"What Madness Is This?" Volume II: Prophecies in the Dark

DEUS VULT: THE BALKAN CRUSADE BEGINS
DEUS VULT:
THE BALKAN CRUSADE BEGINS

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An armored column painted with Crusader livery photographed somewhere in Grand Serbia (circa 1939)

The fact Europe avoided total war in the period directly after the Great European Schism, the creation of the Second Avignon Papacy, and the unilateral power grabs going on in both Europa and the New Holy Roman Empire is nothing short of remarkable. Besides the all-around saber-rattling and constant threats launched from Paris, Avignon, Vienna, and Rome, the ongoing civil disorder in Italy constantly risked exploding into a major conflict. In 1935, the island of Sicily erupted into the Sicilian Civil War, pitting a minority Supercatholic revolutionary government under Alessandro Fiorentino against the wishes of the common people. While bloodshed was kept to a minimum, night raids on villages and farms pitted plain-clothes peasants and civilians against each other, with a sprinkling of foreign uniformed "military advisors" and other such personnel. The police force split down the middle, and lawlessness ensued. The commoners begged Caesar Napoleon V to restore order as soon as possible. Thousands of "volunteers" gathered on Malta in September of '35, mustering quite a force to retake the island. After an initial bloodbath on the shoreline, the Golden Eagle of the Bonapartes flew from the ramparts of the city of Licata to the raucous cheers of the local populace. Knowing they were beaten, the Supercatholic revolutionaries fled the island to the mainland boot of Italy. Sicily proclaimed itself a Revolutionary Protectorate and asked Napoleon V to rule directly from Paris, which he obliged. The 120-year reign of mainland Italian soil by the Bonaparte family had finally ended, though Napoleon V's extended family would continue to claim it as their own. King Giovanni I would pass in 1940 without an heir, bringing the legacy of Joseph Bonaparte to an end.

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Pro-Avignon female volunteers in Sicily (1935)

This was far from the only blow-up on the border between the two rival powers. On July 1, 1936, a skirmish occurred between Europan border patrol and Rhenish police after a mistake was made and the Rhenish police cruised into Europan soil. Thankfully, although hundreds of pot-shots were exchanged, no one was killed and order was restored when the Rhens realized their mistake and asked for a ceasefire. Several incidents also occurred on the high seas, with various boardings and cargo seizures, but both sides gradually backed down when push came to shove. In December of 1937, the Europan embassy in Zanzibar, one of the few unaffiliated states left in the world, was bombed by extremists screaming, "Ave Maria!" The attackers were found to be Italian nationals, though all were killed by security forces before interrogation could be performed. The only surviving attacker took a cyanide pill moments before his arrest.

The reason for the lack of total war between Europa and the New Holy Roman Empire was, quite simply, neither side was stupid enough to commit. Another continent-wide bloodletting would almost certainly shatter the monarchic system and leave the entirety of Europe open for Illuminist invasion. Even Caesar recognized the fact that if there was one positive thing about the current situation, the NHRE, and the Supercatholic movement were determined to resist godless Illuminism and hamper the spread of any more chaos. In fact, not only had the tide of Illuminist revolution been halted at the borders of Pope Peter's realms, but the 1933 Austro-Ruthenian "Lightning War," perpetrated by then-Reichsminister Adolf von Braunau without consulting the then-Royal Family, had almost certainly stopped the fall of bankrupt Ruthenia to Illuminism. Meanwhile, while the hardships of the Great Depression that started when the Hapsburgs were assassinated still continued, Ruthenian spoils encouraged the stock market in Vienna and the enlightened despotism of Caesar Napoleon V and Prime Minister Jean Ponte in a time of great need assured stability in Paris. As things were, the rivalry between the two different Catholic super-states could continue indefinitely, with both factions' leaders continuing to shake their fists and yell threats to appease the masses but going home at the end of the day.

