed "Operation Emilius" after an ancient Roman conquerer of much of Greece. The plan calls for an all-out naval assault on Epirus, with the key city of Durazzo seen as the key to gaining a beachhead in Greece. It is a short sail from Venice through the Adriatic; however the Byzantine fleet was ready. Resulting was the great naval battle fought near Zara, in which nearly half of the entire Venetian battle fleet was sent to the bottom of the sea. The Byzantine losses were almost as severe, however, Emperor Basil's propaganda tended to overlook the fact, claiming it to be the greatest naval victory for the "true Romans" since Actium. Despite the victory, the Byzantines are unable to push on Venice, as patrols of Vandal submarines take their daily toll on them. In a meanwhile, the Egyptians and the Axumites clash over control of Suez Canal, with the Axumites finally gaining upper hand. In South Africa, Byzantine colonies fall quickly to the armies of Great Zimbabwe, however, in South America and Australia, the Byzantines are able to take over the Axumite possessions. In Venice, the disastrous abortive "Operation Emilius" results in the increasingly more frustrated Senate appointing the one Ludovic Sforza as a supreme commander - although Hadrian II keeps the throne. Sforza is the foremost general of Venice, and is considered to be one of the most innovative commanders, able and willing to use new weapons and tactics to the great advantage. The results are quick to show, as Sforza's employment of tanquettes and rearmament of infantry with weapons both suited to slaughter the enemy troops and to stand against mechanized threats pushed Russians out of Venetian territories in Europe, and took the war into what would have been OTL Lithuania and Poland.
1018 - By now, a relative stalemate has been reached. The primary areas of fighting are the Aegean sea, Dalmatia, Lithuania in Europe, the Pacific Ocean and Mongolia in Asia (where in the former the Vandal submarines crushed more than one Chinese attempt at invasion, and in the latter the Khazars had been pushed back into Siberia by Chinese counterattacks), with the Americas being relatively quiet. In a meanwhile, discontent with prolonged war grows in the urban centers of Europe, and it is only through draconian measures that Basil V is able to restore control in the Byzantine territory, while constant rebellions in North Africa and Iberia keep a significant portion of Venetian troops occupied. The Caliphate, long seen as a moribund and anachronistic entity, is nevertheless able to send enough raids into the Khazar territory to become a major nuisanse despite its technologically inferior armaments. Persia, despite trying to stay neutral, is concerned about the Axumites and the suddenly revived Caliphate, decides to throw their lot in with the Byzantines, giving them the right of military passage through their territory, but implying that the Persian troops would not fight in foreign campaigns, only to defend their homelands - thus not altering the overall balance of power that much. The Russians are able to sneak a fleet through to the English Channel, landing an unexpected small invasion force in Gaul. The invasion force does not do much damage, but the psychological effects on the Venetians are devastating. Calling for an all-out vengeance, the "Aetius Offensive", as it was dubbed in the halls of Venetian High Command (being a reference to Russians as the "new Huns", and naming the operation after a Roman general who defeated the Huns at Chalons), starts, intending to punish the Russians. The offensive has thousands of increasingly more powerful tanquettes, supplemented by giant airships and three hundred thousand infantry, roll into what would be OTL Ukraine, attempting to take out Kiev and thus Russians out of the war. Coordinated with the Khazar attack from the East, the Russians would have no choice but to surrender.
1019 - The "Aetius Offensive" begins; however, the Russians have a secret ace up their sleeve. The Russian airships, using Byzantine and Chinese designs, have been rebuilt to carry great amounts of cargo, including soldiers. Using Chinese experience, the Russians design the world's first parachutes, and drop thousands of crack commandos armed to the teeth in the Khazar rear near Azow. Hit where they least expect it, and under constant pounding from the Byzantine artillery monitor ships, the Khazars withdraw, taking many casualties. In the west, however, there is a different story to tell, as Venetians roll through Poland and northern Ukraine, and meet a large Russian force at Belaya Tserkov, about 100 kilometers south of Kiev. The most memorable thing about the battle of Belaya Tserkov is that much of it was fought in the air, where numerous Venetian and Russian airships clashed just as the Venetian tanquettes moved against the entrenched Russian guns. Despite a number of attempts to land paratroopers behind the Venetian lines, the Russians are unsuccessful, suffering thousands of casualties, yet taking many a Venetian with them. At the end, the Russians withdraw from a battlefield, bruised, but not completely broken, in order to regroup and organize their defences. Thus, the Venetians claimed victory at the Battle of Belaya Tserkov, solely due to having control of the battlefield. Yet, the subsequent events were to prove their perception of the events wrong. As the Venetians pushed towards Kiev, they dismayed to find the countryside destroyed, towns evacuated, and Kiev itself a ghost town, all of the government and most of the citizens evacuated to a secondary outpost of Moskva (Moscow). Thus, the Burning of Kiev, which was later the cause for much Russian propaganda, was hardly warranted. It was late October, and the Venetians attempted to set themselves up for the upcoming winter - however, the provisions were scarce, and even drops of food and supplies by the Venetian airships were not helping much. To make the matters worse, Crimea was still in Byzantine hands, and continuous raids of Byzantines from the south and Russians from the north ate away at the Venetian force. The Russians begun to employ a scorched earth tactic, avoiding battle with what they knew to be a potentially superior force, but trying to exhaust the Venetians to where the elements would become Russia's most powerful ally.
1020 - A Byzantine attack in North Africa takes Carthage from the Venetians, and pushes through Mauretania all the way to the Gibraltar. In a meanwhile, Byzantine agents are hard at work in Giovannia, fanning the flames of discontent with Venetian rule, where many of the local aristocrats and landowners are justifyably appalled at the ever-increasing taxes, and their lack of say in the Venetian government (made even worse by what they perceive as "freedoms" enjoyed by the people of same social class in Italy and Gaul). In a meanwhile, the Venetian army, reduced by the winter, lack of supplies, and Russian and Byzantine raids, is an easy prey for the major Russian counterattack. By then, advances in chemistry allowed for a primitive form of poison gas to be produced, and the Venetians are not hesitant to use whatever little they have - however, despite extreme casualties, the Russians surround the Venetian army near Kiev, and in the Battle of Kiev, thoroughly annihilate the Venetians. The Russian propaganda promises a "march to the sea" that will avenge the burning of Kiev and the Venetian use of poison gas, which they decree as criminal. The Khazar attack on the Russian heartland is just an unsuccessful as the Venetian one, especially since the Khazars do not possess the "tanquettes" in large enough numbers on the Western front, instead committing more of their resources to the battles in China where the Chinese are slowly encroaching in Siberia. Thus, the Russians, augmented by Byzantine reinforcements, roll over Poland and Lithuania, pushing the Venetians back as far as Germany. In a meanwhile, a major rebellion, partially sponsored by the Byzantines, rocks Gaul, with the local Franks loudly demanding independence. The Venetian position becomes increasingly more dire, although not hopeless yet. In the Pacific Ocean, the great Maya Vandal fleet meets the main Chinese force, and annihilates it; the Axumites finally break through the Egyptian defences and attack Cyprus, but are beated back by determined Byzantine defenders. The Chola and the Chinese send an expedition against Axumite-held Madagascar, failing to land the troops on an island, but causing much damage. The Axumites retaliate with a raid of their own against Ceylon, which is not any more successful. The land fighting continues in the Arabian peninsula where the Caliphate troops are finally able to turn the tide and to push the Axumites to the Red Sea. The previously neutral state of Rajputana, realizing its precarious position, joins the Byzantine alliance.
1021 - A naval Venetian expedition to retake North Africa succeeds in retaking Gibraltar and Mauretania. This gives new hope to the Venetian Empire, and plans are being made for the one operation that is expected to bring Byzantium to its knees once and for all - an assault on Constantinople itself! The Venetians attempt to refit their entire airship armada, and to make a two-pronged attack on the Byzantine capital, with the Venetian battleships bombarding the Walls of Theodosius as the airships reduce the Byzantine capital to ruins, and decimate its population by poison gas canisters which are by now mass-produced. The Byzantines, however, learn of the planned attack, and are prepared to meet the Venetians at sea and in the air. There are two battles fought, one naval at Chios in the Aegean, and another one almost entirely fought in the air, with forty Byzantine airships engaging the force of sixty Venetian ones in the skies above Adrianople. Despite the Venetian numerical superiority in the Battle of Adrianople, the Byzantines use a new, revolutionary concept of an airship carrier, with the largest airships sending waves of rocket gliders armed with incendiary rounds against the Venetians. The Venetian airforce is destroyed almost to a man, while the Byzantines lose "only" half of their initial airfleet. However at Chios, the Venetians are victorious, and decide to sail to the Sea of Marmara and attempt to reduce Constantinople by sea. They arrive to find Thrace completely mobilized, and the straits blocked by the remnant of the Byzantine navy, reinforced by hundreds of land guns. Venetian commanders order an attack, but in the battle of Marmara, the returning Byzantine airships prove to be the key factor that sends the Venetians home packing.
1022 - Despite disastrous assault on Constantinople, Venetians are still confident of their ability to win the war, bolstered by the Khazar and Vandal successes against the Chinese, and even an abortive Khazar invasion of Armenia that caused Byzantines much grief. In 1022, however, they are hit with three devastating events that significantly shift the balance of war. First, Vinnlanders, attempting to remove the Khazars from Alaska and American northwest, declare war, joining in the Treaty of Alexandretta. Vinnland succeeds spectacularly in taking the Khazar lands in North America, and even crossing into lightly defended Kamchatka, establishing a foothold there. Second, encouraged by the Byzantine agents, the Venetian colony of Giovannia revolts, and declares itself an independent republic. Tied up in Europe, the Venetians could only rely on the Vandals to fight the rebels, however, such move, seen as bringing a foreign oppressor to rein in the citizens, proves to be extremely unpopular in Giovannia, galvanizing much of its now rather extensive population to fight. Within a year, the Vandals are thrown out of Giovannia (which they did not make much fuss about, sending only a small force anyway), and Byzantium is the first to recognize Giovannian independence. Third, the Russian "march to the sea" breaks through Venetian defences around the Rhine. Combined with independence-seeking Franks, the Venetian armies are broken, pushed back to the Appennines and the Pyrennees, where they make a desperate stand. With Russian and Byzantine support, the state of Gaul is established as a protectorate kingdom, nominally independent, but practically a puppet of the two powers.
1023 - Seeing Byzantines and their allies gain an upper hand, Maya Vandalor swallows its scruples about dealing with the devil you know, and switches sides. The price - Chinese California. The Chinese are unhappy about this, but are promised Axumite Australian holdings, and as much of Khazar Siberia as they could grab, in addition to huge compensation. This proves to be the final straw for the Venetians, who are at last ready to meet at the negotiations table, knowing full well that the Byzantines and the Vandals together are only months away from launching a full-scale invasion of Italy just as the Russians are only barely held by the Appennine mountains and the desperate efforts of Venetian defenders. The peace terms are harsh, and include Venetian recognition of Gaulish and Giovannian independence, dismantling of much Venetian industry, indemnities to Byzantium and Russia, installment of an autocratic Emperor with the rank of a mere Caesar (as opposed to the Augustus rank of the Byzantine Emperor) who, of course, would be not much more than a Byzantine pawn, and dismantling of the Venetian Senate. In addition, the peace terms specifically state the superiority of the Byzantine Emperor to his Venetian counterpart. The Russians were to get the German and Frankish lands held by Venice outside of borders of roughly OTL France. Finally, most of the chief Venetian scientists were to be handed over to Byzantium. With little choice, the Venetians signed the document, entering into a separate peace. In the East and in Africa, seeing their main ally taken out of the war, the Axumites and the Khazars are quick to enter into peace agreements. As a result, China gets a large chunk of Siberia and the parts of Australia not previously under Byzantine control; Vinnland acquires all Khazar territories in the New World, plus Kamchatka. The Vandals get to keep their gains, although they are persuaded to pay a large indemnity to the Chinese. The Byzantine South Africa is regained from Zimbabwe, who got off relatively lightly, only having to surrender several border towns and to pay an indemnity. The Caliphate regains its long-lost Arabian territories from Axum, although does not get the territories under Egyptian control. Egypt gets few border towns from Axum, but not much else. The nation of Dalmatia as such ceases to exist, the entire region and most of the Dalmatian coast going to Byzantium, along with all of Venetian North Africa. The Caliphate also regains the parts of OTL Afghanistan that were under Khazar control, and obtains several smaller islands in the Pacific previously owned by Axum, thus resulting in it being seen as somewhat of a regional power again. The war cost insurmountable suffering and grief, and its economic cost would be a heavy burden upon both victors and losers for years to come; the war cost officially estimated fifteen million lives - with the real figure probably much higher. But for once, even if for a short while, there was peace.
January 20th, 2006, 07:22 PM
1024 - Already hailed by his Byzantine contemporaries as the greatest Roman Emperor since Augustus, Basil V dies satisfied, having achieved the goal of reunifying, at least nominally, the entire Roman Empire under Constantinople. The succession, however, presents a problem. Basil has three daughters and a son, however, the particular circumstances of his son's birth present a difficulty - Demetrios Stylitzes is illegitimate, and thus would normally be debarred from the throne. Not only that, but the husband of one of Basil's daughters, a prominent general named Alexius Branas, makes his bid for the throne as well. Demetrios attempts to find allies in the most unlikely of all places, and finally succeeds where no one would have guessed - in Venice. Even though the Venetian Emperor Victor is technically subordinate to the one in Constantinople, his support and that of Italian leaders would make the Byzantines agree on Demetrios, especially since no one wants to see the comeback of the Great War. The price is high, with Victor demanding that Venice is represented in the Imperial Senate, and that much of the restrictions and penalties placed on them by late Basil V be lifted. After all, he argued, are the people of Italy not Roman citizens? They should then be treated as such, and not as a conquered, wounded enemy. Demetrios is quick to agree, realizing that the only way he could beat Alexius Branas to the throne is by gaining support in both East and West. Branas is captured, and forced to enter the monastery, where he remains for the rest of his long life, writing a somewhat boring history that appears to be a major source of information about the time.
1026 - The city of Zara on the Dalmatian coast has long been the place where the Greeks, Italians, and Slavs mixed, giving birth to a unique blend of all three cultures. It is there that a former Venetian soldier turned small-time politician by the name of Antonio Trappani becomes increasingly bitter after he is ejected from the city council due to no longer meeting the property requirements. Trappani, despite his very humble origins, is a master orator, and takes up on the causes of soldiers, workers, and those of generally lower classes. Because of location, and of the mixing of Greeks and Italians, his message is heeded by the people of both origins. He advocates better worker protection rights, something that had been looked at in Venice with some interest, but previously rejected outright in Byzantium; reduced work hours; lower taxation for the lower income citizens; and representation for the poor in the government. To this effect, he proposes to reinstitute the ancient office of the Tribune of the People, whose duty would be to represent the interests of the plebeians and proletarians in the grand Imperial Senate, with veto and a range of other powers. As Trappani starts to publish a newspaper called "The Voice Of The Republic", his ideas gain more ground not only in the coastal cities of Dalmatia and Illyria, but throughout the entirety of the Roman Empire, Byzantine and Venetian.
1028 - By now, Antonio Trappani has created enough of a stir that an arrest warrant is issued, and, thanks to the relative efficiency of the Byzantine secret police, he is quickly brought to Constantinople. Riots break out throughout the many cities of the East and the West, many of the rioters themselves former soldiers, who start to organize themselves, heeding the message of Trappani. Realizing that the situation is fundamentally more difficult than he had anticipated, Emperor Demetrios calls for calm, and promises to hear Trappani's grievances and to give him a fair trial, with the Emperor himself presiding.
1029 - The trial of Antonio Trappani amasses huge crowds in Constantinople, with the rioting subdued only temporarily. As Trappani is led into the improvised courtroom in Hagia Sophia (the place was chosen as to give religious flavor and additional weight to the Emperor's decision), thousands begun to whisper that this one man may be the one to bring prosperity to their war-torn empire again. The opening arguments are heard, Trappani refusing to use the lawyer, and insisting to speak in his own defence. At this time, there is an unmistakable chant coming from the outside of the great church - "Trappani". His name on the lips of the citizens of wealthiest, most opulent city in the world, and on the lips of citizens of every other major city of his empire, his army heeding the ideas of this strange little Italian, Demetrios has little choice but to have Trappani cleared of his charges, and appointed to the very position he advocated - the Tribune of the People.
1032 - The collapse of the Chimu Empire in South America begins, partially initiated by the Byzantine influence. When a new king ascends the throne of the Chimu, he attempts to forge closer ties with his neighbours, however, invariably in this kind of situation one neighbour is given preference over the others. That one neighbour just happened to be Maya Vandalor. The Byzantines engineer a coup, placing a Byzantium-friendly puppet on the throne, but a counter-revolution sponsored by the Vandals has the new king run for his life, escaping to Byzantine colonies. With Byzantine financing, the new king is able to raise an army, which results in Chimu plunging into an ongoing decade-long civil war. Despite this conflict, the Byzantine-Vandal relations are largely unchanged - that is, the state of mutual distrust continues.
1033 - In the four years since his appointment as a Tribune, Antonio Trappani made many enemies, but at the same time, his star is rising fast to where he is the second most powerful man in the Empire - that is, second only to the Emperor Demetrius himself, who tends to heed Trappani's advice in times of crisis. Long a proponent of the Venetian system, where the monarch's power is curbed by the Senate, Trappani proposes to create a system of checks and balances that would separate the executive, legislative, judicial, and religious power, and ensure that no matter who is on the throne, the stability and development of the Empire would be ensured by the balance. Demetrius is lukewarm to the idea, however, faced with the opposition from the Venetian and Byzantine aristocrats and churchmen, decides that this is a small price to pay for an undisturbed reign not only for himself, but for his son, and, God willing, his son after him. Thus, Demetrius commissioned a large congregation of leading men of the day, jurists, churchmen, generals, industrialists, to write a new Roman Constitution, all under the watchful eye of the Emperor and his Italian advisor. The work on the document took two years, however, upon its completion, it was hailed as being the most progressive concept of its time, and a noble detour from the old ways of privilege and tyranny.
