The Mauricians: A Medieval Roman novel

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Pururauka, Dec 15, 2012.

  1. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    So after having scanned the forums for a while without having made any contribution I decided to submit some idea that I had played with for a while for peer review. Hopefully I can get some of you to help with any observations, and comments about inconsistencies and to try and keep this as far as possible from ASB land.
    In any case I'll try to post updates regularly on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

    That said here is my stab at it, enjoy!
     
  2. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    This is a pre-published version of my short novel: The Mauricians. Being a pre-published work, there may be changes in its content without previous notice.

    © 2012 Daniel Rodriguez
    All rights reserved by the author; not intended to be released for common use. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author."



    Prologue:


    The cool morning mist had already begun to dissipate, and the ocean was more visible with each passing minute; not bad for one of the first days of spring. The Imperial ship had been loaded and provisioned during the previous night, and the four escort ships were already waiting ahead in the distance, in the calm waters of the Propontis.

    “Pope Gregory must be impatient boys, let’s not keep him waiting” said the cuirassed individual on the milk white mare.

    “Yes father” was the quick reply from the two boys standing before him. One of them was distinctively older, but could not have been more than nineteen years old. The other merely a child, at best ten.

    “Goodbye mother” said the younger of the two, to one of the finely dressed women at the fore of the crowd that had gathered to see them depart. She could not contain her emotions, her reddish eyes bearing witness to such a weakness, and hugged him one more time. ”I love you son, take good care of yourself. And of your brother.”

    While the mother kept on talking to the boy, the opportunity was seized by the cuirassed man to dismount, take the older of the two slowly by the arm, and walk him somewhat closer to the boarding plank. He looked right into his eyes. “Theodosius, now listen to me. Although I’ve said it a thousand times, do not forget to tell Gregory that the help is coming. He must be patient; the Emperor does not forget his subjects. One more last campaign and I will have the Danube secured for at least a generation. We should be seeing each other by Christmas. Give him the gold, and that should keep him quiet for a while. And remember that you are also Emperor, act like one.”

    “Yes father” Theodosius meekly replied.

    “Now give your wife a last look and get going.”

    Theodosius directed his steps to another of the women in the small crowd. She was slender and young, couldn’t be older than seventeen. Her dark black hair, arranged and held in place by a golden band, contrasted sharply with her pale skin. “Take care of yourself” she said softly as he came closer, followed by a smile: “My father won’t always be there.”

    A chuckle came from the man behind her, her father the patrician Germanus. Theodosius also chuckled, quickly remembering how his father-in-law had saved him a few months earlier from the crowd that almost sent him to the Lord’s embrace. Constantinople could get rowdy at times, especially lately. “I will send for you soon” he said gently, while she hugged him. A short kiss followed and he turned to the ship again.

    His brother Tiberius was already on board. His father Maurice, his mother Constantina, and his seven other siblings had already lined up by. More embraces followed. “I love you son, and please be careful” his mother begged one last time as he climbed on.

    He turned briefly, nodding to her. His father waved, and so did everyone else in the crowd. Minutes later the board was raised, and the port workers untied the ropes securing the vessel; before long the oars began to creak, and the ship slowly pulled out of the harbor. With each row, the familiar shapes began to grow smaller. He took one last look at The City and then turned. God please keep us safe. All of us.


    __________________________________________

    The POD for the whole story would be here, late March of 602. In OTL Theodosius and Tiberius never leave Constantinople.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2013
  3. Basileus Giorgios Augustus and Autocrat

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2008
    Location:
    West Riding
    Interesting and well-written. I'll be watching this like a hawk- Late Antiquity is by far my favourite period of Roman history! ;)

    So, I'm going to guess that Maurice is deposed as happened IOTL. Much will change, though. Will the Heraclians revolt in support of Theodosius, or make their own bids for the throne? The Iranians may well do much worse invading in the East without having Theodosius (real or pretender is unknown, I suspect he was the real-deal) with them to sway the various Roman commanders there. I look forward to more!
     
  4. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Thanks Basileus!I had noticed a lot of TL from the post Basil II period and as I said before this was something I had kind of worked on earlier; so I dusted it off and hopefully it'll be palatable enough for the crowd.