When General Director Churchill "passed of natural causes in his office" and Clement Attlee replaced him, this created a firestorm inside the League of Nations. Joe Steele had been anticipating Churchill's death, whenever it would come, to be directly followed by Order 78, a surrender of Britannic sovereignty to Philadelphia. With Attlee now in power and ordering a screeching halt to OpCrom, Yankee agents inside Britannia feared that Attlee might try to go his own way. These fears were not unfounded. Attlee had been unaware that Churchill was essentially an elaborate American spy, and this led to him questioning the entirety of the fascist system. But in the end, the neverending system of political backstabbing and sycophancy within the BU government left him no choice but to plow ahead. OpCrom was pushed to 1940, and later to 1943, following a massive incident at the Ullapool facility that involved the release of toxins into the air, killing thirty researchers. It would be discovered that a Europan agent started the incident, meaning OpCrom was no longer secret to the outside world. The Europan Imperial Science Bureau reported to Caesar that by 1943, they hoped to successfully test a nuclear weapon, something which would hopefully deter Britannic aggression and curb OpCrom dreams. In the disastrous aftermath of the incident at Ullapool, all of Europe now warned Britannia to not utilize its new weapon or risk a massive invasion. Bogged down in South America, the Republican Union did not have the time, energy, or resources to deal with a world war. Joe Steele, in fact, feared Europan entry into Manifest Climax so greatly that he now personally visited London and warned Attlee that if a biotoxin was released and was pinned on the Britannic Union, the Republican Union would denounce it and remove them from the League of Nations rather than back them up in a war. He also ordered troops to be sent to aid in Cuba and South America, such as the large number of Britannic troops that served in Cuba and Operation Tropic Thunder, as described in a previous chapter.

With Europa fearing a war in the west and busy dealing with near-weekly revolts in India, the New Holy Roman Empire fearing incursions from the Illuminists, war between the two Great Powers was unlikely. Ever the crafty statesmen, Peter II, Emperor Adolf, and Reichsminister Evola decided to turn to the other remaining Great Power in Europe, if it could still be called such. The League of Tsars suffered such a beating in the last war that its population had still not recovered. The Viceroyalty of Constantinople continued to experience revolts from the Turkish peasantry and unity among the League of Tsars was at an all-time low. With the Grail in hand and his realms stretching from the boot of Italy, over to Dalmatia and up to Vienna and Ruthenia, Peter II decided the next thing to do was to finally cripple Eastern Orthodoxy forever and remove them from the playing field. It was also the last space left to expand in Europe, and the NHRE leadership desired more resources, land, and people for the final cataclysmic war that they believed was coming against the Illuminists. This "Volksraum," or "People's Space," would be needed to breed the Evolist Supercatholic Man by the millions. There were hundreds of thousands of loyal Catholics in Grand Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania, people crying out for salvation at the hands of increasingly hostile Orthodox majorities. As a cherry on top of the cake, taking Constantinople would cripple the Illuminist Black Sea Fleet and secure the Mediterranean from Illuminist influence.

In February of 1937, Orthodox mobs attacked and lynched Catholics in Athens after several Catholic priests in the area were caught dispensing Supercatholic propaganda to their flocks. As "Defender of the Faith," Emperor Adolf condemned the pogroms as "Orthodox debauchery" and threatened to use military force to protect the Balkan Catholics. This triggered a firestorm of counter-threats, with Grand Serbia going so far as to send troops to the border and start digging an elaborate system of trenches and grinder nests. Greece also mobilized its armed forces, but it was still so drained from the Great World War that it was one hundred percent reliant on Grand Serbia and the rest of the League of Tsars to defend it. If Grand Serbia fell, Greece would fall. If Greece fell, Bulgaria would be all that was standing between Constantinople and the NHRE.

The Catholic priests in Athens were actually Holy Roman agents, intentionally spreading propaganda to stir the pot of discontent. The pogroms made the NHRE appear legitimate in its threats. The priests were part of the Holy Roman Heeresnachrichtenamt, or Army Intelligence Service, led by Erhard Raus. Raus intended to whip up so much discontent that the Balkans would erupt into civil war. He would not fall short of his goals. In Grand Serbia, a bloated multi-ethnic empire under Tsar Miroslav I, Muslim majority regions such as Bosnia were secretly equipped with old Russian weapons leftover in the captured stockpiles of the last war. The conflict exploded in late 1937 when a Serbian general named Spiridon Nikolic was shot in Sarajevo by Islamic radicals during a state function. Surviving the initial attack but badly wounded, Nikolic was whisked away to the nearby hospital. As the doctors worked to save his life, more extremists attacked the hospital. After an initial shootout pushed the revolutionaries back, a rickety old surplus biplane loaded with explosives flew itself into the building, killing 46 people, including the general. Miroslav I furiously ordered the military to restore order, only to be met with widespread violence from several sectors of society, not even just the Muslims.