1034 - A great Vandal king Otto comes to the throne, resolved to curb the power of the feudal aristocrats that he believes to damage the essential unity of Maya Vandalor, and to prevent its rise to the status of a true global superpower. His policies are occasionally heavy-handed, and cause a number of small rebellions, but within a decade, the Maya Vandals not only emerge as a much more centralized state, but expand their North American dominions all the way to the Vinnland frontier. At the same time, the Vandal and Mayan engineers are working hard to maintain the technological advantage that allowed them to establish their country as a major power. The first fruit of their efforts is the internal combustion engine, which is then used to power increasingly more advanced versions of airships, tanquettes, submarines, and surface ships. The engine will be eventually copied by the other powers, however, the Vandal models will be considered superior to their European and Chinese duplicates for a long time to come.
1035 - The Roman Constitution is finished, and given approval from both the Emperor Demetrius, the Imperial Senate, the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Tribute Trappani. The Constitution divides supreme power into five branches - the Emperor responsible for the executive branch, enforcing the laws, and being the commander-in-chief of the army; the Senate being responsible for creating new laws; the new office of Sebastocrator being essentially a chief justice, with a staff of ten lesser judges being appointed to serve as the supreme judicial authority of the Empire, responsible for the interpretation of the laws. The two branches that constitute a major difference between the Byzantine Constitution and that of OTL USA are the religious branch, headed by the Synod of Six Patriarchs (Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Gaul, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, all of which send their representatives), and responsible for being the ultimate authority on religious doctrinal issues - however, the Emperor is given the power to intervene should the Synod come to a deadlock (an important distinction is that even though Gaul and Alexandria are not technically a part of the Empire, the Emperor still considers himself to be God's Vice-Regent on Earth, and thus participation of the Patriarchs is a pronouncement of his spiritual authority over all other temporal rulers); and, finally, the Tribunary branch, headed by the Tribune of the People, being in charge of the employment laws, worker compensation (as in minimum wages and so on), and ensuring no abuses of power by the other branches of the government. There is a cause for much rejoicing in the East and in the West, as finally a compromise is reached that satisfies both the Venetians and the Byzantines. Of course, not everyone is happy, and as such Demetrius is obliged to put down a serious rebellion of Greek industrialist aristocracy who see him as being too pro-Venetian, but the reinstitution of the constitutional monarchy not only for Venice, but also for its Byzantine counterpart, does much to recreate an amount of goodwill between the two scions of ancient Rome, reminding their people that they are still a part of one common ancestry, and that despite their differences, they are still Romans above and beyond everything else.
1037 - A Russian explorer travels through what would be OTL Argentina, and claims this land for the Tsardom of Rus. The Russians are quick to send most of their available colonists to South America, creating a colony named Serebrenitsa, after finding much silver there (from Russian [i]Serebro[/] - "Silver").
1039 - The Byzantine Empire by now is widely considered the strongest power in the known world, quickly reincorporating Venetian territories back into the fold, and creating in a process a new Roman Empire, that is an amalgam of what was best about pre-split Byzantium and Venice. In the East Asia, however, another power is not content with playing a second fiddle to anyone. Secretly, the Mongol Emperor of China commissions research into further military applications, while forming an under-the-counter alliance with the Maya Vandals, who realize that there is more to gain from allying with China than from an unspoken enmity between the two that has been prevalent ever since the Chinese-Vandal war years ago.
1040 - A Byzantine engineer that has long been fascinated with the rocket gliders has just realized that despite the common wisdom of the time, a heavier-than-air aircraft design is, indeed, possible. Armed with a moderately powerful internal combustion engine, he theorizes that upon reaching sufficient speed, a device of proper shape could not only achieve flight, but also achieve speeds previously believed unthinkable. His first device does not lift off the ground, however, he is not discouraged, and decides to continue until one day in 1041, the first heavier-than-air propeller-driven aircraft lifts off, and stays in the air for the whole of seventeen seconds. These seventeen seconds begin a new era of aviation, that will result in massive airships being relegated into the background, with only few still being used as carriers of faster fighter planes (albeit due to weight restrictions, the number of planes they could carry, it was observed, was not nearly as efficient as a navy ship outfitted for this purpose - thus the air-based carriers would only be deployed in the areas with no water access).
1042 - Norway, Denmark, Eire, and Angleland, despite the history of mutual enmity going back centuries, realize that left alone, they are simply waiting for one of the greater powers to swallow them up. As a result, after years of talks, the four countries decide to form the Northern Confederation, part treaty of military alliance, part economic union. The important part of the agreement is that each of the four countries agrees to keep its sovereignty, with the leadership of the Confederation passing to each of the countries in turn for one year.
1043 - The state of Gaul quickly regresses into feudalism as rival barons set up their own little fiefs with only nominal loyalty to the king in Paris. Demetrius views this development with much dissatisfaction, as not only it is much more difficult to deal with hundreds of Barons, the eventual supremacy of Rome is at stake. Afraid that should the things get too out of hand, Gaul will need a full-scale reconquest to be reintegrated into the Empire as opposed to its current status as a vassal state, he issues an ultimatum to the Franks to accept the Roman governors or to face a full-scale invasion.
1044 - The Franks are not too excited about the idea of fighting the Romans, yet they also do not want to give up their independence. As such, they apply for the membership in the Northern Confederation, reasoning that such a move would stop the Romans from going to war that they would not want in first place. To Demetrius I, this could only mean treason, and he petitions the Senate for an invasion force, which he gets. The resulting war is quick, and is more decided by the Byzantine assassins than by the force of arms - with most leaders of the rebellion taken out, the Frankish forces become a disorganized mess that is quickly neutralized by few lightning-fast Byzantine maneuvers.
1045 - The last vestiges of conflict in Gaul die out, as the country is completely retaken by the Byzantines. Some accused the Byzantines of hypocrisy, being that they were the primary champions of Gaulish independence after the Great War - chief among them the Russians, who are by now getting increasingly restless, perceiving that their gains from the war were not even remotely proportional to the sacrifices they made. Disillusioned, the Russians still visibly maintain the formally amiable stance, but secretly enter into a treaty with China and the Vandals, setting their eyes upon the Khazar lands.
January 20th, 2006, 07:24 PM
Mostly about colonies and emporers....
Really? An African in Russia? Who'd of thunk it?
YW for the maps. It's simply just redressing of the previous maps, due to your great writing. I must say- at least the Byzantines are being "reformed' even though it was at the cost of Venice's independence.
From the technical standpoint, Venice did not as much lose its independence as simply agreed that the Roman Emperor in Constantinople is superior in rank to the Emperor in Venice - while in practical terms it means that Byzantium reincorporated Venice, the new state is finally the true "Roman" Empire in most respects, and thus has as much of Venice in it as Byzantium. I prefer to think of it as a synesthetic merger of the two, even if it was due to almost outright conquest. In other words, the Venetians still get their way with most of the Empire, despite having been militarily defeated - the new, reformed Empire is probably 3/5th Venetian and 2/5th Byzantine in character. Not to mention that such an Empire would be a lot more stable from internal dissent. Practically, the Venetians lost the battle, but won the war.
I'm a wondering about the fate of the Anti-Byzantine alliance. Is it a full alliance of the other major powers to kick Byzantine arse? If so, then is it an over all concern that Byzantine is a powerhouse to be squished or is it just "I got shafted! Time for vengence!" feeling?
The Anti-Byzantine alliance at this point is pretty much just a few countries with an axe to grind, or with the desire not to see Byzantium get too powerful. They are not likely to go for an all-out war, simply because they perceive that with all resources of Europe, and very adequate technology, Byzantium will be able to if not defeat them, then make any potential war extremely costly - but at the same time, there is going to be much behind-the-scenes backstabbing and covert activities.
Essentially, it is not as much an alliance as a "power bloc" of a kind - think NATO as opposed to the Axis. Nobody wants another Great War, rather, it is going to be much more about influence than territorial control. I am thinking more along the lines of series of localized conflicts, proxy wars, and a Cold War or two, but no mass conflict at the scale of the Great War.
Also; How is Zion coming along? Do they have any armed forces as of late?
Zion at this point tries really hard to achieve two things: first, to maintain its independence; second, to stay on friendly terms with neighbouring powers. They would have adopted a system frighteningly similar to that of OTL modern Israel, where its citizens ARE its army, having received constant military training, and buying the latest in Byzantine weapons. Its standing army is rather small, however, in case of a conflict it is able to call upon its citizen-soldiers to increase its forces tenfold. What Zion tries to do is to tie the other powers' financial interests to its independence via series of lines of credit for other governments, and joint research projects that yield some of the less noticeable, but more advanced European weapons - and, being realistic, they do business with both power blocs, maintaining their neutrality in times of crisis.
and of the Emporer-
Originally Posted by Matt Quinn
The Byzantine Emperor seems to have agreed to establish what seems to be a Venetian-style constitutional monarchy very quickly.
Even with Trappani the charistmatic guy pushing things along, I'd expect more resistance. Old habits (despotism) tend to die hard.
One thing about this particular Emperor is that he is an illegitimate son of a previous one, and thus had to get much Venetian support in order to keep the throne. Only because Demetrius is a relatively strong-willed monarch, and is supported by much of the army (largely due to the reforms being extremely popular with the military), he is able to get away with this, not to mention that the "carrot" of having a voice in the Senate gives something to the aristocrats that would have otherwise opposed the idea of republicanism.
Besides, he is well aware that this would be the only means of establishing somewhat permanent control over Venice, and thus keeping the Roman Empire whole and indivisible. He does not want to be remembered as a worthless successor of a great ruler whose reign was spent frantically trying to preserve the former's conquests - thus the need to leave a lasting achievement.
Pretty much what Demetrius I is is Nikolai II with lots more common sense, more brains, and few "extracurricular circumstances" - finding himself in a similar position, he yields to the reformers, who, incidentally, are rather popular in the military and with the bourgeoise - only to surely preserve his conquests, as population-wise, even with the loss of Gaul, Venice and Byzantium are fairly evenly matched, and the idea of ruling over a population half of which completely detests his rule and will break away at the first opportunity is not something Demetrius is very fond of.
January 20th, 2006, 07:25 PM
1046 - Axum, somewhat recovered from the Great War, starts to expand into the unclaimed regions of Central Africa. Before long, most smaller tribes and proto-states submit to the Negusa Nagast of Axum, adding much to his empire. Of course, the Axumite state has changed significantly in the last century as with respect to its social structure, and methods of governance. The Council of Elders, previously an advisory body, is by now a fully fledged equivalent of a Byzantine Senate, with Negusa Nagast's power being limited, although still significant. Seeing similarities within their two societies, and believing Axumites to be traders and colonizers, but not a state with major foreign imperial ambitions, the Byzantines offer the Axumites to create an alliance, further cemented by opening of the trade routes and economic ties. Egypt is quickly added to the alliance, both due to its strategic position (and its own expansion into the interior of Africa), and due to it taking clues from its northern neighbour and doing away with much of earlier autocratic rule. This alliance, on the paper nothing more than an economic free-trade zone (similar to OTL's NAFTA), actually creates the beginnings of the new, post-Great War Byzantine power bloc, with a new idea - the idea of incorporating the ancient republican political ideals with socially responsible internal policies. While all three countries are still technically monarchies, the monarchs' power is limited, and the people are not subject to their sovereign's wild whims, thus ushering in a new age of internal tranquillity and prosperity in Europe, North and East Africa.
1048 - The recent semi-revival of the Caliphate left quite a few of its neighbours collectively scratching their heads in relative amusement. Persia, Rajputana, and Khazaria are three very distinct, separate entities with little love for each other, however, with even less love for the Caliphate. When a Caliphate patrol inadvertedly crosses the Rajput border, it is considered a viable cause for war. The Middle Eastern War, as it became known to posterity, signalled the ultimate end of the Treaty of Alexandretta, as one by one the participants declare it null and void, invalidated by the end of the Great War.
1049 - In South America, the Republic of Giovannia grows in power, strengthened by the Chimu refugees, as well as the Venetian dissidents who had been fleeing there in the 1020s from the potential Byzantine persecution. The Giovannians are technologically advanced, benefitting much from closeness to Maya Vandalor, and socially are on par with the European developments. Seeing that Byzantium and Venice are by now societies with strong republican streak, and motivated by its historical ties to Venice, Giovannia joins into the Byzantine-Egyptian-Axumite alliance, where it is welcomed with open arms. The ambassadors from all four states meet in Rome, where the agreement on key issues is reached surprisingly quickly. Following the example of Northern Confederation, the new alliance agrees on free trade, and free movement of populations, however, the key decisions for foreign policies is made by a council made up of equal number of high ranking representatives from each of the nations. The alliance is given a somewhat pompous name of "Mutual Alliance Of Intercontinental Prosperity", or MAOIP - however, after a newspaper report, it quickly became known by another name - The Pact of Rome.
1050 - The Chinese, Maya Vandals, and the Russians by now announce that they have created a mutual "prosperity agreement" of their own, calling it "the Holy Union of Great Autocrators", HUGA, this being a direct reference to both the fact that they scoffed at "softening" Byzantines for adopting a more democratic system of government, and their direct claims to the status equal or even superior to the Roman Empire of the old. The popular name for this alliance, however, had not been kind to it, being a reminder of these societies main strength and their main weakness. It was simply known as the Autocracy.
1051 - The Middle Eastern War ends in a stalemate, as with reluctant Byzantine aid, the Caliphate is able to withstand the onslaught of its enemies, but not to carry the war over to them. The Caliphate applies to join the Pact, however, it is denied entry as its economy and government system are deemed too backward to be able to integrate with the developed nations of Europe, Africa, and South America.
1052 - The interior of Australia is claimed by the Chinese, although due to its poor resources and inability to sustain large population, it is mostly a prestige point. In a meanwhile, Zimbabwe and Russia agree to divide the remainder of unclaimed West Africa between them, thus resulting in a five-way split of Africa - Byzantines keeping their South African colony as well as expanding their North African one as far south as OTL Morocco - all the way to West Sahara; Egypt claiming the desert as far south as OTL Egypt's borders; Axum spreading West to roughly the middle of Africa; Russia expanding all the way to Axum's new borders and slightly to the south, while Zimbabwe occupies the rest. By now, with the claiming of no-man's land in South America, the Russian colony of Serebrenitsa grows roughly to the size of OTL Argentina, bordering Giovannia in the North and Byzantine coast in the West. Most of the world is thus claimed by the rival Empires, who are even now exchanging increasingly more venomous words, yet not daring to strike against those they perceive as their rivals.
1055 - As technology advances further and further, the population of most developed countries shifts from being predominantly rural a century ago, to being mainly urban, as booming industries pave a way for much prosperity within the nations of the Pact. In the nations of the Autocracy, however, there is an increased push for military research and production, to where much of their economies works for military purposes, resulting in a frightening increase in military production that at first surpassed that of the Pact, only to even out in the latter years.
1056 - In response to the earlier denial to join the Pact of Rome, the Caliphate spend the last four years modernizing its industries, and even creating a first-ever Constitution for a Dini state, separating the powers of the Caliph between various branches of government. The novel thing about the Caliphate Constitution is that it completely deprives the Caliph of any sort of secular power, rather leaving him as a formal head of state and spiritual leader, but otherwise a figurehead. As such, the Caliphate reapplies to the Pact, and is now admitted, albeit being given a ten-year period to bring its economy to the standards of the other nations of the Pact before it can be fully integrated.
1058 - Observing the light switch in his apartment, the Giovannian inventor comes up with an idea of telegraph. Thus, the first form of long-distance communication is introduced, allowing the faraway cities and even countries to communicate with each other instantly. The invention is quickly introduced throughout most of the civilized world.
1059 - Advances in mathematics and engineering culminate in the creation of the world's first "analytical machine" at the world-famous University of Constantinople. The machine is essentially a mechanical computer, still rather bulky and inefficient, but demonstrating the tantalizing possibilities offered by such technology.
1060 - Ever since the dawn of time, humans looked to the sky for a variety of reasons - dreams, navigation, guidance, spirituality. Yet, even with the fairly recent conquest of the heavens by the manmade aircraft, the question of what lies beyond the sky has taunted mankind, and one man in particular - Aristides Makedonikos. A professor at the prestigious University of Constantinople, he theorizes that just as the new forms of air travel constantly raise the limit of where humans can go, with sufficient technology one could go as far as the moon, and possibly beyond! By then, the invention of telescopes has made astronomy a respectable science as opposed to it long being a byproduct of astrology, by then a disreputable remnant of the times before the technological age - and the aging Emperor Demetrius found in it a venture after his own heart. By now sixty two years old, he looked like he could have been much older, life spent in constant fighting to keep his empire together and finally succeeding in being known as the great unifier. He knew that his son, who would succeed him as Constantine IX, would reign over the Empire where its people and its Emperor are one, and that would persevere throughout the ages. Yet, here was one last venture that he would like to see through, and to inscribe his name on; just like his father before him had been the great conqueror, he aspired to be the great unifier, the man that has his Empire survive and thrive, and its people walk among the stars. As such, Demetrios commissions the establishment of the Institute of Astronautics, seen as a pipe dream by many of his contemporaries, and not yielding results for many years, yet determined to find new materials and technologies to achieve the ancient dream of mankind - to leave the world of their birth and spread human seed throughout the universe.