    With regards to the rest, without giving much away, we all know that Maurice's days are numbered. The causes of the revolt have long roots (ie, the already mentioned food riots in Constantinople) and once the revolt happens, it happens.
     
  5. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Chapter 1 -I-

    The pain was unbearable; he was paralyzed and could barely move. Lord, please forgive my family, he thought once again. Spare them. They had not made it far at all since they fled Constantinople, the boat they had escaped in had drifted all the way to Nicomedia, and in three days they had only made it to Chalcedon. The monks there had agreed to give them sanctuary while his praetorian prefect Constantine Lardys had fled to Persia. He had just given in to his wife’s demands; he had saved Chosroes once; now it was time to return the favor.

    Constantina had also suggested fleeing to Italy instead, but he realized the impossibility of making that trip under the circumstances. In fact if his daughter-in-law Irene [1] and his oldest daughter Anastasia could make it out of Thessalonica would be a miracle indeed. Indeed it was already a miracle that they were not in The City at all when the rebels began to march on it, having left just two weeks before on a pilgrimage to the church of the Panagia Theotokos.

    The loud noises and shouts interrupted his thoughts. At last they’ve come. Someone began pounding on the door. “Maurice. They’ve founds us!” It was his wife.
    He couldn’t move. He tried to straighten up, to get up from the makeshift cot, but to no avail. Then the door opened. Constantina stared at him in despair. Overcoming her initial paralysis she ran up to him to help him sit up. “Where is he?” someone shouted from the corridor. “This is a house of God. You cannot barge in here with your swords unsheathed, stop!” someone else protested. No further protests were heard.

    The sound of the sandals against the rock slabs on the floor approached. Then they saw them; five soldiers, two of them swords on hand, walked in the room. Constantina broke into tears. “Flavius Maurice Tiberius you are under arrest by order of the Emperor” said the one at the front. Two of the men walked up to him and hauled him to his feet. He felt as if a sword had split his spine open. He cried out in pain. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.

    The two captors thrust their arms between his own arms and his ribcage and carried him along. His feet dragged on the slabs. Another soldier grabbed his wife by the arm and dragged her along. As they left the room he saw yet another soldier holding a monk against the wall his sword up to the holy man’s throat; he was surely the one that had uttered the futile remonstration.

    He put his head down again, closing his eyes. You are just oh Lord, and just are your judgments. They came out into the courtyard of the monastery. His children were already there, crying. The wind rustled through the branches of the nearby tree, making the leaves whisper. Constantina would not stop crying.

    “Flavius Maurice, you and your cursed seed have been condemned to die for your crimes against the empire and the Roman people, by order of our Lord Phocas Augustus” he heard. He looked up and saw a young man standing there in an officer’s uniform. He recognized him as Alexander [2], one of the officers that had come to Constantinople to petition on the rebels’ behalf. You are just oh Lord, and just are your judgments.

    “Any last words before I carry out the sentence?” Alexander inquired, sardonically.

    “Please have mercy on my children!” screamed Constantina, hurling herself at the officer’s feet. “Please they are innocent, they had nothing to do with this!”

    Alexander took a step back with a look of disgust in his face. He signaled to two of the men standing on the sidelines. They came and lift her up, carrying her back to her husband’s side.

    “Let us begin!” Maurice heard. The soldier holding him up to his left grabbed him by the lower jaw, holding his head up.

    He saw his sons Petrus, Paulus, Justinus, and Justinianus dragged to the middle of the courtyard, close to a wooden block. Yet another soldier walked up, sword drawn. All of them crying, a sad spectacle indeed; Petrus, the oldest, was only eight years old.

    One of the guards holding the children brought Petrus up to the block and made him kneel before it. “No, please!” Maurice could hear his son pleading. “You are just oh Lord, and just are your judgments” he said out loud impassively.

    Down went the sword, and in an instant the child’s life was extinguished. Constantina screamed in horror struggling to break free from her captors. Maurice closed his eyes. “Open your eyes, you coward” said the same soldier holding his head up as he kneed him in the back. Once again he felt as if a sword had split his spine open. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.