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General Spirodon Nikolic lays wounded in the back of his car (1937).

The Serbian Civil War was a delicious success for the Heeresnachrichtenamt, and Serbian troops that had been at the NHRE border since February were drawn back into the heartland to deal with their collapsing empire. Grand Serbia walked away from the Great World War an apparent winner, the only member of the League of Tsars to gain from the war. Russia's place at the Viceroyalty of Constantinople was replaced with a Serbian, and although Dalmatia remained a part of Austrian holdings, it still had done quite well. But the state was far too big to last forever, and thus it seemed natural to most in Europe that the country should collapse in on itself. This was exactly what Pope Peter desired and fit perfectly into his plan. Catholics called out for rescue and law and order as society collapsed. As the Muslims and the Orthodox went to war, the Catholics caught in the crossfire were often ethnically cleansed. On January 1, 1938, Peter II issued the New Year Decree from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

"People of the Vatican, People of Rome, People of the New Holy Roman Empire, blessings be upon you! It is my sovereign duty as the Holy Father of the Catholic Church, one and true under Christ, to come to you with a tear in my eye and a pain in my heart. The downtrodden Catholic people of Grand Serbia call out like sheep in the night, as wolves run among the flock, rending flesh and breaking bones in their gnashing teeth. The blood of innocents drips down the ravenous maws of the Orthodox and Islamic swine of the Balkans. Caught in the middle of a civil war they want no part of, in a multi-ethnic kingdom that does not care for them, the true sons and daughter of Christ our King are trapped. And they are begging for our help. As the Holy Book says, we are all our brother's keeper. How can we call ourselves Holy when Christian brothers and sisters are murdered by the score in the Balkans.

The mongrels we faced before in the Great War yet remain, a troublesome reminder of how we did not impose true justice on these subhumans in 1914. We let them live to see another day when we should have picked apart their nations and made sure that the Orthodox threat in Europe was gone forever. We let them have Constantinople, one of the holiest cities in the world and rightfully a city of the One True Papacy. We took Ruthenia in 1933, taking what was owed us. Let us once again take up arms not for what is owed to us, but what we owe to God. Our Holy God wills it that we take the Balkans and ensure the safety of all Catholics in the region. It is not a war of physical conquest, but of spiritual liberation.

Hundreds of years ago, the First Great Schism brought about the Orthodox church. Now a Second Schism brings about two popes. There can be only One True Church! All others are heresy! And what do we say to heresy, my children? Death! Death! Death to heresy! I proclaim a Holy Crusade, a War of the Cross, with the objective of freeing the oppressed peoples of the Balkans, curtailing anarchy and genocide, and bringing order and security to our continent, and our Empire. All who serve in glorious battle shall ascend to Heaven when they pass, their sins absolved, their muddy tunics replaced by golden robes! All who die in glorious battle shall be recorded as heroes of the New Empire and shall be with the saints also. Let every true Christian from across Europe, even ones who have committed heresy by backing the degenerates in Avignon, know forgiveness awaits on the field of battle. We have the Grail! We have the Holy City! We have the Power of the People and of the One True God! Deus Vult!"

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Pope Peter II addresses the people (1938)

The next morning, January 2, 1938, the New Holy Roman Empire declared war on Grand Serbia. The League of Tsars declared war several hours later. By midnight, Holy Roman heavy bombers pummeled the living daylights out of the undermanned Serbian static fortifications. Serbian anti-air gunners managed to down some of the attackers, but the weakness in the border defenses was already being exploited. 33,000 troops, so numbered because of Peter II's obsession with numerology, were crossing the border with heavy artillery and landships spearheading the assault. Behind the vehicles came the shock cavalry of the Croatian Holy Roman Guard, thundering into the fire of grinders and mortars, ancient banners of the Renaissance and Middle Ages once again flying in the breeze. Regiments of civilian volunteers wearing unmarked green tunics and carrying whatever firearms they owned brought up the rear, carrying red flags with white crosses.