January 20th, 2006, 07:27 PM
1061 - The state of Zion, long in the shadow of its larger, more powerful neighbours, has long been known both as one of the economic centers of the Mediterranean, and a technological powerhouse, selling its inventions to the highest bidder (more frequently than not, it just happened to be the Byzantines). Long aware of the implications of electricity, the Hebrew scientists attempt to improve on the mechanical "analytical machine" design, which was seriously flawed by the limitations of mechanical technology. Using electric signal instead, they manage to create an extremely basic electronic calculation device. While the device itself occupies major part of the building the research lab is located at, the first step in electronic computing is made.
1062 - The great Byzantine Emperor Demetrius dies, aged sixty four, and is mourned deeply throughout the entire Roman world. His son succeeds as Constantine IX, and is confirmed Emperor by all of the branches of Byzantine government.
1063 - Over the past century, the Khazars had seen much of their empire withered away over the unsuccessful Great War, and the aftermath thereof. Still, the Kaganate is relatively powerful, and with all of its population and industry concentrated on smaller territory, it is able to make an economic rebound of sorts, reaching a degree of relative prosperity once again. After the disaster of the Great War, the Khazars are very hesitant to enter either of the great alliances, however, they do realize that they will not be able to stand on their own against either the Pact of Rome or the Autocracy. Yet, animosity runs deep in Khazar society, to Autocracy for being their enemies in the Great War and for depriving the Khazars of their rightful territory, to the Pact for being seen as having betrayed the Khazar interests in the past. There is, however, a third alternative. The alliance of unaffiliated European nations, known as the Northern Confederation, is not extremely powerful on its own, but quite capable of holding off an attack by either of the great powers - the attack which would not come as, the Khazars believed, the other great power would take advantage of such a quagmire. Thus, the Khazar ambassadors speed to Londinium, where an agreement is made to enlist the Khazars as the members of the Confederation, which drops the word "Northern" from its name.
1064 - The civil war in the Chimu kingdom finally ends, but not until after exhausting the nation. Out of the chaos, a queen emerges that is able to defeat all of her opponents, sometimes using the deadly elite squad of women commandos, nicknamed "Amazons" by the Giovannians and the Byzantines. With Maya Vandals on their northern borders, and seemingly no love for the Chimu, the Chimu state applies to Byzantium and Giovannia for protection. This creates major border tensions with the Vandals, however, these are defused after a compromise is reached, guaranteeing the Chimu's neutrality between the nations, and having all of the three nations guarantee its independence. The new "Chimu" state, while still known as that internally, is referenced to by the Europeans as "Amazonia", and the latter term is still usually mentioned when differentiating the "old" and "new" Chimu kingdoms.
1066 - After much bullying by China, the Chola kingdom joins in with the Autocracy. Its northern neighbours in Rajputana quickly follow suit. The alliances now sit with the Byzantines, Giovannians, the Caliphate, Axumites, and Egyptians in the Pact of Rome, with Zion eyeing potential application, and the Chinese, the Russians, the Maya Vandals, the Chola, and the Rajputs on the other side.
1067 - The independent nation of Vinnland decides that neither the Pact nor the Autocracy are able to provide for its protection without dragging it into the oncoming conflict, and thus petitions to join in the Confederacy. The Confederates, and, in particular, the Khazars, are understandably wary of the nation previously known for its opportunism, and deny its application, however, they do agree to a military alliance with Vinnland - thus Vinnland becomes somewhat of a quasi-member of the Confederacy, but only in a military sense, not being given full economic entrance and representation in Confederate government.
1069 - A much more advanced version of computer is created in Zion labs. This version, unlike any of its predecessors, is not only faster, more powerful, and smaller, but also has another capability none of its predecessors had - the ability to electronically communicate with its twin, located in a building several kilometers away through the network of wires. Hailed as a great advancement, the invention quickly spreads in the Pact nations, who are impressed enough to ask Zion to join as a full member, which it does.
1071 - At a launchpad near Manzikert in Armenia, Byzantine rocket blasts off into the sky, carrying a small dog. While the actual spaceflight is still years away, the rocket is able to make it to the stratosphere and to release its landing pod, which landed in the Mediterranean. The dog's survival and apparent lack of harm brought new hope to the Byzantine scientists that the dream of late Emperor Demetrius will come true, possibly even within their lifetime.
1072 - It is inevitable that with further advances in technology, new, radical scientific theories come to the fore, advanced even more through free flow of information within Byzantium and most of its allies. In Iberia, an Italian scientist comes up with a radically different approach to physics. While some of his colleagues laugh out loud at his ideas, he is nevertheless persistent, and is able to get an ear of an influential governor. From there, the governor's acquaintances in Venice and Constantinople gave the scientist an opportunity to present his theory before the leading scholars of the day. The scholars, and the government representatives, seem rather unenthusiastic, however, the scientist is still given a stipend to continue his research. His theory would make a much louder statement in the years to come than anyone would have predicted, including the scientist himself. In OTL, it is known as the Theory of Relativity.
1074 - With the new advances in electronics, the Maya Vandals come up with a design of an all-new mech, which, by now, walks on two legs, offering greater amount of weapons to be fitted into its hull than a conventional tank, while providing greater all-terrain mobility. Better yet, the new device has the ability to wage war in almost any environment, even to make amphibious assaults or attack ships from under water, and all it takes to pilot is just one person! Upon the report of Byzantine spies, the scientists in Zion are put hard to work to come up with a counter, which appears within two years.
1076 - The Pact of Rome's first battle mech is created. It is technically inferior to the Vandal design, however, it is cheaper and faster to produce. Still, the Byzantine and Hebrew scientists are not satisfied, as the high command attempts to reinforce the doctrine of having fewer, but better equipped, better trained, and higher quality units than their opponent, always leaving the ability to create more units while the opponent exhausts the reserves of his manpower. Thus, the work continues, sometimes hand in hand with the new advances in rocketry and space science.
1077 - Constantine IX is a rather competent leader, maybe not at the same scale as his late father, but definitely not a slouch in the eyes of his subjects. With his duties as a chief executive of the state, he spends most of his time on the road, travelling all over the Empire and its neighbours for diplomatic meeting, coordination of local efforts, and maintaining morale of his subjects and allies. It is then that the disaster strikes. A gigantic airship carrying the Emperor and his attendants is about to park by a large, tall building in Paris when the ship explodes, killing the Emperor and everyone on board. There are some who start pointing fingers, accusing each other and the foreign countries of having a hand in Constantine's death, however, further research reveals that the accident was due to mechanical failure, a flaw of designs inherent in most airships. Constantine is succeeded by his younger brother Demetrius II. In a long term, death of Constantine IX marked the beginning of the end for the era of airships, as more and more people opted for increasingly less expensive, yet perceivably more safe airplane travel.
1078 - Russia and China announce that they have secretly kept a space program of their own going, and that, with Vandal technology advances, they are only a year away from launching the first craft capable of reaching low Earth orbit. The Byzantines are understandably disappointed, however, they continue working on a rocket design that would take them beyond Earth.
1079 - The Russian-Chinese spacecraft is a failure, exploding before reaching full altitude. Undeterred by the setback, the nations of the Autocracy continue working on the means to reach orbit - now the idea taking a decisively military meaning. With the concept of "high ground" now being taken into space, and with the Vandal scientists promising an ability for mech squadrons to make orbital drops in a near future, the Autocracy believes that this may give them a decisive edge over the Pact.
1081 - The first Byzantine spacecraft is finished, and scheduled to launch from a North African spaceport. The launch, carrying a small satellite, is a spectacular success, although the original ship is destroyed during atmospheric re-entry. Plans are being made to send a living creature into space, and to attempt to return it safely to Earth.
1082 - The Khazars announce that they are only months away from launching a spacecraft of their own. The Chinese and the Russians finally succeed in sending an unarmed probe into space, and begin to experiment with the implifications of manned spaceflight. Late in the year, the Khazars become a fourth nation in space with a launch of an unmanned satellite.
1084 - A research into the implifications of Theory of Relativity yields some very unexpected results for Giovannian and Byzantine scientists. It seems that accordingly to the theory, a weapon could be created that is so powerful, so devastating, that there is no known counter for it. The Byzantines set up a testing ground in Sahara for what will be codenamed The Hammer Project.
1085 - Having come to a similar conclusion with respect to the scientific theories, the Autocracy designates a task force of their own to pry open the mysteries of an atom. When the first nuclear weapons are tested by both the Autocracy and the Pact of Rome, it will be within a month of each other.
1086 - The Russians send a first man into space, the one Ivan Vasiliev. The Chinese decide on the plans to create a permanent orbital presense as being one of their primary strategic goals for the next decade.
1087 - The Byzantine spaceship "Belisarius" lifts off into space, carrying a crew of three. They get into the low Earth orbit, where the ship is stationed, synchronized strategically to stay above the relative position of Constantinople. The Byzantines announce that "Belisarius" will be the first space station, with resupply missions sent to it periodically. Another perk from "Belisarius"' relative location is that it would be able to guard against a space-bourne surprise assault on Byzantine capital. "Belisarius" would earn the dubious distinction of being the first armed craft in space.
1089 - The nuclear bomb is detonated by the Chinese in Siberia. Within a month, the Byzantines detonate a bomb of their own in Sahara. The nuclear race starts.
1091 - The joint Vandal-Chinese-Russian space station is launched into orbit, first starting as a small ship with crew quarters and basic life support systems, then expanded with subsequent launches to grow many times in size. The Byzantines expand "Belisarius" as well, allowing for a fully-functional crew of ten to subside on the station for a month without resupply.
1092 - The Confederation detonates a nuclear device of their own in Siberia. The new geopolitical situation is an increasingly unstable concoction of three powers' conflicting influences, all technologically equal, all having reached spaceflight, and, more important, all armed with nuclear weapons.
1094 - The representatives from all nations are asked to meet in Constantinople by Demetrius II in order to come to an agreement with respect to the new world order that came to be in the past decades. The talks continue for over a year, however, the result is an agreement that continues to maintain the shaky balance between the powers by restricting the military activities in outer space, as well as placing restrictions on nuclear arsenal. It is, however, noted, that before the ink on the agreement is dry, all three of the power blocs secretly ignored the restrictions, and continued to arm themselves.
1097 - The first man to reach the moon is the Byzantine astronaut Michael Stamboulis. His crew of three then return to the space station Belisarius. The Byzantines announce an ambitious plan to build a city on the moon, citing both the scientific reasons, and the need to preserve their civilization in case of an ever more present nuclear disaster.
1098 - Demetrius II, citing health concerns, abdicates the throne, naming his son Constantine as successor. The succession of Constantine X is without trouble.
1099 - The Russian-Chinese-Vandal expedition reached the moon, and claims parts of the lunar surface for a moonbase of their own.
1100 - Demetropolis is founded on the moon, named after the great Byzantine Emperor whose dream was to see humans beyond the confines of the Earth. At first, it could hardly be called a city, being essentially a scientific outpost with a crew of dozen people, however, over the next several decades, the settlement will grow to a size of several thousand people.
January 20th, 2006, 07:29 PM
1101 - The first mention of the anarch movement, a radical group arguing that the ideas of civil rights had been severely corrupted by the leaders of the civilized nations, and that violent revolution that would result in a complete removal of any and all government. At first, the anarchs are relatively harmless, mostly being composed of students, wealthy youths with too much time on their hands, and an occasional idealist; within the next few years the anarchs will make their presense known by the first of the terrorist acts, an attempted assassination of a Byzantine governor in Iberia. Despite the anarchs' claims that their movement transcends national boundaries, and is against any and all powerful "oppressors", in fact they are financed by the Autocracy in an ironic twist of fate. Through some Russian and Chinese agents infiltrating the movement, the Autocracy directs its wrath against its natural enemy - the nations of the Pact of Rome.
1104 - Robotic probes are sent by the Byzantines towards Mars and Venus, in hopes of finding a habitable world. The Venus probe is lost - however, the Mars probe arrives in two years to find no traces of life on the Red Planet. The findings will be disappointing to the Byzantines, who are finding lunar habitats to be insufficient for long-term colonization prospects, as the effects of low gravity take major toll on the colonists' health - however, they do find that with sufficient technology, Mars colonization could be achieved, and the planet could prove to be much more hospitable to the human colonists than the barren, airless moon. Despite that prospective colonists would still have to live within the pressure domes or underground, not able to walk outside their habitats without artificial protection, Mars is thought of as a potential destination to send the next manned flight to.
1105 - A Vandal scientist studying a rare hereditary disease that had been prevalent in the last several generations of the Vandal ruling house realizes that there is nothing conventional medicine could do. Instead, he attributes disease to heredity, and designs what he calls Heredity Theory, stating that traits are passed through parents to children. Due to the delicate subject of his study, and the sensitive nature of his patients, the scientist has to make their identities secret, and to call them with code names - when threatened to desist, he switched his study to less prominent individuals, in which shape the Vandal government finally allowed the scientist to continue his study.
1107 - With the help of the latest in computer technology, and armed with the knowledge of effects of space travel on early Vandal astronauts, the Vandals start their endeavors in the area of genetic engineering. They aim to create a new breed of super-soldier, engineered for specific tasks, superior to the original Vandal troopers (already with fearsome reputation of being some of the planet's fiersest warriors), and able to be mass produced in frightening quantities. The research would take years, during which time some experiments produced results that were strange, fascinating at best, and horrifying at the worst.
1109 - The Byzantine robotic probe finally succeeds in landing on Venus. Yet another disappointment awaited them, however, as not only Venus is a dead world, the conditions on the planet's surface make any sort of colonization nearly impossible with the current technology, and the resources immediately visible were nothing that could support any colonization effort. Thus, Venus will be written off in Byzantine colonization plans for years to come, getting their efforts to concentrate instead on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
1110 - Using advances in rocketry, and other sciences related to spaceflight, the Chinese develop a space-bourne bomber, a vehicle that could strike at Earth-based targets from orbit with little to no fear of immediate consequences to the pilots. While some in the Autocracy High Command urge their leaders to strike immediatelly while the Pact does not have immediate counter, the cooler minds prevail, as they know that the Pact of Rome aircraft will be able to deliver hundreds of nuclear bombs to all major cities in Russia, China, and even Maya Vandalor. Within two years, the Byzantines and the Axumites jointly develop space-bourne carrier, heavily armed, and able to launch squadrons of fighters and bombers towards its target. The space arms race begins.
1111 - The nation of Zimbabwe has long been a regional power in Southern Africa, although in the aftermath of the Great War it lost much of its prominence, and was not but a shadow of its former self. In 1111, Zimbabwe falls into civil war, as a coalition of generals forces its king into exile, and establishes what is nominally a "Republic", but practically a military dictatorship. The agents of both the Pact and the Autocracy try to take advantage of the struggle, even as their own colonies experience a streak of instability, with independence movements gathering strength in Nippon, Serebrennitsa, and Byzantine South America.
1112 - The moribund kingdom of Chola, long a de facto Chinese satellite, is annexed by China after the last king of Chola meets an untimely (or, very timely, depending on the point of view) end with no heirs. Rajputana officially protests, but is not able to do much due to a large Chinese military force stationed there. The Pact of Rome nations protest, and break diplomatic relations with China (though not with the other Autocracy nations), resulting in a month-long standoff that is settled when China agrees to let the Chola have their independence. It, however, does not hide the fact that Chola is essentially a Chinese puppet state in all but a name.
1114 - The Confederation establishes its own lunar colony, calling it Asgard after the mythical abode of the gods in the Norse mythology. In a meanwhile, the Byzantine space station "Belisarius" is transferred to higher orbit, and is significantly expanded in size. By now, "Belisarius" could somewhat comfortably accomodate the permanent population of about three hundred people - however, the real modifications had been made to allow "Belisarius" to practically become an orbital shipyard, able to create both civilian and military space vessels. Another part of the station that drew curious looks from some of its personnel and visitors is the large empty compartment stuffed with what seems like thousands of plastic coffins. With the new technology of suspended animation allowing to transport humans in a "cold sleep" state, the Byzantines outfitted the "Belisarius" with the means to transport about a thousand colonists off Earth should the unthinkable happen.
1115 - Andrei Vlasov is becoming one of the leaders of anarch movement, a Russian by birth, but educated in Byzantium after his family fell victim to government paranoia. Unlike much of the movement that is in the pay of the Autocracy, Vlasov is somewhat of an idealist, seeing the Byzantine system as much superior to the police state dictatorships of Russia, China, and Maya Vandalor. He is becoming increasingly influential within the movement, and commits what was previously thought of as an unheard of heresy - attempts to establish a dialogue with the Byzantines. The resulting split within the anarch ranks leads to a new movement being established, which Vlasov calls socialism, taking the anarch ideas of no government influence, but mixing them liberally with the concepts of government responsibility for the well-being of its citizens. His words are heard through much of Russia, where he becomes extremely popular (although most of the Russians would deny ever having heard of him for the fear of government retribution), and where, with liberal helpings of Byzantine and the Pact of Rome financing, he starts to plot the greatest revolution to ever shake the planet until then.
1116 - Minor riots erupt in the cities of Russia, quickly suppressed by the Russian military. In Constantinople, a socialist party becomes a legally recognized political entity, and is, with support of some of its wealthier backers, elected to receive a significant portion of the seats in the Senate. Its agenda proves to be very popular with the ever-increasing middle class, and with the Tribunal branch of the government.
1117 – The first successful Vandal experiments in genetics result in modifying attributes of several lower animals. It would be at least a decade before any useful applications with respect to humans are invented.