    The same gruesome execution took place three more times. “Your wife and your daughters will be spared provided they dedicate their lives to almighty God” announced Alexander, “Phocas is merciful.”

    “You are just oh Lord, and just are your judgments” Maurice replied.

    “Bring him over” the officer ordered. The two men that had been holding him up hauled him to the chopping block. The sun shone on the fresh blood gathered nearby, making him narrow his eyes. He was made to kneel, his head was pushed onto the block. In the background Constantina continued to cry out “No, no…”

    He felt the rustic monastic tunic he was donning rub against his pain-wrecked shoulders. The wind rustled the leaves in the nearby tree again; he took a deep breath of it. You are just oh Lord, and just are your judgments. The executioner raised the sword. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.

    He heard the whistle of the blade cutting through the air on its way down. He felt the blood of his children on his neck. Kyrie eleison. Theodosius may God bless you.

    ______________________________________________________

    [1] We don’t know what the name of Theodosius’ wife was IOTL.
    [2] IOTL Alexander was one of the rebel commanders that supported Phocas. He was later tasked with executing Theodosius and Constantine Lardys personally. When rumors spread about Theodosius possible escape, Phocas had him executed.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2012
  6. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Since the world didn't end today, we'll be posting and update tomorrow.
     
  7. Cuāuhtemōc Twitter fiend

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Ooh we never go get a lot of Byzantine stories set in THIS time-period. It's almost always Manzikert or the final siege at Constantinople. Kudos for the originality and I like it so far! You got yourself a reader!
     
  8. Magnum Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2006
    Location:
    Romania
    wonderful, and at the same time gruesome, story. consider me subscribed
     
  9. ImperatorAlexander Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2011
    This looks like an interesting read, consider me subscribed!
     
  10. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Chapter 1 -II-

    The morning was as cloudy as any during winter time. The sea breeze whipped its brine air against his face, while four seagulls cackled overhead. He could actually taste the salt in the air. He remembered for a while how once when he was seven, he had spent a few days with his father, walking on the beaches by Cyzicus, while he was on his way east, inhaling that same air. You need to know Theodosius; if I don’t come back you need to take care of your mother. And of baby Tiberius. He remembered Tiberius then. ‘Yes father’ he had said then, like many other a time. But how have things changed now.

    Until recently Carthage had proven to be just more of what he had already grown used to in The City, and this had not been the first time he was in the African capital. Interestingly, this last trip had been of his own accord, not planned by his father. Not only had he begun to look after Italy’s problems; his diplomatic expeditions to the Moorish tribes had actually paid off: the prestige of a Roman Emperor dealing directly with them had certainly been an advantage. But now he had hurried back to the city. And if he had not known any better, it could have been just any other day. The forum was bustling with merchants, the streets were packed with the ragged masses, the courtiers adulating as ever at the municipal palace, all of this, familiar. The port was once again lively with activity; ships from the East and the West; camels and wheat going one way, silk and clothing coming the other way. As always.

    “Domine they are here, we must hurry” he heard next to him. Procopius’ [1] horse was breathing heavily, standing next to his own horse. The city had been tense since the first news of the revolt had arrived. With each new ship, came tidings of the worsening situation. Trusting on anyone had become a nerve-wrecking liability. The Carthaginian patrician had been on watch for an entire week now, keeping him informed of any news that would arrive.
    Irene, thank God. He sighed with relief as he galloped following Procopius’s own horse.

    By the time they got to the docks, the two merchant ships had already been safely fastened to the pier and the passengers had begun to get out; the men looking nervously around, the women crying on seeing relatives and friends.

    “Make way! Make way for the Emperor!” shouted Procopius. The guards were already at their posts by the ships, and began to shove the refugees to the sides on hearing their orders. Theodosius jumped off his horse and ran to the boarding plank of the closest ship, followed closely by the patrician. On seeing him on board one of the sailors mumbled something in Coptic, and pointed to the cabin. Theodosius walked right past him, ignoring him, and he stopped by the cabin door. Kyrie eleison! Kyrie eleison! time and again in his head. He knocked.

    The door creaked open, and an old woman peeked out, through the crack. “Imperator!” she shouted as she flung the door open. He could hear the sobs inside, and stepped in, past the woman.

