Syracuse, March 25th, 1284
Alexander had spent the winter months training his army and recruiting more men. Not unsurprising in doing so he had followed the role models he was accustomed with, the ones his family and the Comnenes before them had been using in Asia Minor. It was a system not exactly alien to Sicily. It was not straight feudalism either for all the advantages and disadvantages this might entail. Locally his support support upon the commoners and the peasantry, remained strong if anything after nearly two years it was growing stronger. But a stream of complaints was coming from John of Procida in Palermo. Vatatzes new soldiers were insubordinate, or rather, not unlike the Aragonese mercenaries loyal only to their master. And Alexander was refusing to let the Sicilian clergy take back the procurations that they had given to the laity at the time of the revolution, instead he had even granted pronoia holdings to several of his followers from church incomes. For Procida the conflict with the pope was supposed to be temporary. For Vatatzes separate taxation for Rome was simply alien. At least for now Procida had the very same complaints from the Aragonese and providing a reliable army could excuse many sins. Alexandros Doukas Vatatzes led his army back to Calabria...
Provence, May 1284
The fleet assembled by Charles of Anjou, sailed for Naples. When it joined the fleet and army his son was assembling in Naples it should be enough to reconquer Sicily. Or at least so Charles hoped. The Provencal fleet numbered 34 galleys and 4 galliots. Dozens more ships were ready at Naples and yet more ships at Brindisi. His fleet would reach Gaeta in June 6th.
Naples, June 7th, 1284
Charles prince of Salerno had been in a quandary. The Aragonese fleet under Roger de Lauria was constantly raiding his coast. In Calabria, Alexandros Vatatzes had landed an army in Reggio and raiding north from it, with apparently many Calabrians joining him, the damn Greeks there had no sense of loyalty as they should. His father had given him strict orders to stay on the defensive till he reached Naples in person and the papal legate left with him insisted he should follow his father's orders. Meanwhile the Neapolitans who were being blockaded and raided were demanding action threatening even to revolt otherwise. Not knowing his father had already reached Gaeta, he finally succumbed to the pressure and on news most of Roger's fleet was away sailed out to destroy the squadron blockading Naples. Unfortunately for Charles the information was inaccurate, Roger's entire fleet was at Naples. The ensuing battle would end in disaster, Charles himself had avoided capture only because Roger had received word that the Provencal fleet was approaching and broken off battle.
Naples, June 9th, 1284
Charles of Anjou, never the easiest of men had been almost apoplectic at the news at his son's defeat, calling him a fool and even asking rhetorically why he was still alive after disobeying him. Naples had risen up when the defeated fleet had reached back to port. The prince had quelled the uprising, but this had not stopped his father from executing 150 supposed ringleaders. Then, still furious at his son, he had ordered him to leave Naples, taking the locally levied troops south the Calabria and secure Reggio. Charles of Salerno had to leave the same day. Charles of Anjou at the head of the main army would follow south in June 24th.
Near Cosenza, Calabria, June 28th, 1284
The small group of Stratiotai, most of them Greeks with a handful of Cumans along them, turned back their horses to go back with their report to their master. The Italians it was true were taking reasonably good precautions. But the Stratiotai were veterans of fighting the Turks in Anatolia, and for that matter anyone from fellow Greeks to Golden Horde Mongols in the Balkans. It was a different school of warfare...
South of Cosenza, Calabria, June 30th, 1284
Charles of Salerno, threw down his sword an raised up his hands in surrender. His army had been ambushed in the mountains and when his knights had tried to break the ambush they had their horses shot from under them. Then with his army immobilized the attackers had proceeded to massacre his men. Charles had seen more than his share of war and was hardly a stranger to ruses of war, he was with his father at Tagliacozzo after all. But this was not war as commonly practised here in Italy or back in France, it reminded him much more of the stories of the fighting east in Romania or against the infidels. As he was brought before the man who had beaten him, he understood. The Greek prince, had not been after all alone as his father's spies claimed. Nevertheless as the Sicilian army, now reinforced by many Calabrians, retreated south before the much larger army of the elder Anjou, Vatatzes would prove a gracious host. The two young men, Alexandros was a few months younger, despite being on opposite sides of a war would end up striking an unlikely friendship...