1118 – Backed by socialist arguments, the Universal Suffrage law is passed in Byzantium, granting all citizens (including women) over the age of twenty five the right to vote, and outlawing serfdom and slavery (both of which had nearly been extinguished in the Empire as is). This has somewhat strained relations with Dini China, where the idea of women having political rights has long been considered an abomination, however, the Pact of Rome nations hailed Byzantium for its social progress, and started considering reforms of their own – even the Caliphate with its long Dini tradition has considered adopting some of the Byzantine practices in the interests of strengthening its government’s internal position.
1120 – A few socialist and anarch activists infiltrate China, much to the dismay of Chinese authorities, who suspect (rightfully so) that the control of the splinter socialist movement has passed to Byzantium and its allies. As a result, the Chinese authorities initiate a major crackdown on any dissidents, resulting in thousands being detained and sent to work camps. The Russian authorities follow suit, and as a result, the level of public outrage throughout the world and within the countries of Autocracy grows.
1122 – Russia’s African colonies are frequently the place of choice for the Russian authorities to deport any and all dissidents to, where said dissidents die in droves from harsh climate, excruciating work, disease, and hostile natives. Unsurprisingly, these unwilling colonists are frequently the exiled anarchs and socialists, but sometimes just the individuals perceived as such, or considered to have socialist sympathies. Due to chaos in neighboring Zimbabwe, many Russians in Africa attempt to flee their captivity, and set out for the new land where everything is up for grabs. By 1122 the number of Russians in Zimbabwe is rather large, and they form a sizable minority with many useful skills, not in the least of them the military experience of some of the anarchs. Led by one Nikolai Serdiukov, the Russian colonists decisively defeat the forces of the military junta ruling Zimbabwe, and, with the support of some of the population that is tired of ongoing civil war, establish a new government, which claims to be the true republican government of Russia in exile, calling their state Yuzhnaya Rus, literally meaning Southern Russia. Zimbabweans, though wary of these strangers, are too exhausted by the civil war to mount any opposition, and the socialist government’s populist policies quickly win it much support over the next several years. Recognition from the Byzantines and the other Pact of Rome nations is quick to follow.
1123 – Russians in Kiev are furious, and demand that recognition of Yuzhnaya Rus as a true Russian state be withheld. Nevertheless, by now thousands of Russians are fleeing their home country to the Byzantine border, and attempting to secure passage to Yuzhnaya Rus where, it is said, Russian people could live in freedom. Once again, the world stood at the brink of war, defused only through diplomatic skills of Demetrius II, who finally made a formal recognition of Yuzhnaya Rus as an independent state, but refused to recognize it as Russian government in exile. At the same time, the tensions still ran very high, especially after the Pact of Rome proclaimed guarantee of independence for the new republic. Thousands of Byzantine and Axumite troops were sent to Byzantine South Africa, and garrisoned in the cities of Yuzhnaya Rus, to protect it against any invasion.
1124 – The persecution of dissidents in Russia became even more severe, with even a mention of Yuzhnaya Rus warranting a visit from the secret police. By now, another, more alarming trend appeared in both Russia and China, although less so in Maya Vandalor. Due to extreme demands of military and industrial sector, those countries’ economies were put to extreme strain, with only few state-backed organizations getting the profit of it. While small private enterprise has always existed in Russia, and, to a lesser extent, in China, large share of all business functions was performed by large shadowy companies, frequently directly or indirectly controlled by nobility or even the monarch himself. As the only jobs available were generally in the military and industrial sectors, the people of Russia and China had to contend with poor working conditions, long hours, and low pay, reducing many in the countries to the brink of poverty. In this environment, the message of socialists fell on fertile soil, finding many willing listeners.
1126 – There are many differences between the internal structure of Maya Vandalor and that of its erstwhile allies in the Autocracy. Due to feudal structures still being somewhat strong in that state, and surviving some of the transition to more advanced forms of economics, various former feudal lords and wealthy merchants were in constant commercial competition with each other, all under the watchful eye of the Vandal king. While this did not make the common citizen’s lot much easier, a typical Mayan or a Vandal would enjoy a higher standard of living that a Russian or a Chinese, with any emancipated (that is, non-serf male) individual able to choose his place of work, thus resulting in higher quality of Vandal goods, and to research not being always limited by the military sector (although, to be fair, the military research has always been a cornerstone of Maya Vandal society, and would continue to get lion’s share of the country’s resources). As such, tensions soon begin to rise between the Vandals and their allies, much to the dismay of Autocracy’s leadership. The Vandals are actually rather interested in continuing standoff between the Pact and the Autocracy, however, their willingness to be a part of either power bloc is decreasing with every day, as they come to the conclusion that the standoff is much more profitable to their state, and being a part of one power bloc severely limits their ability to trade with the nations allied to the other bloc, or neutral. For now, the Vandal leadership is careful to keep these notions secret, as they do not feel they have sufficient military muscle to take on either of the power blocs themselves, however, they will keep looking for a first opportunity to become an unaligned nation for years to come.
1127 – The Byzantine Emperor Demetrius II dies, just months after having his son Alexius crowned co-Emperor with him. Alexius I Stylitzes assumes the throne in Constantinople just as tensions between the nations continue to grow.
1130 – The Vandals make a first successful genetic modification of a human. This kind of research is seen with abhorrence in the Pact nations, however, China and Russia quickly attempt to obtain the results thereof. With such bargaining chip in their hands, the Vandals refuse to divulge the technology, instead offering to sell genetically modified soldiers once the technology is perfected enough to allow for such to be mass-produced. Needless to say, the technology that allows one slight modification, such as physical strength or hair color, to be made, is as of yet still not enough for any serious use other than creating strange-looking showcase specimens. Even in the most optimistic of forecasts, the Vandal scientists claim it may be at least twenty years before the technology advances enough to produce armies of genetically modified super-soldiers, which will then take years to mature and train.
1132 – The Vandals set a precedent of cooperating with the Confederation in developing drugs designed to enhance astronaut performance while on deep space missions. Some voices within the Autocracy are calling them traitors, remembering how at the end of the Great War, the Vandals not only opportunistically changed sides, but managed to keep all of their gains despite starting the war on what ended up being the losing side. At the same time, the Autocracy needs Vandal technological skills, and thus has to contend with the status quo for now, not able to take any action against the Vandals lest they be driven into the waiting arms of the Pact of Rome.
1135 – The first manned mission to Mars is executed by a joint Byzantine-Giovannian-Axumite crew. The crew spends a month on the surface of the red planet, then blasts off towards Earth with no accident. This creates understandable rush of activity in Russian and Chinese headquarters, as both nations scramble to top this achievement. They announce a joint mission to the world we know as Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.
1137 – The Byzantine colony in South Africa has long had a dormant independence movement, backed by the native population, and even by a certain number of Byzantine colonists, who believed that they are being somewhat unjustly deprived of a say in the affairs of the entire Empire, being only a small minority of its four hundred million citizens. Faced with similar movements in its Australian and South American colonies, the Byzantine Senate, with approval of its Emperor, makes a monumental decision of granting its far-flung colonies the status of Dominions, semi-independent states with full determination in their internal affairs, however, with only limited foreign affairs representation, and still considering the Byzantine Emperor as the formal head of state. This state of things generally satisfies most citizens of the former colonies, with the exception of few radicals, however, the latter are marginalized and are not able to create any significant disturbances. Significantly, the lunar colony of Demetropolis is given similar status as well, its jurisdiction technically including the “Belisarius” space station – although, unlike its terrestrial cousins, Demetropolis’ status allows the Byzantine government to maintain direct control of it without interfering with the colony’s internal self-determination.
1138 – The Russian colony of Serebrennitsa attempts to secede from its mother country. The resulting rebellion lasts for four years, over the course of which numerous atrocities are committed, including the first ever use of nuclear weapons in a wartime situation as the Russian government destroys a city containing rebel stronghold. The nations of the Pact, as well as some of the Confederate nations, send covert help to the rebels, however, it is insufficient to ensure their victory. When the Russian government troops finally succeed in temporarily pacifying Serebrennitsa in 1142, the death toll stands at about two million people on both sides.
1140 – By now, most of the major nations in the world possess nuclear weapons of varying degrees of power, and the means to deliver them to their destination, whether via intercontinental ballistic missiles, conventional aircraft, or space-borne bombardment. Increasingly alarmed, the Confederation puts more funding into a space program of its own, resulting in a revolutionary concept of a space tower – an enormous structure located strategically that allows for mass transportation of humans and cargo to and from orbit. The technology necessary to start building such a tower is still under development, however, the construction will begin within less than a decade, starting with a great orbital station circling Earth in geosynchronous position.
1143 – An ambitious Chinese space program finally yielded results, as continuous exploration of the Solar System revealed seemingly inexhaustible sources of raw materials. The Byzantines and their allies are quick to send exploration parties into the Asteroid belt, and even to the outer planets, searching for resources to utilize in making space colonization a self-supporting venture.
1146 – The Pact of Rome nations begin construction on a colony ship to be sent to Mars with a crew of two hundred, and a selection of three thousand colonists laying in “cold sleep” while the construction proceeds. The colonists are selected from all the nations, emphasizing genetic diversity, while attempting to select the individuals that possess a wide and varied set of skills necessary in establishing a successful, self-sufficient colony. The ship will launch in 1150; in a meanwhile, the Chinese and the Russians are working on a mission of their own. Surprisingly for the rest of the planet, the Vandals decided to bow out of the Autocracy space colonization projects, instead beginning colonization efforts of their own. The first Vandal-only manned mission is a colonization mission to the moon, launched by 1149.
1148 – The Confederation, until then considered more of an alliance of necessity, and a relatively passive player in world affairs, announces that it will begin construction of a grand orbit-earth transportation tower within two years. At the same time, Yuzhnaya Rus applies for membership in the Pact of Rome, thus strengthening the Pact, although not beyond military or technological parity with the Autocracy.
1150 – The colonization starship Argo is launched from Belisarius space station towards Mars. During its year-long journey, the Chinese and the Russians will launch a mission of their own, with the designation of Vesta, one of the minor planets in the asteroid belt. They hope that Vesta’s strategic location will allow them sole control of resources easily found in the Asteroid belt, and are not disappointed, as within the next decade, robotic asteroid miners yield much results, saving the Autocracy economies from complete collapse due to easy availability of materials – at least for a time being, as the ordinary citizens of China and Russia saw only minor improvements in their quality of life.
1152 – The Pact of Rome founds a colony of Ares Nova on the surface of Mars. With the colony ship still in orbit, mining posts are set up on Phobos and Deimos, two moons of Mars, which will provide the colony with a somewhat reliable supply of raw materials for initial construction, and for transforming Phobos into a virtual space station, akin to the “Belisarius” orbiting Earth.
1153 – A rebellion begins in Northern Russia, led by a group of anarchs and socialists. They quickly take the city of Novgorod, and proclaim the Free Russian Republic. Hesitant to use nuclear weapons on their own territory, the Russian government sends large army detachments, which within a year, level the city to the ground, but fail to destroy the movement. The Byzantines find themselves in a precarious position, as they fear that supporting the rebellion could trigger a new global war, yet many find the position of Free Russians to be not only of advantage to Byzantium, but also to be in the right. As such, many Byzantine anarchs and socialists sign up as “volunteers” to assist the rebels, and even though officially Constantinople denounces them as “renegades”, it does little to stop them. The Chinese are occupied with full-scale revolts in Nippon and the Philippines, and are thus not able to be of much obstruction.
1154 – The state of Maya Vandalor, long the most technologically advanced (albeit less populous) of the three main Autocracy states, announces its intention to quit the Autocracy, and to align itself with the Confederation. This sends shock waves throughout the world, however, neither Russia nor China are in position to do much about it. As the revolutions in Russia and in Chinese satellite states and provinces progress, the Autocracy’s vulnerabilities are exposed more so than ever; however, nuclear armaments of both powers provide a major deterrent to any outside nation trying to take advantage of the situation.
1156 – After three years of fighting, the rebels in Russia finally prevail, capturing the Tsar and his chief ministers, and proclaiming the new era for their country. When the Tsar’s position started to get desperate, and he attempted to order the use of nuclear weapons on Russian soil, the remainder of the royalist army, including the nuclear forces, mutinied, thus ending the rebellion. Feeling that Kiev is tainted by the memory of the Tsars, and the oppression that is by now synonymous with them, the Free Russians transfer their capital to Moskva, a bit further north, the place that the Russian government evacuated to during the Great War. Almost immediately, the Free Russian Republic seeks to be admitted into the Pact of Rome, attempting to get economic aid in rebuilding the country.
1157 – By now, the Autocracy consists only of China and its satellite nations such as Rajputana and Chola. It still, however, has one huge advantage – its enormous population, which by now constitutes almost sixty percent of the planet’s total. Finally having subdued the rebels, China is looking to expand into the Solar System, attempting to regain the ground it lost on Earth by creating a brand new Autocracy, with colonies all over the planets. To this extent, the Chinese manufactures are busy cranking out parts to the new, great space station that will have facilities necessary to build even the largest of the spaceships, suitable for colonization of the Solar System.
1159 – Byzantine probes reach Titan and the other moons of Saturn, just as some serious problems start surfacing on Earth. The Pact of Rome itself starts to show some cracks, as some of the less prominent nations such as Egypt and the Caliphate start murmuring that Byzantium simply uses them to reach its own aims, and that the Pact has outlived its usefulness since the Autocracy is nothing but a shade of its former self. These tensions will continue to grow over the years, as Byzantium, Giovannia, and Axum, being the most powerful members of the alliance, begin to drift apart over economic and space colonization issues.
1161 – Despite the victory of the rebels in Russia, the conditions north of the Danube are still rather abysmal. The Russian industry is ailing, and the Russian currency is continuously devaluated, while the army is dangerously close to mutiny due to being paid with long delays, if at all. It almost seems as if the revolution was for the worse, not for the better of Russian people. In this environment, one Mihail Shuiskiy, a former priest turned politician, prospers. His xenophobic, angry, and sometimes plain irrational speeches strike a chord with many disillusioned citizens, who long for the days when Russia was a great power, and when wondering if one was going to have any food on a table in the afternoon was the least of any Russian’s worries. Shuiskiy derides the Byzantines for supporting the rebels, but even more so he accuses China for seemingly abandoning its ally in their hour of greatest need. At least, he says, the Byzantines are fellow Christians, and as such could be dealt with in a civil manner. On the other hand, he continues, the Chinese are the heretical Dinis, whose ways seduced Russia from its valiant ways, and tried to make Rodina into a carbon copy of China. Revenge, he cries, revenge must be had on those that tried to destroy Russia from outside and from within. The central government is powerless to stop him due to its own rather weak hold on power; the Byzantines are happy that Shuiskiy’s rage is directed against their sole remaining enemy. Yet, the storm is brewing.
1163 – Mihail Shuiskiy is elected to become Glava Dumy, effectively the head of Russian parliament (Duma) and the head of government. The first order of business for him is to consolidate power in his hands, which is done with forceful elimination of all of his rivals, and the conversion or exile of all Dini from Russia, their property confiscated should they refuse to convert to Orthodoxy. The Caliphate and China vehemently protest, but no amount of pressure forces Shuiskiy to bulge. The Byzantine Senate is locked in heated debate – on one side, Shuiskiy’s actions are to the contrary of the very principles their state is now built upon; on the other hand, Byzantium has a long history of fighting against al-Din and its adherents, and despite recent rapprochement with the Caliphate, they still distrust any Dini power. In a meanwhile, Shuiskiy immediately orders that all of Russia’s resources be put into space program, to make it a contender in the colonization race again.
1164 – Frustrated with the Byzantines’ inability or lack of desire to stop Russian persecution of the Dini believers, the Caliphate announces that it is going to exit the Pact of Rome. Soon, the Egyptians, even though their own Athanasian faith was not always friendly to al-Din, follow suit. As the Pact of Rome starts to disintegrate, the Byzantine Emperor and the Senate are getting more and more desperate to regain control of the situation, however, are unable to reach agreement on what kind of foreign policy to follow.
1165 – Alexius I of Byzantium abdicates the throne as due to the onset of old age, and frustrations of the Senate’s inability to make a decision on “the Russian problem”. He dies within two years, aged seventy three. He is succeeded by his son as Alexius II, however, the latter is soon struck with two successive heart attacks, and by 1166 decides he has had enough.
1166 – Alexius II abdicates Byzantine throne in his turn, in favor of his own son Constantine, who is faced with uncooperative Senate, deserting allies, and ominous future. Already the Russians had reinstated their space program in force, starting to build a space station to serve as a counterpoint to the Confederate, Byzantine, and Chinese ones already orbiting Earth. At the same time, both Axumites and Giovannians expressed desire to lessen their participation in the Pact space program, apparently trying to colonize on their own. To make bad situation worse, the Confederation space tower is now complete, allowing easier access to orbit for the nations that are only marginally friendly to the Byzantines, such as Maya Vandals. The first action of the new Emperor is to attempt to host a large conference with the representatives from all nations to try to settle the outstanding issues, and prevent the collapse of the world order as it stands.
1167 – The conference to which all major nations sent their representatives at the Byzantine behest starts, however, it is soon apparent that it is not likely to get very far in resolving issues. For one, the Russian ambassador, an ardent follower of Shuiskiy, refused to speak directly to the Chinese ambassador despite the latter’s perfect Russian, instead insisting on an interpreter. The Russians and the Chinese, the Giovannians and the Vandals, the Amazonians and the Byzantines, and the others did not see eye to eye on most issues, while some sessions of the assembly got so heated that more than once some of the delegates stormed out of the palace the sessions were held at. By the end of the year, it became apparent that negotiations were a complete and utter failure.