    “Theodosius!” the girl cried on seeing him and before bursting into tears once again. Her dark black hair down, unkempt; her eyes red and swollen, quite a contrast from the last time he had seen her before leaving. Irene. “They’re all dead! He killed them all! I could only save Anastasia! I’m so sorry!” Although she kept crying, sobbing, she stopped talking once he hugged her. “Calm down” he whispered, “you’re with me now.” He kissed her. Her cries continued.

    “Theodosius?” he heard the little voice, from around the corner of the doorway. Procopius went around and came back smiling, holding little Anastasia by the hand. On seeing her brother she broke into tears as well. “Ani!” he said, letting go of his wife for a moment. The seven year old girl ran up to him, and hugged him. “I’m so glad to see you!” “Me too!” he said. You’re safe now. “Procopius, please take them to the palace; I’ll be there shortly, after I speak to John [2].” Procopius nodded, and taking Anastasia by the hand went out of the room. After kissing him one more time, Irene followed, still looking at him as she departed. “I’ll be there shortly, don’t worry” he reassured her. She nodded quietly. Only then he noticed the other three, younger women in waiting that had been in the room with them. They all followed Irene.

    “Kyrie, it is good to see you” the voice seemed to come from the dark corner of the room, but to him it was familiar ever since childhood. “Are there any more ships coming John?” Theodosius asked dryly, turning in the direction of the voice.

    “None that I know of. The other two that were supposed to follow us haven’t been seen for a week. They must have overtaken them near Crete.” John said as he stepped into the light, still wearing the characteristic outfit of an excubitor. “The entire empire is in utter chaos, there is talk that the Persians might attack…”

    Theodosius remained silent, submersed in his thoughts, as the ship rocked slightly.

    “Kyrie, your father was arrested near Nicomedia. When we left Thessalonica there was word that our August lord was dead. That the usurper had him beheaded, and your mother is being kept prisoner.”

    “So I heard…” Theodosius clenched his fist. Fucking bastard. It was only a miracle that the West had not accepted Phocas as of yet. It seemed that the rest of the world had. But men can test God’s patience. “If it’s so let’s stop wasting our time. My brother is still in Italy and I don’t want to risk him falling in the wrong hands. The Exarch Heraclius is waiting for us at the palace.” He remembered his father. And remember that you are also Emperor, act like one.


    ______________________________________________

    [1] One of the fictional characters that I will be introducing.
    [2] A second fictional character.
     
  11. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Thank you all.

    Tomorrow a Christmas update: Theodosius' first move.
     
  12. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Chapter 1 -III-

    “One can never know what these fucking Romans will do. Romans against Romans. And here we are, in the middle.” Godepert spat on the ground, as he concluded. The Lombard opposite to him, across the fire, looked passively on, listening while he was gently tugging on his long blonde beard. “I don’t even understand how Agiluf could have betrayed us, he sold us like dogs!” he continued. “Be quiet” was Euin’s smooth reply, still tugging on his beard, as two Roman soldiers walked past them, not stopping.

    “What for? These dogs wouldn’t even know what we are saying!” was his answer, as he prodded the fire, while the flames danced on. A soft wind began to blow on the field, combing the long grass of the fields. The setting sun colored the sky with a light purple tone.

    But Godepert had had a good reason to despise the so-called king of the Lombards, Agiluf. Had he not betrayed the cause? Thanks to him the duchies of Beneventum and Spoletium were lost. Theodelap had gotten too caught up fighting that stupid brother of his, as if the duchy was their own kingdom. May they both rot in hell. Theodosius and his Roman troops had isolated them and made short work of them, with no forthcoming help from the king.

    However, Agiluf’s lowest point had come later. The Emperor Theodosius had sent his new magister militum per Italiam, the younger Heraclius, son of the African Exarch, to present evidence of a “plot” by Arechis, duke of Beneventum, to overthrow him and make himself king of all the Lombards. Why would he ever believe the Roman lies? But believe he had. And it would be a sin to lie and say that the Roman help defeated Arechis, no, it had been Agiluf’s own Lombards. The damned Catholic king. The power vacuum in Beneventum had then been quickly filled by the Roman Caesar.