1168 – The Vandals announce that now they have the technology, and the means to create massive cloned armies of soldiers that are superior to regular human recruits. As the Vandal society becomes more and more profit oriented, they allow different nations around the globe to place orders for armies of dependable yet nearly mindless troops. The Byzantines are instead concentrating on their mech research, still following the doctrine of “fewer but better” (which, ironically, had originally been a Vandal military doctrine) – however, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Confederates all place large orders.
1169 – The Russian space station “Svoboda” (Freedom) goes online, and immediately starts cranking out a small flotilla of what are unmistakably spaceships of military designation. In a meanwhile, the Byzantine settlements on Mars now cover a large portion of its territory, and finally are self-sufficient, obtaining all resources, food, and air from their own operations on the red planet.
1172 – The joint Russian-Chinese space station, built back in the old Autocracy days, is now solely occupied by the Chinese and their allies, being used primarily as a space-based factory. As such, Russia sends a 24-hour ultimatum to China, demanding that not only China makes a large payment for Russia’s part in building the station, but also that its ship building facilities are surrendered. From a technical standpoint, Russia does have a very good case, especially since under her withdrawal from the Autocracy, the Chinese had practically usurped the station; to China, this could only mean war, as its space station is vital to its short-term colonization plans, and without its ability to continue building ships, its space forces are crippled. Several minutes after the rejection of the ultimatum by the Chinese government, the crew at the station is alarmed to see what appears to be the entire Russian space force – headed straight at them. In the first space battle of the known history, the Russians towed a number of empty hulls loaded with nuclear weapons towards the space station; the Chinese space force present stood no chance. The station, and all of its crew were destroyed during the conflict, leaving the Chinese unable to replace any of the larger ships they might lose within short period of time. The remaining Chinese Starfleet, currently spread out in the Asteroid belt protecting Autocracy interests there, sped up to Earth, attempting to intercept the Russians before they attempt to bombard Chinese territory from space. In the second battle, the Russians would be heavily outnumbered, however, the Russian commanders outfitted their own space station with the latest in Vandal weaponry, making it into a virtual space fortress; along with the Russian fleet’s use of its remaining “bomb ships” as both the decoys and flying bombs, the space station’s heavy weaponry decided the day in Russian favor. Despite losing nearly three fourths of their fleet, the Russians now had the Chinese at their mercy.
1173 – The Chinese threaten that in case of any attack on their soil they will launch every missile from their considerable arsenal towards Russia and all of its colonies, just as the world watched on in terror. As the planet hang in nuclear balance, many of the old animosities came to surface, every country eyeing its potential enemies, and reprogramming its missiles to keep the others’ capitals in their sight. The Byzantines, the Giovannians, the Axumites, and the Confederates all frantically worked to ready possible evacuation fleets in case of the war heating up and going nuclear. In the end, it was the Confederation that decided the fate of the standoff. The Confederate fleet, not very large, but consisting of a number of smaller, agile craft approaches Russian force position, and demands that it desists and returns to its base. Not used to being sidelined in such a grave situation, the Byzantines launch a force of their own, ostensibly to act as mediators in the talks. As three star fleets circle in geosynchronous orbit over the Chinese mainland, some of the most radical members of Chinese government decide to attempt to strike at Russia while its deadly space ships are occupied staring down the barrel of two guns from each side, figuratively speaking. The Chinese stealth bombers penetrate the Russian airspace, and strike Moskva with nuclear weapons, while whatever Chinese space ships remained mount a near-suicide assault on the “Svoboda”. The assault succeeds, although only few Chinese live to tell the tale. Despite the utter destruction of its government, Russian military decides to take matters into their own hands, and to launch a retaliatory strike. As the Russian space bombers tried to get into position, a confused Confederate commander, not sure of what is going on, gave orders to fire at them. The Byzantine Starfleet, located a bit further from the scene, and somewhat better informed of situation on the ground, attempted to interpose itself in between the warring ships, attempting to stop the battle before it started; however, the Confederate commander, by now hopelessly confused and not able to communicate with his forces due to Russian communication jammers turned on, assumed that the Byzantines attempted a sneak attack in league with the Russians. The observers on the ground were able to see, however, that the Confederates first fired at the Russians, and then at the Byzantines, with obvious interpretation. The moment the first rockets rose out of the ground, like needles of a nuclear porcupine, was the moment the evacuation ships started filling up.
January 20th, 2006, 07:30 PM
Epilogue - Roma Eterna
The clouds ran through the grey sky, tainted with a hint of red. It was not long after noon, however, it seemed much darker than it should have been. But none would have been able to foresee this, nor did anyone want to even imagine this ever happening.
The man knew he did not have long left as he lay in a hospital bed by the window. Outside, the rain sang of things seemingly unknown to human ear, or human experience; the clouds wove themselves into the patterns of light and dark spots. Light and dark, light and dark – but do they ever exist, he wondered? Is there anything but a complex shade of deep grey?
Sure, his doctors told him that he would get better, but he knew they just did what doctors do best, lie, try to comfort the patient with their words all the while betraying the truth with their looks. A long time ago, one of his teachers told him that someone caught within the zone of a nuclear blast, even with protection, stands very little chance to live; and he was way too close to the one that destroyed his capital. Constantinople.
Time and again he asked his retainers to leave him laying there amongst rubble; laying still was less painful than moving – yet they refused, time and again. Brave boys, he thought – brave and dead. Even the doctors themselves seemed surprised that this shell of a man still hanged on to life, despite many seemingly younger and stronger ones that carried him here dead, despite every miracle drug they pumped into their failing bodies.
He was Constantine X Stylitzes, the Emperor of the Romans, God’s Vice-Regent on Earth – he thought with a chuckle. Now his Empire was restricted by this plain hospital bed, and by the barely transparent plastic walls of his improvised confinement in the tower of an old cathedral. A strong wind raced through its ornate archways, setting off a cacophony of bells; with a note of dry amusement, he thought that to be a fitting place, as if a service were to be held for the soul of many lost on that day, only a month ago, but seeming like eternity.
Outside of the window he could see the spires and golden domes of Avignon, city rebuilt by one of his predecessors centuries ago to become “Constantinople of Gaul”. It was one of the few cities not subject to nuclear bombardment, and one of the few areas where the survivors of the Final War could still hope to escape its consequences.
The wind tore a hole in the cloud cover, and for a second he could see it – the blue of the sky, now with the hints of purple and red, as if bleeding from thousands of unseen wounds. For years, he thought, men and women looked at the heavens as the means of salvation, the abode of the gods, the obstacle to overcome, and finally, the last frontier still untamed. Below, the machines loaded their precious cargo into the enormous transport that descended from orbit a day earlier – thousands upon thousands of Roman citizens in their “cold sleep” coffins, to awaken under a different sky – possibly never to see the planet of their birth again.
He attempted to move his hand, but his muscles refused to obey. Blood came out of the skin, even though there was no wound.
Around the world, the survivors of the conflict gathered around, with no more hatred left in them. They were all human, and all equally vulnerable, the kings of creation suddenly reduced to its exiles. As the nations crumbled, their borders overflowing with refugees from the inferno, whatever few remnants of order there were disintegrated, surviving only in few places; most of the world leaders spinelessly launching into orbit as soon as the news of the first strike came in.
He had insisted that before the doctors leave, they set him up by the window where he could see the ship depart. Sure, they tried to talk him into agreeing to board the ship, or at least let a medical team care for him on the ground, but time after time, he denied. They, he thought, they needed every healthy, skilled man and woman they can rescue on Ares. No need for an Imperial wreck, no matter with how many more-or-less sonorous titles – just dead weight on the transport where every ounce counts. But on Ares, the fourth planet from the sun, the world that they hoped to create lived. He thought that fate, though cruel and ungrateful mistress, with a strange sense of humor forced humans to abandon the world of their origin in droves, just like a bird would throw its young offspring away from the nest so that it may learn to fly.
Greek, Italian, Russian, Vandal, Chinese, Axumite, it did not matter. All fled from the inferno that most of their countries turned into within few short hours. Yet, Constantine thought, maybe out there with nothing but the vastness and magnificence of space by their side, not the sky and the oceans of Earth, the petty human ambition and prejudice will take a back seat to the feeling of unity, knowing that we are all humans underneath the skin, and that no matter what color that skin is, we all bleed the same red, no shade “nobler” or more “precious” than the other.
The engines of the great transport started to rumble, counting off moments until takeoff. It was the last one, the rest of the ships having already joined the great Imperial fleet in high orbit. Not Imperial fleet, he mentally corrected himself – Human fleet. Even now, Anglish, Chinese, Giovannian, Danish, Ethiopian (Axumite, he thought – they hated when anyone called them “Ethiopian”), and other vessels joined in a great host that gathered many of the survivors, prepared to sail through the currents of space to Ares and beyond. There was much grief, much pain, much suffering, and much animosity – but he hoped that the sacrifice of Earth was not in vain, and that his ancestor’s dream of humans living among the stars was not a mere fantasy, but reality in the making.
As the great ship’s ascent shook the ground and the air with sound of thousand hurricanes packed into one speck of shining metal, he thought of what empires, what societies his descendants would build beyond the pale infinity, what new and wonderful discoveries they would make, what enemies they will overcome, and under which skies his children, safely aboard one of the first transports, will grow up to be strong men and women. His eyes wandered around the room, finally settling upon the golden Imperial eagle set by his bedside by one of the doctors, as a manifest symbol of glory of the last of the Roman Emperors. No, he said to himself, last of the Roman Emperors of Earth. This was his last coherent thought before the music of faraway engines faded into the gathering darkness, just as his consciousness drifted away with his life.
Then, like exile Aeneas, whose descendants founded the Eternal City, like Moses, leading his people to promised lands, the ship pierced the veil of the clouds, brighter than a sun for a second, before it hid again. With it was the hope of the nation, survival of the empire that finally earned the name its friends and enemies alike gave it in almost two millennia since Rome’s founding. And, in a strange coincidence, possibly proving that fate does have a dark, twisted sense of humor, it was the ship’s name - Roma Eterna, Eternal Rome
January 20th, 2006, 07:46 PM
I’m a bit disappointed that you didn’t include the original map
January 16th, 2007, 05:34 AM
Timeline and Discussion Here (http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=13615)
January 16th, 2007, 05:39 AM
Continuation Here (http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=13615)
After Doomsday: A Continuation
By Midgard & G. Bone
November 24th, 1173 AD
High Earth Orbit
The stars formed patterns all above, below, and around the bridge of a giant starship, the command unit of a great fleet assembled here in high orbit. As far as she could see, there were others, transports, military vessels, just about any space-worthy piece of machinery lifted off ground on the war-torn Earth.
Anna Cantacuzina, the Celestial Admiral of the First Rank in the Imperial Roman Starfleet stood at the bridge of the Augustus watching over the largest assembly of spaceships ever gathered in one spot. Even the early battles of the Final War never saw this many, from this many nations and peoples, all in one place at the same time.
“All ready?” she asked of the ensign waiting on her word.
“Yes, m’lady,” the young Italian ensign replied. This was not his first spaceflight, but he had way too few hours of training under his belt, and his look definitely showed it. But then again, she thought, when the Final War begun, rank mattered much less, and some people got amazingly quick promotions, their only merit being survival.
There, in space above the home world dying in embers of nuclear fire, the great flotilla included ships from Rome, Giovannia, Axum, Khazaria, China, Russia, and even a few vessels from Maya Vandalor, amongst smaller, but more numerous Confederate vessels. She already knew it would not be an easy journey. The Russians and the Chinese were at each other’s throats; the Khazars and the Vinnlanders hated the ground the other walked on; the Chola, the Arabs, and the Khazars had disputes going back centuries. The Romans had more than a few issues with most of the nations representing the remainder of humanity; the opposite was also true. There was no love lost between most of these unlikely companions, united by terror and despair, knowing well that the only sky they will ever see for the rest of their lives will be that of Ares, the cold, barren fourth planet from the sun.
Yet, she had a mission. Aboard the Augustus, seventy thousand colonists lay in cold sleep – only a few out of more than a million Romans lifted off ground to be safely delivered to Ares Nova, millions of miles away. She knew that many more colonists packed the tight confines of the other nations’ ships – probably as many as three million total. Many would still be in the state of deep freeze for years, until sufficient living facilities were built on the surface of Ares to accommodate them. Now, only about fifty thousand people lived on the surface of the red planet, barely self-sufficient; yet it was their only chance.
She knew salvation was only temporary, and this second lease on life for her species was nothing but a brief extension – for if they could not find sustenance for the entire expedition, any future for them would be only extremely brief, and filled with strife, starvation, and misery. Yet, they still had the entire Imperial Starfleet, and, judging by the numbers of ships besides them, most of the surviving civilian and even military units from the others.
“Ensign, send the order to depart,” she said, knowing that her order will be obeyed. Not many wanted to admit the pain they felt upon looking at the planet of their birth – yet she knew it deep inside, she knew they felt it too. For a moment, she wished to see the ancient beauty of Nicaea, the city of her birth, older than time itself, its high-rise buildings scraping the sky while the ancient double walls seemed to have grown out of the earth below. But Nicaea, Rome, Ravenna, Veneto, even Constantinople itself were now gone, uninhabitable for longer than a human memory could comprehend, their multi-million populations disintegrated by the nuclear weapons that should never have been unleashed.
This was the end. But also, this was a new beginning. In three weeks time, they will be at Ares, ready to unload their precious human cargo that held the future of the species. They will be safe from the radiation sickness, genetic mutations, famine and disease that would ravage those still on the ground. Only few areas, she knew, were left untouched by the nuclear fire, either those deemed too remote, too sparsely populated, or too unimportant to be of any significance. For a second, she wondered if anything could survive on the ground, to greet the colonists’ children and grandchildren when they attempt to reclaim the world of their ancestors’ birth. Before the starship’s huge engines started emitting familiar rhythm that signaled their departure, she thought with pity of those still on the surface.
November 25th, 1173
2 miles under the surface at the undisclosed location in the Himalayas
Batu Zhong Khan was afraid, for the first time in his life. As a member of the Imperial family and the high Speaker of the Dini assembly, he has always assumed both his office and his person were inviolate, subject only to the Emperor himself, his grand-uncle. Yet, when the bombs went off, and the dreaded Russian attack finally came, the air of invulnerability, the aura of invincibility, the illusion of might – they were all gone.
Sure, serfs and workers could die. This is all they had done for thousands of years, giving their lives away for the greater glory of the Middle Kingdom, for the greater light of al-Din and its great prophets; as long as the Divine Emperor himself was safe, the Empire could go on. But now, the Emperor himself, an old man of eighty two years of age, was dying; the people on the surface were most likely dead. Even the elite guards in this most sacred bunker, hidden miles below the surface, even they seemed to share the common pessimism.
A young girl servant interrupted him. “My Lord Khan, your uncle wishes to see you.” Great, he thought, the old bastard has some more crap bothering him. Then, he shirked away the thought, that in better times would have not only been considered treacherous, but would have earned him a place at the gallows – that is, if he had been lucky. There were many tales of fates much worse than the gallows, the fates that many enemies of the crown had suffered.
Batu Zhong Khan attempted to not betray any notion of the thoughts in his head. Instead, he nodded in silent approval, then walked into a long curving corridor, where speechless loyal guards stood like stone sentinels guarding the palace of a living god. He attempted to get his thoughts in order. He needed that to pass by the thought probe; no one could get into the presence of the Emperor without being constantly monitored by the probe.
Along the way, four burly giants, Mongols from the Northern Territories by the looks of them, joined him, their hands gripping their weapons, charged with explosive rounds that could kill or cripple with but one shot. The Mongol guards made their presence known, but walked silently, as if not sure whether to slay him or to protect him. For some reason Batu Zhong Khan thought they were just as confused as he was, not knowing what happened to the world they all knew and the order that was suddenly gone.
Finally they stopped in front of a large metal door, where an honor escort of ten guards saluted them – all the while keeping their fingers on the triggers of their guns. Blank, empty slate, he remembered the exercise he and select few others were taught years ago. Let nothing but the flow of time enter and exit your mind. Your mind is a fishnet, let no fish get caught in. Your mind is a flower, let no bees around. Your mind is a target, let no… The opening of the door caught him unawares, producing the effect its instructors desired; yet he let no awareness of surprise show.
The giants led him to a small chamber, seemingly built to surround an ornate bed, populated only by its one sole inhabitant. “Leave us,” the desiccated ancient figure resting on the bed spoke. The guards saluted and retired out of the room, leaving the dying Emperor alone with his grand-nephew, and, could Batu Khan hope, his successor?
November 25th, 1173
Nikopolis, Southern Cape of Africa
The city was silent, patrolled by the remaining airships and few of the fighter aircraft enforcing the curfew from the sky, but by now, there were not many citizens who would dare to venture outside for the fear of fallout. From behind the reinforced windows, the latest fashion in the days before the Final War, four men watched the dark sky, even darker now in the night than it should have been.
One of the men was wearing what looked like a tattered military uniform; he was just approaching late middle age, but liberal consumption of food, drink, and tobacco made him look just a bit older. The second one was at least in his sixties, with bent back and a cane, and with hands that could have only earned the greases and scars from heavy industrial work. The third was, by the looks of him, a wealthier merchant before the War, and seemed very uncomfortable in the company of the others. The fourth was but a boy, maybe fifteen, sixteen years of age at the most, bearing more than a striking resemblance to the old man in his facial features.
Behind them was a bar stuffed with every kind of alcohol from every nation on the planet – or at least it was, until the hordes of refugees descended at Nikopolis and few remaining Roman outposts that were not the targets of orbital bombardment or the stray missiles. Now, the barkeeps could ask ridiculous prices for even the cheap Bantu beer, the kind that even most of the poorer laborers preferred to avoid; the supply was running low, and so were the money. And yet their mutual sorrows, and the rumor that alcohol protects from the effects of radiation poisoning was enough to keep the poor, the rich, the soldiers, and the civilians coming.
“So what brought you here, Demetrios?” the man in the military uniform asked of the merchant.
Demetrios thought for a second and decided that it was not sarcasm speaking from the commoner’s lips. “Well, I was in Liguria when I heard of the bombardment. Luckily for me and my son, we were just about to lift off on our own plane for Iberia; it did not take much persuasion to direct the pilot here.”
“So, son,” spoke the old man, “why did you seek out the family you have always seemed to be ashamed of?”
“Father,” Demetrios tried to speak, then stopped, as if pleading.
“Never mind,” the old man shrugged, “the Bible says that one should turn the other cheek, be a good Samaritan.”
“But,” the man in the military uniform interrupted with a tone of bitterness in his voice, “does the Bible not also say to honor thy mother and thy father? Our mother was dying, Demetrios, and all she was calling for was you – for you were her favorite, the youngest, the smartest. The beautiful Demetrios, Kaloiannis, that is what she called you, and where were you when cancer was killing her two years ago?”
Demetrios looked away. He knew that his roots were humble, something he has always tried to hide amongst his business associates and the partners. Even his wife, his late wife whose radioactive ashes may as well be the ones dropping on the city, even she did not know until much later, until after he has made his career as the leader of the business conglomerate that sought to do business with the Russians, the Chinese, even the Vandals to boost profits buying and selling technologies, weapons, vehicles, just about anything.
“You know brother,” the man continued, “it is the people like you that care more about the money than anything else that brought forth the doom of us all.”
“Alexander, we are not to blame!” Demetrios exclaimed, raising his hands up in the air. “We all thought that even those crazy Anarch Russians would have enough sense not to begin this. Besides, everything we did went through the Senate’s approval. I, and any of my employees or associates have never intended for this to happen.”
The old man stood in between them, looking at his two sons, then at his young grandson. “Children,” he said. “You may not have been the kind and remembering son that me and your mother wished for, Demetrios, but for your son’s, and my grandson’s sake, my house is your house.”
The teenager, with a trembling voice, mumbled something like “thank you, grandfather.”
All four then turned to face a giant visual screen occupying portion of the ceiling. On the screen, there was a face of the man, middle aged, with short military haircut and military uniform. The man was talking, and even here, among the bar’s busy life, his voice seemed to cut above that of the crowd.
“…Thus, in the absence of contact with the capital, and any surviving members of the Imperial Family, I, Leo Sphrantzes, declare myself Emperor of the Romans, and the Archbishop of Nikopolis shall from now on bear the title of the Patriarch. Therefore, my first action as Leo the Sixth is going to be the restoration of all we held dear about the Eternal Roman Empire…”
The old man spit at the floor. “There will be dozens of men like this one declaring themselves… all full of crap.”
Little did he know that on the island of Terra Australis, and in the Southern continent of Vandalia, two others made the same claim as Leo.
November 26th, 1173
Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico
The water was everywhere around their submarine, filled with ashes, debris, dead sea creatures, and all sorts of things they could and could not imagine being in the waters near Ottonia and Yucatan. There were twelve of them, all looking exactly alike, and thinking in unison of a collective mind. They were linked through microchips in their heads to the Central Command’s database, being its eyes and ears for the events that happened above the Command’s safe hideout on the ocean floor, protected from the worst effects of the nuclear fallout by tons of water separating them from the deadly surface.
They were clones, speechless, and individually thoughtless – perfect troops for suicide missions, genetically altered to withstand higher degrees of radiation, poison, and harmful environments than any ordinary human would. Of course, they still would die; the clones were plentiful, and cheap to make – but their deaths would not be in vain, as scientific data gathered by Maya Vandal scientists below would help them to create a new, more durable breed of clones, and eventually a new race that will be able not only to survive, but to thrive in the world all other human and animal life would forsake.
Below the water, the scientists rushed about their business, following the plan written decades ago, attempting to keep Maya Vandal civilization alive no matter what cataclysm, short of destruction of the Earth itself, came about. So many had been turned away from the underwater shelters, their genetic material deemed too polluted by the fallout; so many had been left to die on the surface of the dying world. Yet the select few were brought in, the best of the best, the superior specimens, who, in addition to thousands of the Sleepers, would form a core that would return Maya Vandalor to the heights of its dominance. And then, beyond.
November 26th, 1173
The Grampians, island of Albion
The man was tired and bleeding from dozens of minor wounds, but he would not quit running. Behind were the hounds of the newly declared Earl of the Midlands, Erik Kenttson, who in the life before the Final War was probably an individual of rather mundane occupation, transformed into the lord of the wastelands by the event that destroyed all central government, as all the rich and the powerful escaped on their space transports – leaving the poor, the downtrodden, the miserable behind.
The man felt rage inside of him; how did it happen, he asked himself. Why did he, the Chief Banker of the Angleland Bank at Londinium, have to run for his life with scraps of bread, while his former employers were in cold sleep on board of a starship, ready to be awakened when their quarters were ready on Ares? He cursed under his breath, trying not to waste too much energy.
He did not dare to look back over his shoulder, knowing that the hounds, genetically modified toys made by the Vandals (curse them bastards, he thought) were in their element, and would find his scent quickly, unless he can somehow outsmart these remorseless predators. There were only a few trees left around here, and not an abandoned vehicle to take shelter in, and possibly outrace the creatures chasing him.
He could not hear the hounds or their masters, the gang of ruffians in service of this so-called “Earl of the Midlands”, but he knew they were coming. Food was preciously rare these days, money worth not more than the paper they were printed on – and the paper was not even very good to keep one warm on a cold night. Whatever automated services still functioned, food, water, electricity, anything, were worth more than their weight in gold, making whoever controlled the facilities ruler over lives of the people requiring them to survive.
Yes, in the first days there was still hope that a relief ship would descend from the sky, picking up any survivors it could find to carry them into safety beyond the orbit of Earth. But as time went on, the hope faded; the few other survivors he has met were ready to kill him for whatever little canned food he was able to steal from the storehouses that by now were completely gutted of all valuables. He was smarter, faster, stronger; he survived. They did not. This was all he needed to know, and all he cared to know about.
For a moment, he thought he saw a glimpse of something in the clouds. Could it be, the hope rose in his chest? Could it be the rescue mission? Then, the sound made his heart sink. It was an old airship, a relic of the times long gone, with the lions of Angleland on its side badly painted over. The insignia on it was the one he knew, the insignia of a man whose warehouse he stole the few scraps of food he carried from. It was the dragon of Erik Kenntson, the emblem the man adopted to supposedly signify his noble heritage (which, as far as he knew, was most likely a complete sham).
Before the hounds and the hunters reached him, the man had time to fall to his knees and curse them all, wishing unspeakable horrors upon his pursuers and their descendants. Little did he know that much of that would come true.
November 27th, 1173
Secret military facility under the Ural Mountains
This should have been his day of triumph, but now he felt hollow. Aksenii Vlasov was not an emotional man, and not a very flexible one. This was the exact reason that allowed him to be in charge of the Anarch party in this part of Rus, and also, the exact reason he was not allowed to advance any further. Good subordinate, his superiors said. Good leader, they praised him; but not a man of vision, not the one to lead the Rus into the hostile world.
Deep inside the mountain, he directed the efforts of the space bombers and intercontinental missile launchers, hidden by an elaborate network that could not point his exact location to the enemy satellites. The day the world bled and cried out in terror, it was his doing, his orders that set out the assault on Chinese Starfleet, crippling his nation’s arch-enemy’s will to fight and ability to respond forever.
Hero of the Respublica, they called him, the great military leader, the greatest commander since Svyatoslav himself. Then, the weapons were unleashed, rendering his victory, the triumph that should have been his by right, useless, destroying all that he has once cared about.
Yet, this facility still functioned, even if cut off from the radioactive wasteland the ancient lands of the Rus had now become. Below the mountain, thousands of cold sleep coffins held the remnant of the Russian people, the only chosen people in the world of chaos, the world that stood poised to crush them. With a grim satisfaction he thought that the Greeks, the Khazars, the Chinese, all those who had oppressed his nation throughout the ages were now also gone.
Time has come for the Rus to reclaim its rightful place as the leader of the world, as the one true nation of God, and as His chosen people. Unbent, unbowed, and unbroken, just how it should be.
Aksenii Vlasov swore that the fight was not over – it was only beginning.
April 30th, 1397
Under the sands of Sahara Desert
Are there dreams in cold sleep? Are there visions in the state when consciousness itself slips away, leaving the body to lay in a freezing eternity, beyond the realms of the living and the realms of the dead, dabbling in both but really belonging to neither? He could swear that there were voices, visions, faces, strange landscapes, places he could not have imagined and nightmarish revelations of obscure nature lurking between the realms of Morpheus and that of Thanatos, the unknown calling him by names that he could not remember and yet could identify as belonging to him.
Then, out of the amalgam of pictures and chaotic sounds, what seemed like a voice came out clear and loud. “Awaken,” it said, not belonging to either man, woman, or a child, but still recognizably human, a mixture of all voices of human race from the time immemorial and into the ultimate future beyond all imagination. The man in a glass coffin-like structure stirred, having a hard time moving. “Awaken,” the voice spoke to him again, as he was not sure whether it was real or a product of his own delusional mind.
It was cold, and dark, his hands still covered by the frost left behind from the cold sleep. He opened his eyes, and, gathering all his strength, pushed against the cover of his chamber, pushing it open with surprisingly little effort. He groaned, trying to regain his balance and stand up, looking around with blurry vision to determine where he was.
Some long-retained shards of memory came back, haunting his mind as he tried to rationalize his situation. Something did not seem right. By now, after two years in cold sleep, the place should have been bustling with activity, technicians checking and rechecking the sleep chambers, others waking up, some of the higher-ups checking on the status of Project Aeneas. There was nothing there, not a sound, the only lighting being dim greenish glow of the floor lamps. Not a sound from the other “coffins” either, not a sign of life.
He quickly glanced over to his sides, then turned back. The life indicators by the two “coffins” next to him were silent; the look into the chambers revealed nothing but decomposed remains of the men and women that should have been his companions should the worst have happened. How long did I spend here, he wondered. And…
The thought was almost too horrifying to rationalize with. He rose up from the chamber, still naked, and stood up by it, holding on to his surroundings and to reality. Then, his training, perfected by hours spent in the simulations, took over. Before his mind could fully understand what was going on, his legs carried him over out of the chamber, and into a large hall, where a touch from his hand to the access pad opened a small locker.
There was a uniform, with the two-headed Roman Eagle symbolizing the eternal union of the East and the West emblazoned on the sleeves. On the chest, just above where his heart would be, there was a name. At first, the name did not mean much to him. Then, through vague recollections and pieces of memory, he realized what it meant. It was his name.
Nikolaos Mauros, it said, centurion of the first rank, judging by the insignia. As he put the uniform on, he looked at a dusty mirror, trying to see his reflection among the dust and few spider webs. He could tell that he was still rather young, not having aged much in cold sleep, still looking like he was in his late twenties; medium height, with muscular built that could only have been obtained in special operations training, dark haired, with olive skin, and somewhat sharp facial features, that, a sudden recollection flashed in his head, earned him nickname “The Wolf” back in active duty. Yes, he now remembered. Niko the Wolf, that’s what his subordinates and friends called him back in the day, sometimes jokingly, sometimes with affection – and, for those who had been on the other side of the battlefield, with fear. Yet the features, familiar as they might be, seemed strangely detached, as if the face and the body was not his own but borrowed.
Then, his first impulse was to go to the controls room, see if there was anyone there; if his worst fears were to be confirmed. He almost ran through the narrow catwalks, the only sound being the echo of his footsteps ringing through the artificial cave below the ground, masked from satellite surveys by the latest in twelfth century technology.
Finally, there it was, the room that held the answers to the past, the present, and, could he hope, the future. He quickly typed in the code that he and all of the others who were supposed to accompany him into the wild ride into the unknown future in case of a worldwide cataclysm knew; the metal door slid open, revealing a large cylindrical chamber filled with dusty equipment, computer screens, control panels of every sort, and – not a living being. As he approached, the room came to life, screens lighting up and going through prerequisite checkups. Every system was backed up several times, trying to ensure that no matter what happens, the functionality remained; that whether or not its human users survived the cataclysm, the machines still went on with their shadow life under the surface of Sahara desert, blind, deaf, and impervious to the flow of time.
He cracked his knuckles, the only living being in the room – possibly, the only living being in the compound among the artificial life of machinery. Niko sat himself down in front of a command monitor, waiting for it to be ready for his inquiries.
Finally, the system was on. He entered command to establish satellite uplink, but was not surprised to see the failure of the connection, time after time. Even in the best of times, due to the need to keep the Project Aeneas installation hidden from the eyes and ears of potential enemies, the satellites had to be in specific position in order to catch the narrow band signal. He ordered the computer to keep on trying just as he attempted to establish connection to the central terminals in Carthage.
On another screen, he has displayed the status of ten thousand men and women in the cold sleep chambers. Just as he had suspected. He cursed under his breath. Ten thousand cold sleep coffins, and nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine of them contained nothing but the dead bodies of people who should have been his companions. Then, he saw the date on the monitor, and cold sweat appeared on his forehead.
Two hundred twenty five years had passed since ten thousand military volunteers were put in a two year sleep, to be replaced by the next ten thousand upon completion of their term. All to ensure that should the war that was on everyone’s mind erupt, some would still survive, some would still carry on the eternal legacy of Roman Empire, and reestablish the world they had once known. But then again, it had been unheard of for anyone to survive in cold sleep for over fifty years; the computers were programmed to wake up the chambers’ inhabitants thirty years after the beginning of the sleep, unless the facility’s staff woke them up earlier, at the completion of the two year term. What happened to the staff of the compound, he wondered?
Despite the discouraging news, he had determined that non-human parts of the facility had survived much better than the people in the chambers. It seemed that the combat mech vehicles were still in top shape despite more than two centuries of storage, and that the base’s own life support systems and power supply were still functioning without fault. Why then, he wondered, the system failed to wake up its sleeping passengers on time?
He tried to scan the surface of the desert for any signs of human habitation or vehicles, but came up negative. The radiation levels seemed to be bit higher than normal, but not dangerous, not indicating any nuclear weapon activity near the base. He extended the range of his search, but could not locate anything, partially, he suspected, due to the system’s inability to connect to the satellite network.
He had ordered the terminal to dispatch some food, a tasteless, dry bar filled with various nutrients and vitamins required to keep his body in top shape, and designed to last for years in its cold, dry storage. The dispatcher unit, located at the back of the room, was quick to comply, and with some satisfaction he noticed that the food and the water dispatched to him seemed to have been preserved perfectly.
As he ate, he tried to rethink the situation, and to determine his next move. If some sort of hostilities were still ongoing on the surface, anything that gave out his exact location would practically spell his doom; yet, with the amount of time that passed, he thought that the chances of that happening would be rather slim.
It was a risk, but the risk worth taking, he thought to himself. The base had several small satellites equipped upon the rocket delivery systems, designed to provide eyes and ears to the base’s inhabitants should the unthinkable happen and the satellite network of the Roman Empire and its allies be destroyed or deactivated. Normally, the decision on launching them would rest with the base commander, a general of a consular rank, but now it mattered little that under other circumstances, Niko would not be authorized to perform the procedures. He knew, just like any soldier on the base of his rank or above, that should none of his superiors survive, the chain of command passed to the next one in line.
The thought of what he must do next filled him with disgust, but he knew well he had little choice. The chips that would be used to provide authorization for satellite launch were implanted in the bodies of all senior officers; save for the master chip in base commander’s arm, it would require at least three chips from the other officers to set off the launch clearance, or to unlock the base, allowing the personnel inside to leave.
He walked back to the cold sleep chamber, past the lockers and machinery that was supposed to keep him and his compatriots alive, and that failed – except for one case. Navigating the narrow passages between the coffins, he was starting to despair when he finally saw it.
There it was, the chamber of general Matthew Comnenus, the one that was supposed to lead this group should they be awakened in a post-apocalyptic world after the final war to end all wars was fought. He remembered the general only briefly, knowing him mostly from his exploits as commander of special forces in a variety of conflicts throughout the world. Niko himself was a mech pilot, specialist in every form of mechanized vehicle and rather skilled in hand-to-hand combat, although not quite a match for the special force commandos. The mech pilots and commandos did not mesh well together – in fact, the two groups had a long-standing rivalry throughout the years, both considering themselves to be the best of the best, the elite troops of the Empire. Niko thought it was ironic that now the key to his salvation lay in the body of a decorated commando general.
Pulling a knife out of his uniform, he has opened the coffin and dragged the general’s lifeless body out of it. With some distaste, he noticed that the general’s body was badly decomposed; apparently the freeze that kept Niko himself alive throughout the centuries went off at some point in the years past.
Niko cut into the dead man’s hand, past tissue and muscles, searching for a piece of metal size of a small coin. He knew that should he find the chip in general Comnenus’ hand, he would not have to repeat the procedure three times, digging through the dead flesh of three junior commanders, and thought that it could have been at least somewhat worse.
Finally, his fingers grasped something among the slime. Quickly, he pulled it out, hoping that this was indeed the missing microchip.