    Euin, the scouts have returned and reported large columns approaching from the east. Nicetas orders that you move your men into the city” said a voice interrupting Godepert’s thoughts. “Will do” answered the older Lombard to the Roman that had walked up to them.

    “Why can’t we go out and meet them in the field like men!” Godepert cut in. Such cowardice is astounding. The Roman turned to look down at him. “That’s difference between Romans and savages” he answered arrogantly.

    Godepert stood up slowly, breathing in as he did so, and then before the soldier could react, he punched him right in the middle of the face, knocking him down. He could feel the crunching sound the Roman’s nose made on encountering his fist. “The difference between men and women rather, you bastard.”

    The Roman crawled back, and got up, holding his right hand up to his bleeding nose, then ran towards the city gate. All around them the men, Romans and Lombards, had started to do the same, albeit in a slower manner. “We better get going” said Euin, pushing dirt onto the fire with his right foot, chuckling; “Faroald get your men going!” he shouted to the smaller group of Lombards close by. One of them stood up and waved.

    Taking Dyrrachium had been relatively easy. They were simply not expected, since Phocas’ troops had imagined Theodosius too weak to do anything except guard his own borders. Thus, when the western Romans disembarked and appeared before the walls, with a Lombard contingent thanks to Agiluf, and demanded in the name of the rightful Emperor that the city surrendered, no great carnage ensued; the city gates were opened. Some men had fled, perhaps to let Phocas’ men know. But no army had come to present fight so far, and since the first set of supplies and reinforcements had already arrived, preparations were being made by Nicetas, commander of the force and nephew of the Exarch Heraclius, to continue the advance inland, with the goal of reaching Thessalonica, before summer’s end. Shortly after their departure the young Emperor would arrive with a smaller force for mop up operations.

    The dust clouds began to materialize in the horizon, to the east. “You wanted a fight Godepert? inquired Euin, smiling, as they both got up and started to walk towards the walls, fastening their swords to their belts.

    “About damn time” he replied as he turned to see the enemy advancing. “All we’ll need to do is pack a couple of punches like the one I gave that girl earlier and the war is won.”

    Euin tittered slightly. “Ah” he said.

    “For all I care we can forget about Agiluf and goddamn Italy, we got enough men here to create our own duchy, right?” Godepert rebutted in an ironic tone.

    “Right…”said Euin thoughtfully as they approached the gate and gave the ever larger approaching force a last look. “Right…” he repeated once more.

    The Roman force had by then become fully visible, marching in neat ranks, their banners waving in the air, their helmets and weapons glistening golden with the setting sun. Behind the infantry, surrounded by the cavalry, the shapes of the siege engines were dim. “This is a bad idea. Walls are a bad idea” Godepert continued once inside. We’re caged in.

    They continued walking on, beginning to navigate the narrow streets, but before long they were intercepted. “Euin, your detachment will guard the southern gate, and arrange for group of a thousand men to be well rested. We’ll sortie out in two days and clear the fields.” The Lombards looked in front of them, and saw the leader of the expedition mounted on a horse, Nicetas surrounded by his guard, addressing them directly. Euin and Godepert were both under the command of Arioald, a Lombard who had proven his loyalty to Theodosius during the fall of Spoletium. If the Roman supreme commander was speaking to them … then things might get complicatedoh shit

    “Don’t worry dux, we’ll be ready as loyal soldiers of the Emperor” informed him Euin in Latin, with a straight face. Godepert couldn’t hold back a grin, his black mustache rising slightly to reveal his uneven-toothed smile. He caressed the handle of the sword that hung from his belt. Well Romans, let’s see how well you can fight.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
  13. Basileus Giorgios Augustus and Autocrat

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2008
    Location:
    West Riding
    Intriguing. Theodosius may be making rather a foolish move here- he's pitting his own small army of Africa against the Praesental (Opsikion) and Illyrian field armies, led by a Phocas who at this point is still the popular champion of the experienced Balkan armies. I sense a defeat coming here, unless Theodosius can persuade the Avars to intervene on his behalf.
     
  14. Cuāuhtemōc Twitter fiend

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    Cool update, can't wait to see what happens next with this.
     
  15. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Ah, the rashness of youth. Well there are two sides to this. Theodosius has committed only a part of his forces, not all of them (it is mentioned that he is to follow up himself with part of them) but the greater part. His forces do not include only the African regiments but also, the minute Italian forces that could be removed thanks to his truce with Agiluf, plus a "voluntary" Lombard force, courtesy of the already mentioned king. That being said, even the full numbers are not, as you have already said, comparable to the combined armies that Phocas can field from the European provinces.

    On the other hand, Phocas does not want to throw away the gains of the past years and open the gates to the Avars, thus the number that he will field will have to strike a balance between being strong enough to repel Theodosius, but not to the degree to crucially weaken the Danubian frontier.

    And as of yet, Theodosius has not contacted the Avars; like Phocas he doesn't want to waste his father's work in Europe.

    Thanks for reading! :)
     
  16. Basileus Giorgios Augustus and Autocrat

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2008
    Location:
    West Riding
    Ohhh, excellent answer. Phocas in an ATL behaving like OTL Phocas, rather than a sort of idiotic demon incarnate. Well done, I look forward to seeing what happens from here. :)
     
  17. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Well, though there will inevitably be butterflies, as I said at the beginning: one of the goals is to try to stay ASB free. If I ever do so, please pull me by the ear right out of it.

    Tomorrow's update: "Introducing Phocas."
     
  18. St. Just Angel of Death

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Location:
    A mistake
    Very interesting stuff here. Good job!
     
  19. plantagenet Contents Partially Unknown

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2005
    Location:
    [redacted]
    I have to say I am loving this! Both the idea and the writing are excellent and I hope to see a good deal more of it.
     
  20. Pururauka Miraculous Chanka Slayer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2012
    Location:
    Andean Highlands 6705 AD
    Chapter 1 -IV-

    The stench of burning flesh still permeated the area. Some of the courtiers quietly continued to stare in disbelief. The Empress smacked her red lips in disgust. “Are we done here?” she asked, yawning, her golden robes fluttering as she reached to cover her mouth. Down in the arena under the gaze of the Emperor’s bronze statue, the charred corpse was still smoldering, tied to the black stake behind it. She was right. Good God this is such a bore.

    “He is not going anywhere. Let’s go.” Phocas got up from the throne at the imperial box, and began to lead the parade back to the great palace. The crowd that had assembled there began to disperse, as far as they were concerned they had come to watch one more spectacle at the Hippodrome, but with many less cheers than usual, mostly of all them coming from members of the Blue deme. Nonetheless, burning Narses [1] at the stake had been necessary, Phocas was Emperor now. No need to be loyal to a dead man. Or a child.

    The situation was beginning to worry him. His general Germanus [2] was dead, and Narses had had the nerve to come to Constantinople on behalf of the Persians, and purportedly of Theodosius, after betraying him. Betraying me, the one Augustus. King Chosroes had initiated an offensive to avenge his “friend and father Maurice” and soon after, thanks to Narses’ defection, Edessa had been turned over to the Persians and Mesopotamia had been overrun, with only some strongholds, like Dara, resisting. Now Armenia, the Anatolian provinces, and Syria were threatened. The fact that half his armies were along the Danube did not help either. Africa had rebelled against him, and then Italy. Even the footholds leftover in Spania had followed suit. Theodosius’ forces had soon landed and taken Dyrrachium earlier in the year, against all of his own advisors’ predictions, but had been annihilated shortly after when Phocas’ veteran army arrived from Illyricum. It was a bluff that had paid off; the Avars did not make a move, while they very well could have. And Nicetas’ head, or rather skull now, still adorned the Forum of Constantine. Nevertheless, when he tried to take the initiative his luck had proven just as good as the rebels’. His hastily assembled navy was shattered by a sudden storm along the way and then defeated by the African fleet when trying to cross the Adriatic; then a small army sent overland towards Italy was wiped out by the Avars, who were also getting restless, in spite of the subsidies he had given them. Furthermore, the Lombards had begun to negotiate with the “child:” Lombard troops had been with Theodosius’ men at Dyrrachium. Christe eleison! he thought.