In his hand lay the means of his salvation, still dripping with bodily fluids of a dead man, kept wet by the malfunctioning cold sleep chamber. It was a small item, shaped as the Roman two-headed eagle, fitting easily in the palm of Niko’s hand. Almost not believing his luck, he ran back to the control room, eager to both wash his hands off the slime, and to find out what has happened to the world in the two hundred years he was frozen.
As the systems came online, he could do nothing but wait for the rocket to launch from the facility slightly closer to the surface of the desert. The satellite the rocket carried would sail the currents of space in a geosynchronous position just above the base’s location, just bit to the north so that any hostile craft would think it is attempting to communicate with whatever stood at the place of Carthage. More important, it should be able to survey the territory of the Empire in Europe and Africa, locating any remnants of Imperial authority and attempting to establish contact.
In the hours left until the satellite properly deployed and completed the scan, Niko sat in the chair, consumed by the thoughts of the world he had hoped to see again, but knew he never would. Images flashed before his eyes, images of friends, family, loved ones, the places he had seen and the places he had hoped to see. He remembered the lush greens of Italy, and mountains of his native Thessaly, the great steppes of the Rus where he had been once on a joint training mission, and the vastness, coldness of space beyond the planet of his birth. He wondered what became of those he knew; did they survive the cataclysm, he asked himself? Did they escape to the Ares colony, like the rumors at the time believed it was planned? And who launched the first attack that started the apocalypse? Were there still enemies lurking in the far corners of the Earth, still bearing witness to the hatred and animosity so prevalent in the last years of the old order? And if so, were they watching still.
It was hours before the computers informed Niko that the uplink has been established, and the system started downloading the data. He looked at the screens with dismay. Even though deep down he knew that there was no chance of it happening, the glimmer of hope still rested in his chest that some semblance of normalcy still prevailed, that there was at least some part of the world he knew that still survived.
The screen was quick to disprove his secret hopes. Even now, it seemed that most of Europe was still one radioactive wasteland, with much of Italy and Greece rendered uninhabitable for centuries to come. The lands of the Rus, for the most part, seemed to be desolate, with radioactive ruins where Moskva, Kiev, Novgorod, and Suzdal stood; there seemed to be some activity in the Ural mountains, although the pictures satellite sent were sketchy at best, hinting at some sort of industrial-level society existing on the surface. There seemed to be some sort of a thriving settlement in Iberia, located in the mountains by the center of the peninsula, surrounded by what seemed to be series of smaller villages; the British Isles appeared to be partially populated, although with nothing even remotely resembling large-scale organized society.
The Axumite lands in Eastern Africa appeared to be in the state of chaos, with several walled cities on the coast protected with what seemed like Great War-era weaponry; outside of the cities, there was no telling what was happening. Niko was somewhat concerned to see that in various parts of the world the satellite has surveyed, there seemed to be a number of metal constructs barely visible from space, the constructs that looked suspiciously like combat mechs.
Central and Southern Africa seemed to be in a more orderly state, with a number of moderately sized cities, and less damage from the nuclear weapons than the rest of the continent. There were some radio transmissions the satellite was able to pick up – surprisingly to Niko, those were mostly in Russian, Bantu, and Greek! He did not speak Bantu, and his knowledge of Russian was rather limited, enough to carry on a conversation, but not much more; however, even with the Greek transmissions, he could not make much sense out of this. All he could understand was that the transmissions were apparently very much business as usual; there seemed to be constant references to the Third Rome of the South, and to Novaya Rus; from his limited understanding of Russian, he could gather that this was “New” Rus, apparently occupying the space that was once the nation of Great Zimbabwe, and then Russian-ruled Yuzhnaya Rus.
What gave him some hope was this Southern Rome. He remembered that the south of Africa had been previously occupied by a Roman Dominion of Nikopolis, a rather large colony that possessed little in the way of industry or military significance – little enough, he hoped, that it would remain relatively untouched by the ravages of nuclear fire. He decided that it was worth investigating further, and directed the satellite to change its orbit in order to better observe it.
He could not quite make out of what was happening in the twin continents of Vandalia and Giovannia, and much of Asia was beyond the reach of the satellite, short of complete change of orbit, but now he had at least some idea of what to do next. It would be hours before the satellite reported its findings; in a meanwhile, he decided to use it to attempt to communicate with the Belisarius Space Station, and Lunar colony of Demetropolis.
He got no response from Belisarius, which surprised him; as far as the satellite’s instruments could tell, the station was still in orbit, although it could not discern whether or not there were any life signs on board. Demetropolis seemed to be silent as well; the only transmission the satellite could pick up were obviously a recording of some sort, and not very helpful at that. All the recording stated was that the station was property of “Roma Nova”, and that any hostilities against it would be answered in kind by the Roman Starfleet. He could not tell whether this message was recent, or dating from centuries ago.
One thing he could not understand was the lack of functioning satellites or spaceships in orbit; surely, he reasoned, at least a few would survive the hostilities, and whichever colonists survived beyond Earth would at least keep a monitoring station or two to alert them of happenings on their old home world. He started wondering if the cataclysm spilled out to the outlying colonies as well. No matter now, he thought. These people at “Southern Rome” were the closest thing to his nation still in existence. Maybe there he could find some answers to what happened here in the last two centuries.
January 16th, 2007, 05:44 AM
April 30th, 1397
Somewhere in the Sahara Desert
The old man paused. There was nothing but sand before him and around him. There were a few stone skeletons but that was all.
The old man shook his head. It was just the wind. The wind was a very strange thing. The old man was glad that it was just the wind and not a storm.
The old man turned away from the sandy plains. His house stood before him, a patchwork creation of stones, sticks, and some metal bits he had found in the area. He wasn't too sure about the large metal poles that had things stuck on them, so he made them into wind-sticks.
It was going to be a hot day. The old man was looking forward to finding more bits that he could use for his house. It already had plating for his room and it could help with the other walls.
He could also work on the axe that the Adras wanted. They were always so interested in his axes. The foodstuff was a godsend. The old man could never really wrap his head around the wrapping that came with the foodstuff. They were different from the markings on the metals he had found. Perhaps they were of Rusyian or Confederan. They served well as water catchers. The markings were copied on his wall.
The old man smiled. It was good to see them on the wall. He remembered the time where he first slept in his room- cold and drafty from the tunnels below. Then he blocked it with some dirt and metal- all was good. Then his room became a room with all the knicknacks and things he found.
It was good that his room was decorated. Of the rooms that he had been in, they all seemed bare, as the desert, decorated only with those strange letters carved onto the metal. The tunnels were ghastly- barren- filled with that eerie hum of the dragons that lived below. Then there was that light- glowing and never dying- with the tunnels becoming caverns- and so on until it became a dragon in it's grandeur.
His room had color. It had metal. It had a fireplace for the cold nights. It even had a metal stack for the heat. Adras loved the stack and slept near it. His room was big- not as big as the dragon's cave- but big enough for him to live in.
There was certainly no glowing eyes, never blinking, and always staring. His light went out. It was good having the darkness come and find out that he was still alive.
The old man smiled. He remembered the early time, when his mother got sick from the ruins. Then there was the bullies and their cruel laughter. Then there was the sand, the death ground, and the blasted trees from the Dark Days. Then there was that Long Journey, and to here, where it was peace.
The old man smiled because this was peace. The old man lifted his arms and said his prayer. All was good for the Sun to bless him with this peace. The sun was a good companion and welcome sight for the coldness that was below. The sun even sent him food, on legs, that kept him alive all these days.
May 1st 1397
A day away from Olman's Hem
Adras wiped the sweat from his brow. He really didn't get why the Olman chose to live in such misbegotten and God forsaken land. There was no water in sight. There were no trees in sight. All was blasted and all was broken. Sand was everywhere. Wind was everywhere. Nothing stood still.
But there was some hope in what the Oman had. He would always bring water, strained, and never metallic as Wesmake had. Then there was the metal, that foreign metal, stronger than anything that the smithies at Wesmake could forge.
There was profit in the metal. That's how he got his cart. It was a sturdy cart, fused with that metal that Olman got and forged by the smithies so that the sand wouldn't get between the cracks of his dearly beloved wagon.
There was much to be traded. He managed to receive long blades and flintlocks from a traveling merchant from the Ruslane. The Ruslane were always so strong at the flintlocks and muskets. Of course they were on the fringe, that dearly beloved fringe, never more into the Ruslane, where the soldiers pushed the traders aside, and never more giving an open hand to them.
Everything was for metal and those worthless pieces of paper. Paper was scarce. Stone was everywhere. That's how they- the fringes- operated on. It was promise and good faith, materialized in physical goods.
Of course the Ruslane footmen never gave a good look at what the traders did for their cast off folks. They never gave an open hand and it was to the desert that the freemen fled. It was not clean as their cities but it was good. The law was just. It was simple. It was good.
The towns always faded as they hit the Sandy Sea. It faded as no waters were there and the dragons lurked under their dark and mysterious caverns. Adras had seen those caverns, on a whim, and it was as desolate as the Inland Holds. The only thing missing was the footmen that walked the streets with their harsh batons and cruel eyes.
Adras never went south. He loved the stories about it though. They were the Eagle-men. They were the offspring of those Eagle-men that ruled the skies and green lands to the east. They were wise, they were just, but they were in the shadow of that Dark Day, where all the Goodness in the world fled. Even though it had been dark before, it had never been that Dark, that wrong, and that blackness that enveloped the world.
It was too hot. Adras picked up a canteen of water and swallowed a small sip of it. It was half gone and he wanted to spare the rest for the long travel. It was going to be hot that morning and he wanted to get to the Olman's Hem as fast as possible. Of course his camels never asked and never really had the torture of being hot. They walked on by and the wheels of his cart turned.
Adras had seen the pictures of what the old camels looked like. They were strange- two humps, large, and skinny. They were not the camels he knew. These camels had one hump, long, and a neck as proud as a Ruslane Lord. They could outdrink a drunkard in the space of five breaths and more.
It was too hot. He yelled at his camels, who didn't bat an eye, and simply plodded on. The wagon rolled up as another dune was left behind. It's markings were quickly filled up by the vicious hot stinging wind. There was simply nothing to trust in this God-forsaken land. The only thing that was hopefull was the stone skeletons, jabbing into the sky, and screaming of the sins that they committed long ago.
May 1st 1397
The Old Man paused. He had not been this far in quite awhile. He had to get some metal for Adras. Yet- the metal had been scarce where he was.
There was something about the walls now that seemed different. They were more brighter. There were signs that the Dragon was awake. There were signs that someone had been there.
The Old Man looked around. There were the places where he had chiseled the metal from the walls. There were the places where he had found the metal twine and wires. Then there were those places that he had not touched.
The thing was that they were repaired in a way that only the guildsmen could do it. Yet he was the only man in 8 leagues radius. The Old Man paused. The tunnels went on for nearly a league northward, gilded with lights, and gilded with the same metal that Adras wanted so dearly.
What had happened?
January 16th, 2007, 05:46 AM
May 1st, 1397
Under the sands of Sahara Desert
Niko climbed the narrow ladder down to the mech hangar when he heard something he has not expected to hear any time soon. The sound of human voice, once so abundant and omnipresent, impossible to escape, was to his ears that rarest commodity that was more precious than any treasures the world could offer. It was the company of the others of his kind who shared at least some of the experiences he had of the past world, some of his comrades that could shake off the feeling that he was truly alone in this universe.
Yet, there it was, words spoken obviously in Greek. Did you hear something there?" he has heard, coming from the hangar below. How, he wondered, how was it possible? Could it be that the computer systems were somehow tampered with? Or was he not the first one to wake up? Worse yet, a thought crossed his mind, could it be that there was someone there from the outside world?
He lay still, trying to disguise his presence. Whoever it was out there, they could be hostile. Just because they seemed to speak the same language did not mean they were to be trusted.
He found a small niche on the side of the tunnel the ladder was located in, and quickly moved there. Unfortunately, doing so made enough sound to interest the others to at least investigate. He heard footsteps, boots on metal of catwalk, approaching closer and closer.
Niko hid, biding his time. He could see the flashlight, bright in the dark of the tunnel, reflecting off the walls. Then, he heard the sound of someone climbing. Soon, a hand appeared, holding the flashlight, apparently about to point it his way. Trying to keep himself hidden in the shadows, he waited.
Niko held out his gun, pointing it in the direction of the ladder. A surprised looking youth stared back at him, wearing the Imperial uniform. What the+"
The two stared at each other for a moment, as if hardly believing they were looking at living human beings, and not at ghosts.
Who the hell are you?" Niko whispered, all the while keeping his gun pointed at the young man.
Constantine Phocas, private first class, seventy second regiment," the young man recited as if by habit.
How long were you here?"
If you shoot me, there are many others who would hear you and hunt you down!" Phocas spoke.
Answer my question dammit!"
Two days," the young man spoke. Are you from the outside?"
Outside?" asked Niko in disbelief. Were you in cold sleep?"
The realization dawned on both of them. It took a moment for it to sink in, and reveal them both survivors of unknown holocaust, the only link to the world they knew being their memory, this place around them, - and the presence of one another.
They descended the ladder to join the rest of the survivors in the mech hangar. There were three others in the hangar filled with machinery, weapons of war that was fought by completely different means, and that could mean little to whatever was left of the world that created them. Phocas went by, introducing Niko to them.
There was Socrates Kalis, a short, balding, grumpy mechanic apparently in his early forties with some grey in his remaining hair, and with constant complains about the air, the food, and just about anything else that could make a topic of conversation. Tinkering with a computer terminal was an Italian named Roberto Vespucci, a light haired fellow with a tattoo of a snake on his forearm, who seemed confused by the circumstances. The final member of the group was a young petite woman, apparently in her early twenties, with dark hair and a smile that, despite the circumstances, seemed natural rather than forced, almost as if popping up on its own - rather attractive, Niko thought to himself. Phocas introduced her as Helena del Medici.
Later, all five of them sat around the makeshift table, trying to decide on what to do next. The world they knew has changed irrevocably, irrepairably, and irreversibly. There was no turning back - but there was a way forward. There was the way to the Southern Rome, the last outpost of what they believed to be their kind. There was nothing behind but darkness - yet there was something ahead to look forward to.
There was hope, and hope, just like the light of the sun, never truly dies. It may go away and hide behind the clouds, or behind the horizon, even behind the dust of a cataclysm that leaves the entire world shrouded in dark shades of seemingly eternal despair - yet it only does so to reappear, and to light the way to better things, or to the things that we wish were better. There is always hope, even where there is none, and there is always belief that somewhere, sometime something will be one step closer to perfection, to the ideal of one's perception of reality, even a small shards thereof.
It was this hope that sent four men and one woman on the journey through the dimly lit tunnels of the base and above - to the world beyond them, and to the promise that was the Southern Rome.
May 2nd, 1397
Underwater chamber somewhere in the Caribbean
The chamber was filled with equipment of all sorts, computers, data readers, all ornately painted and elaborately disguised to appear as parts of the room's decoration rather than the utilitarian items they were. In the room, there were three figures, vaguely human in shape, albeit all different from each other. One was tall, gaunt, with four narrow eyes on all sides of a bald skull; its skin was completely devoid of pigment, whereas the eyes were red, showing the unmistakable signs of albinism. He (for he was indeed a male) had two long arms with six fingers on each, and two shorter appendages on the upper half of the body; his base rested on eight legs that resembled those of a spider.
The second figure was the most human-looking of all, slender and elegant, with dark skin and a head full of long, straight hair. Only the pointed ears, pair of leathery wings, and markings of gills on the neck betrayed the fact that this was not an ordinary human woman, but something completely different.
The third figure was set upon the wheeled pedestal, and was nothing but completely grotesque in appearance. It looked like a large blob of flesh with a small exclamation point of a face and a pair of strangely normal looking arms and hands coming out of its massive body.
There were no words spoken in the chamber, for all three had the ability to speak directly to each other's mind. It was what separated them from the lower castes of the Maya Vandal society, the ability to communicate with each other without the use of crude methods such as speech. Only the Pure Ones, and the scientists could do that.
It is dangerous," the gaunt one thought, transmitting his voiceless message to the others.
It is our best chance before the Others find out our location," transmitted the winged woman. Already from what activity we could observe they might be suspecting something."
The third one thought nothing. His presence here was required because of his knowledge and expertise, not because of whatever opinion he might have. The scientists were simply tools to be used, just one step above the other constructs. They were not to be trusted with making independent decisions. Or, worse yet - independent thought.
The prototype is barely tested," argued the gaunt one. He might be too much like the primitives to be of any use."
He is the only one of our constructs that will be able to integrate easily into their society instead of living on its fringes," the woman insisted. Once he is in, and achieved the position of influence, we can use more straightforward tactics, or even bring in a newer make to take his place. All we need him for is to establish a foothold."
I thought the raiders were giving us enough genetic material as it is."
The raiders are only good for getting us the rejects, the human waste that even the primitives could live without. Besides, think about it, once we take control of the primitives' states we will have all the resources and the genetic material we shall ever need to never fear the Others again. Think, we will have the resources to build the starships again, and destroy all who once wished to destroy us!"
The gaunt one seemed unconvinced. If this fails, the Council shall have your head. Of that, I can make sure."
The woman's face reflected what might have been a smile. I take it as a yes."
Tribulations of Senile Old Men
Adras shook his head. Before him lay bits and pieces of the metal that the Olman had retrieved. He picked one up. It seemed to be confined into a small rectangle with small colored bits stuck on to it. There was a small rectangle in the middle of it, as if to spit something out. Above the rectangle was a small button that seemed utterly useless but fitting to the rectangle thing.