    Maurice had been a terrible ruler. He never understood the men, he just could not have. Asking them to winter in the middle of nowhere? His tightfistedness served him right in the end. But why would there be anyone still loyal to his house then? Hadn’t his easy downfall been proof enough of his illegitimacy? Of God’s displeasure? Phocas knew that he had now set things right; after all of the back pay and gratuities he had handed out to the armies; there could be no doubt of their loyalty to him. Having arrived at the palace, traversing the passageway which linked it to the Hippodrome, his thoughts were broken up. “Kyrie, the ambassador awaits” the bowing guard by the Palace gate informed him. Phocas looked at him briefly, while he was still down. Dirty peasant. That could have been him however. That was me, a year ago. He had barely had any time to ponder on his personal success with the war and all. Now an Emperor. Another guard pushed open the golden twin doors.

    But now he thought he had finally an opportunity to secure the throne and wipe out Maurice’s memory forever. To deal with the child and even his damned Langobardi. Or at least distract Theodosius long enough to stabilize the east. When war fails, there is always diplomacy. “Ave Caesar!” saluted the excubitors in Latin as Phocas entered the audience room, walking past the porphyry pillars on his way to the twin throne, his wife Leontia following closely behind. “Let the Frank in” he ordered as he sat down.

    The doors were opened and in came a blonde man with rather long hair tied on the back; long mustaches, seemingly intent on trying to compete with his hair in length, clung around his upper lip. The bluish tunic he sported seemed altogether too small for him; obviously a rash purchase once he arrived at The City. Perhaps he had deemed his original garments inappropriate for the occasion.

    “Hail Emperor!” saluted the Frankish ambassador in heavily accented Greek, bowing down. “My lord Theuderic [3] send his greetings.”

    “May God bless your king, Our vassal” answered Phocas.

    The Frank lost no time. “My lord know of the issues the Emperor have in Italy and he want to be of assistance to the Empire. In exchange for small tribute, token of gratitude, as it be…the King know he be needed…” he proposed as he straightened back up.

    “How dare you dirty animal! We’ll have you flogged and send your head to your king stuffed with our reply. We do not need his meager help, nor his blackmails!” The Emperor had jumped to his feet before he even noticed it, bellowing all those words. The scar on his face, turned a slight purple, and the color in his reddening face seemed to compete with his red hair and beard. The pendilia hanging from the crown continued to sway, back and forth. Softly his wife tapped his hand. He glanced at her. Her hazel eyes pierced his. She nodded gently. I know. The Frankish ambassador continued to observe him, anxiously.

    He sat back down. “Nonetheless We are graceful, and We would gladly concede Our blessing on Frankish efforts to bring Italy and the West back to a state of rightful obedience. Loyalty always has its rewards.”

    The Frank’s face lit up. “Indeed mighty lord. And the Franks be the Empire’s very loyal allies.”

    “We shall seal our bargain with ten thousand solidi. Tell Theuderic that thirty thousand more will come once he begins operations and 150,000 when he sends Us Theodosius’ head. Be gone.” Phocas stood up to leave.

    “Your will b...be...be done Emperor we will advance with the onset of spring and the clearing of the Alpine passes” stuttered the Frank, stupefied, as he took a few steps back.

    Phocas left the audience room, the Empress next to him, and both followed by a small detachment of excubitors. These savages should stick to their tongue and seek out Roman translators. “Now that Narses has been disposed of, you should have Alexander deal with the rest of them” Leontia suggested, interrupting his thoughts once again. He assented, nodding silently. Alexander, yes. And nevertheless the Franks might prove useful. Hopefully enough savages could be mustered to quell Theodosius’ little revolt and allow him to refocus on the east. The East, damn!

    ______________________________________


    [1] Commander of the Mesopotamian armies. IOTL he led a rebellion against Phocas, from the city of Edessa, which was supported by Khosrau II; after defeating troops sent against him, he was lured by treachery back to Constantinople, where he was burned alive. In this TL he does likewise.
    [2] The general whom Phocas designated to fight Narses; he was defeated in a battle near Constantina (modern Viranşehir) and died a few days later from his wounds.
    [3] Theuderic II, king of the Burgundy (595-613) and of Austrasia (612-613.)
     
    Publicola likes this.