He looked up to the Olman. The Olman was sitting there, enjoying the water, and interested in what Adras had to say. Adras wasn't too sure on whether or not if the Olman was truly an Olman or one of those Eagle-men that parted wisdom on the streets.
"It's good- but is there any more of the metal ropes and sheet metal?" Adras asked, picking up a short metal twine that would work as a bracelet.
The Olman shook his head. He put down his cup and motioned towards the small leather flap that hung some feet near him. Then the Olman brought forth a small parchment.
"I found this near the rope walls-" he said.
Adras took it. Drawn on the parchment was a bootprint. It had the markings of a Russlander soldier, although more refined in squares and other shapes.
Adras sighed. The metal was small. He could only get a small price from them. The ones that were truly worth something were the large sheets of metal, broken at the edges of where they used to hang, and punctured with small holes.
"There were many of them-" the Olman continued, holding up some fingers to show that he had actually counted them.
Adras put down the parchment. The caverns would work if he could get others to move here. Then he wouldn't really have to deal with the Olman's 'fits'.
"Tell you what- I'll go with you. But you have to promise that you'll show me where I can get more sheets and bars. These things will only get you less water than you have."
May 2nd, 1397
Under the sands of Sahara Desert
They spent the next several hours getting acquainted with each other before deciding what to do next. They scouted through the entire area of the compound, hoping to find some traces of the other survivors, should there be any, or to find any other cold sleep chambers that contained the living beings. This was all to no avail… it seems that when the wakeup call was received, the five of them were the only ones to be still alive. Five out of ten thousand, not even aware of each other until not so long ago. But that was a better fighting chance than nothing.
There were, however, no clues to the identity of the origin of the signal that woke them up. As far as they could tell, there was no technological civilization of sufficient development left on Earth to be able to discover their presence, or to know exactly what to do; besides, only the Empire would have had the right code to send – but the Empire proper seemed to be all but gone.
Niko and his companions tried not to burden themselves with these thoughts. They were alive, and this was all that mattered. Survival was the original purpose of their mission; it was only fitting that they would follow it under these circumstances.
Finally, they sat around the table in the command room, tired, confused, yet determined to survive in the strange new world above. “I think,” said Socrates Kalis, “that the Southern Rome that we heard some faint broadcasts from is our best bet.”
“I concur,” said Vespucci, “although there is a problem of getting to it. We cannot survive in Sahara on our own, and whatever locals there are, they may not take too kindly to the sight of a battle mech walking towards them.”
Constantine Phocas was the next to speak. “From what the satellite could observe, they appear to have at least seen the mechs – so they probably would know how to defend against one.”
Niko’s eyes looked at the rest of the team. None, it seemed, wanted to stay in the compound, yet none really had an idea of what they would do afterwards. The idea of going to the Southern Africa to find the remnant of the Empire was as much a direction of where to go as it was a glue holding these five people together.
“I think,” Helena del Medici spoke softly, yet forcefully, “that before we commit to the course of action, we should do a little scouting on the surface. Maybe we can even find a local or two, and get a good idea of what is happening out there.”
There were sudden nods of understanding and agreement all over the table.
“Also,” she continued, “have any of you thought of what kind of a prize this compound would be for anyone in the world we think exists out there? Keep in mind, these peoples’ radio broadcasts are weak and disjointed, making it seem as if only few possess the technology. Half of the planet appears to be mostly uninhabitable, and whatever pictures the satellites show seem to all agree that their technology has fallen back to long before the Great War for the most part. If we are to survive out there, we cannot let anyone know of what exactly we have here. Even in the best of times there are unscrupulous people who would roll over the others’ corpses for gain – in this world, I think, the technology and the machines this compound holds are the treasure no self-respecting ruler would not at least attempt getting his hands on.”
The thought was sobering. They were ready to venture out into the world – but was the world ready for them?
They drew straws until it was agreed on that Niko and Phocas were the two who would venture out in the tunnels and explore the outskirts of the base. It was apparent that there was no radiation danger anywhere around the base; the scanners picked up some life forms busily hurrying around the sands, but no signs of advanced technology. Still, Niko and his young companion held their guns with the certainty that any misstep could mean death or worse for them or their companions.
They agreed to keep constant video contact with the three of their companions in the compound below, the video feed coming through the small cameras in their Kevlar helmets. The two Greeks tried to make as little noise as possible when the elevator carried them many feet up to the terra incognita of the world outside.
May 2nd, 1397
In the tunnels leading to underground compound under Sahara
The tunnels were dirty, just barely lit by the emergency lights’ green funeral glow. Everywhere around there were signs of time’s passage, dents, fungus, even what seemed like some sort of small animal bones littering the passages. Yet, the nanobots guarding the integrity of the structure seemed to have woken up, probably at the same time the compound’s human contents have; even before their eyes Niko and Phocas could see some of the dents being repaired and some of the worst damage going away.
They had some of the most advanced personal weapons the twelfth century Roman Empire could boast – rapid fire Cerberus guns, loaded with explosive rounds, regular ammo, and poison darts, the latter designed to incapacitate, but not kill, the subject. The three barrels of the guns, like the three heads of the mythical beast, served as a grim reassurance of the realities of this world above them.
Yet the tunnels seemed dead, with only a gloomy shade of mechanical pseudo-life surviving the Armageddon that must have raged above ground over two centuries ago.
It was still some time before they would get to the surface; the tunnels ran for many miles, and even for the ones that knew the tunnels, it was easy to get lost in their grim majesty if one was not careful. They walked on, trying to make as little sound as possible, and to listen with care for any changes in their environment.
Then, once they were getting closer to the surface, they started hearing things that were not supposed to be there. It was still cool in the tunnels, and the walls bore witness to more destruction that down below; there were scratches, sections seemingly falling apart, and even strange markings, as if someone marked the spot to return to it again. Both Niko and Phocas held on firmly to their guns, carefully scanning the shadows.
It was then that they heard the sounds of human voice. They could not make out the words, or even the language they were in, but it was rather apparent that the voices did not seem uneasy, but did appear rather at home in the caverns. Niko wondered if some sort of desert nomads made the tunnels into a home. He silently prayed that they were not so numerous as to make any negotiation attempt increasingly one-sided.
Niko and Phocas took cover on the opposite sides of the tunnel, just by the opposing computer terminals that seemed partially dismantled. With wary eyes they watched the tunnel, hiding their presence as well as they could, and waiting for the trespassers to reveal their faces.
Then, the Greeks saw them. There were two of them, both men, and both apparently with at least some African blood in them. They, however, did not look like either Axumites, or the Bantu. One man was apparently middle-aged, with a scruffy-looking beard, and sun-streaked hair. He looked somewhat like a Berber tribesman from the lands that were once claimed by the Rus, however, there was something about his appearance that made the Greeks believe he was not entirely African. He seemed as if he was somewhat uneasy here in the tunnels, almost as if he had rarely ventured here before. Interesting, Niko thought to himself. Could these two be some sort of scavengers?
The other man was all skin and bone, old and weathered, albeit apparently very comfortable here. Indeed, he appeared to have been to these tunnels on many an occasion, as he walked about with an air of casual comfort about him, glancing at the markings on the walls not with amazement or fear, but with casual knowledge of someone who might have even made these markings himself.
The old man seemed to be of different ethnicity than his younger companion, looking almost like one of the Copts or an Egyptian Arab from the time Niko remembered. Neither, however, seemed to be armed with anything more advanced than a knife or an axe – that is, as much as the Greeks could tell. Both were dressed in what appeared to be rather makeshift collection of rags, with trinkets of all sorts hanging from the belts around the younger man’s body. The old man seemed to have a flask of something around his belt – and that was about it.
When the two men approached closer to the Greeks, Niko motioned Phocas to move. The Greeks burst out of their hiding spots, holding their guns as to make their intentions painfully clear should the visitors attempt anything.
“Chto za…” the younger man started saying. “Chto vy Russlandery zdes delayete?” (note: what he says translates roughly into English as: “What the… What are you Russlanders doing here?”)
Niko was shocked. Not at the fact that the man spoke passable Russian (which Niko himself was somewhat able to understand, although not speak it very well), but at the thought that the man was obviously experienced with guns before, and seemed to know what they were. He thought to himself that this world was possibly not at all what it seemed like at first.
Niko attempted to speak Russian himself. “Zamri tam gde stoish!” (“Freeze where you’re standing” – not perfect Russian, but close enough that the Russian would understand what he means).
Niko saw with satisfaction that young Phocas had the wisdom to say nothing but to hold his gun, pointing it in the direction of the outsiders.
“Private,” Niko said, now in Greek. “hold steady.”
He saw what seemed like a strange smug on the old man’s face. Could it be, he wondered, that the old man knew something? The younger man seemed rather lost.
“Idi za mnoi!” (“Follow me!”) Niko commanded. Not taking his aim off the outsiders, he motioned them to walk into the depths of the tunnel.
“Niko,” the calm, collected voice of Helena del Medici sounded in his helmet, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“Are there any storage stations and such between here and the compound?” he whispered, hoping that his words would only be heard by their intended recipient.
“There is a storage station about twenty levels down from your location,” the woman said.
“We shall take these two to the storage station, and question them in detail,” Niko told her as he tried hard to not let the strange old man hear him. There was something about the old man as if… as if he understood what Niko was saying. Under no circumstances, he remembered, under no conditions these people must be allowed to see the true state of affairs. There were only five Imperials in the compound, and the wealth of technology that this world would not achieve on its own for centuries. To reveal all of their cards would be to sign their own death warrant should any ambitious locals decide to take matters into their own hands.
“We shall meet you in the storage room.” Helena’s tone did not leave much space to arguments. In few short hours since they met, Niko’s impression of the young woman changed from simply admiring her looks to recognizing both a lively mind and a composed, strong personality that not only had the capability to lead the others, but that seemed to take pride and satisfaction in responsibility. He always liked the women that could be counted upon in a desperate situation.
The two Greeks and their unwilling prisoners arrived at the elevators within the next hour. As Niko entered the code to allow elevator operation, he quickly glanced at their prisoners. The younger man seemed to be somewhat panicky, as if he has encountered something he has not expected to see. The old man seemed slightly nervous, but also somewhat amazed, as if he had been here before, and Niko’s actions simply tied the pieces together. Niko did not like the idea that the old man may have been observing him the same as he and his comrade observed the outsiders.
As the elevator carried them downward to the storage room the Imperials agreed to use as a temporary interrogation facility, Niko could not help but feel that there was more to the old man who still had not said a word than the old man let out.
January 16th, 2007, 05:49 AM
When the two left, Adras slapped the Olman in the back of his head. The Olman didn't reply- but simply to stare at the door. Adras sighed.
The room was spartan, empty, and dank. There were no chains on the walls. There were no steps, not a general 'sink' into the room, but simply the barren space of it.
Adras walked along the sides, dragging his hand against the wall, feeling nothing but smooth stone. There were scratch marks here and there, with a large dent about six paces towards the middle, but that was it. The other wall was of the same length but had the distinct potential of having shelves. (If this was a cellar-)
Then there were scratchings. Adras looked towards where the Olman was. The scratchings sounded deep.
"Olman-" Adras called out.
"Yes?" replied Olman, busily scatching the walls. Adras walked back up to where the Olman was before the Russlander soldiers had pushed them in. Each step seemed like two in the hollow cellar.
Halfway towards Olman's position, Adras's zaitkef(*) kicked in. Adras slapped himself on the head. He patted himself for the flint he always carried in his boots. It was there and so were the fire-sticks.
Three minutes later there was a light. The room was a lot larger than what he had thought it was. There were some shelves at the far wall with some boxes shoved in the corner. Then there was the Olman, hitting at a particular spot near the door, carrying on as if he could actually see in the dark, and always hitting in the same area.
"What are you doing?" asked Adras as he walked across the room. The floor was scuffed and scarred. The boxes were large and seemed full of something. Adras quickly made a note to explore them once he saw what the Olman was doing.
"I'm seeing if there's more of those metal ropes and knots in here" replied the Olman. A sound of something breaking followed his words. Then there was a sound of something being shoved inside.
There were sounds from the walls. There was a flicker of light. Adras looked up to see large glass windows that seemed to glow off and on. He could see the boxes in greater detail- large metal boxes with boards nailed on to them- with strange Russlander writings etched upon them.
Blackness soon followed. Adras dropped his stick. The fire fell to hit the floor. Adras swore and went down to get more sticks from his boot.
Daylight soon followed. It stayed for a while. It had a hum to it. Adras paused in slipping out another stick from his boot.
"What in Iasu's Name...." said Adras, hesitant that the Olman would pull out a flintlock out from his rags.
Olman scatched his head. His hands were scratched and bleeding. The Olman took a rag from his shirt and wrapped it around his hand.
"The metal ropes burn. They bite but never burn." he said to himself. After wrapping it around his hand, the Olman patted himself for something. Adras stared at his rags, suddenly realizing on how akapor(*) the Olman was.
The Perfect Strangers
May 2nd, 1397
Under the sands of Sahara desert
“This is preposterous!” – the middle aged Socrates Kalis was red in the face as he paced around the room. “There are barbarians of some sort inside the base, the entire world seems to have disappeared on us, and you are saying we should try to win them over? These are barbarians, mind it, they would just as soon cut our throats as they promise complete fidelity.”
Niko looked at the man sternly, towering over him by at least a foot. “You do realize that these people are our only link with that is going on outside. I don’t trust them any more than you do, no matter what they end up promising, but we should not try anything too harsh until we know for sure. These two might give us the way to get to our own kind, don’t you get it?”
The veins on mechanic’s neck seemed to pop with nervous energy. He looked around the room, trying to find some support from the other three; then, finding no sympathetic looks, he sighed. “Do whatever in the hell you want… but as far as I am concerned, I will keep my gun ready.”
This was becoming more and more difficult. When the initial shock of being awakened in a strange new world subsided, the four men and a woman faced a number of difficult choices – what to do next being possibly the most important one of all.
Now, just as the vague outlines of a plan started coming together, these two strangers threw that plan into disarray by the simple virtue of appearing on the scene. Barbarians they seemed, for sure, and if they were in any way representative of whatever powers ruled the surface, their presence here provided both a boon of knowledge, and a liability of having someone from the outside know of the compound, and all of its treasures.
“So what do we do?” asked young Constantine Phocas.
“I think,” replied Niko, “that the best thing to do now is to bluff. Keep in mind, they don’t know how many of us are here, or what powers we have… for all we know these two can be superstitious and think we are the spirits of their ancestors, or something. Didn’t one of them say something about some ‘Ruslanders’?”
“Hmmm…” the expression of confusion on young Phocas’ face turned into a grimace of understanding, and of deep thought. “I wonder if these ‘Ruslanders’ are the descendants of Russians that had a colony here before the war.”
“That does sound about right,” Niko thought out loud.
“Whatever it is,” Helena interjected, “these people seemed to think that we were Ruslanders. At least one of them seems to speak Russian, although not the dialect I am familiar with.”
“The old man bothers me, for whatever reason,” said Phocas. “He doesn’t say anything, just stares in a weird kind of way, like there is something more that he knows, but wouldn’t say.”
“At least his buddy appears to be scared out of his mind,” said Niko.
The Italian Vespucci, who was keeping silent until now, walked closer to the center of the room. “I say we should try to separate them, and try to question them. If the younger barbarian is as afraid as we think he is, he should be spilling all sorts of useful information left and right.”
“What about the old man?” Phocas asked.
“I think we should figure out why these two were here,” spoke Helena. “Niko seems to think that they are scavenging for metal, or various trinkets. Maybe if we can offer them some scrap metal, few useless spare parts, whatever else you can think of that we have no use for, they can get us to Nikopolis, or at least give us enough information on what lies ahead. And at the same time, if we can get them scared enough that they are being watched, and give them an impression we are more numerous and powerful than we actually are, we can keep them in line to where they will not stab our back.”
“Say, Helena, do you have the codes to the intercom system?” asked Niko.
“I sure do,” she replied. “Don’t you think it is a bit of an overkill to try to use the intercom to awe these people?”
“You’re right,” Niko agreed grumblingly. “But I do think that some demonstration of our power would help make our case a bit stronger. As long as we do not let them into the base proper, and keep them in the storage room, they can never guess the true state of things.”
They looked at each other with a certain degree of grim resolution.
“Since they think we are the ‘Ruslanders’, only those of us who speak Russian should interrogate them,” Helena said. “That pretty much narrows it down to Niko and myself. Phocas…”
The young soldier nodded in response.
“Phocas, you will go with us to provide backup should the barbarians try something out of ordinary. Don’t say a word unless absolutely necessary – the longer they think we are ‘Ruslanders’ the more of an advantage we have.”
Then, the three got back into the elevator, racing upward towards the storage space where their salvation – or their doom, as Kalis thought, may lay.
May 2nd, 1397
Storage room in the Saharan compound
They looked at their two prisoners with a mixture of interest and uneasy curiosity. Nobody said a word, as the Greeks watched the nervous shakes of the younger barbarian, and a look of amazement (albeit seemingly devoid of fear) on the face of his old companion.
Finally, Niko broke the silence. “Kto vy takie, i chto vy zdes’ delayete?” (1)
There was no answer.
“I am asking again, who are you and what are you doing here?”
The younger of the had finally decided that the Greek soldier was the one that he should fear. He composed himself, in a manner that Phocas seemed at odds with the situation at hand, and looked towards Niko. He did not look at the old man.
“I am Adras, free tradesman of the Desert run. I’m sure that this is all a misunderstanding, and that Lord Mstislav certainly can arbitrate this quarrel.”
Interesting, Niko thought. Well, two can play that game.
“Well, Adras,” spoke Niko, “we need you to tell us a few things, and we can make it worth your while.”
(1) – “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” (Russian)
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