The Serbian troops were terrified. Most were waiting for several months' worth of pay and on half-rations due to the civil war, having to forage for most of their sustenance. This made them wildly unpopular with the locals, many of whom on the border were Catholic. These Catholic majority northern regions greeted the attack with open arms, waving crudely made cross flags out of their windows and cheering as the grey and green uniformed Holy Romans passed outside their windows. The Holy Roman Airforce was under strict instructions to only bomb military targets, so as to keep the locals on their side. When the initial onslaught passed and the Serbians fled, the Heeresnachrichtenamt swooped in to spirit away potential trouble makers and "enemies of the state." Local Catholics ratted on their neighbors who had spoken against Petr and Adolf, or those who were pretending to be Catholic. Many of the non-Catholic civilians retreated with the Serbian army, however, terrified of the unholy delights the "New Inquisition" would bring.

The war was a massacre. By the time the other League of Tsars members managed to get their troops marching in the right direction, half of Grand Serbia had fallen and Tsar Miroslav had been found strangled in his palace in Belgrade. A military junta took power, trying to salvage the situation by offering a truce and the regions of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Albania, and Montenegro, which would eliminate all gains made during the war by a long shot, and cut of their access to the sea, but the ambassador who delivered the request was sent back beaten and bloodied with a simple reply from Rome and Vienna: "God does not will it." The Muslim revolutionary groups were quite autonomous by mid-1938, but it was not to last. Ignoring the rules they had used on Catholic areas, civilian targets were fair game for the NHRE Airforce if they were Muslim. Whole towns were destroyed in minutes and without so much as a blink from the Crusaders. Whatever doubts they had, the Holy Father had promised them Eternal Absolution. It was no skin of their backs if a bunch of heretics and idolators were killed. They were impeding the march of the True Faith.

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NHRE troops on the march during the invasion of Grand Serbia (1938)

The winter of 1938-39 would see the collapse of Serbia once and for all. After a desperate siege that lasted two months, the Serbian leadership surrendered to the NHRE in Belgrade, were placed in chains, and were transported to Budapest to stand trial not only for "atrocities committed against Catholic Christians," but also for their "crimes they levied at the people of Hungary during the Great World War." For men who served during the horrific Siege of Budapest, like Adolf and Goering, it was a moment of smug satisfaction. While the war continued to rage and would not be halted until the Crusaders stormed the gates of Constantinople, morale was soaring at home. As Serbian generals and politicians hanged from gallows in Budapest, enlistment rates were at an all-time high. Catholics from all over Europe heard moving testaments from "survivors of Orthodox brutality" and were very much on board with the idea of slaughtering any "heretics" that caught their eye.

Pogroms all over the New Holy Roman Empire broke out, enemies of the state being beaten and arrested by the "New Inquisition." Finally deciding to drop all signs of restraint, the Heeresnachrichtenamt, which had been formed from the old Austro-Hungarian Intelligence Service and still bore its German-language name, joined with the Vatican to form the more universal Imperial Office of Inquiry as an empire-wide secret police force. The New Inquisition lacked the red robes of centuries past, opting instead for a more conservative black military uniform with a clerical style collar, and often simply plain black suits and trenchcoats. Erhard Raus was appointed Supreme Inquisitor and took to the job as a fish takes to water. But as the success in the Balkans continued, the NHRE was falling behind in the field of nuclear research. While several of its best and brightest were working on such matters of import, many had fled to the more rational and liberalized Europa, which was now on track to become the first-ever nuclear power...

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Erhard Raus, Supreme Inquisitor of the Office of Inquiry

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Crusaders parade through occupied Belgrade (1939)
 
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You know the drill, listen to the first while watching the second for vibes.

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New Imperial Landsknecht landships advance on an enemy position (1940).
 
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Oh look, I sub to a thread and a new update gets posted within a day. That's a new one for me.

But oh man, I was so happy when I found out Madness got a redux. And (not) to brag, I was around during the first rendition. :cool:

Unfortunately, I had a months-long break while reading this, so I'll have to re-read the first half again now.

Looking forward to more!
 
OpCrom was pushed to 1940, and later to 1943, following a massive incident at the Ullapool facility that involved the release of toxins into the air, killing thirty researchers.
...
In the disastrous aftermath of the incident at Ullapool, all of Europe now warned Britannia to not utilize its new weapon or risk a massive invasion.
"Celebrate loyal citizens of Eire, as a mighty blow has been dealt against Britannia, savaged by their own evil creations. But we must not rest in our duty to King and Connolly! We can never rest so long as Perfidious Albion remains! Stay strong and stay true to Eire! For King, Country, And The Common Man!"
(I really should get to fleshing out MonSoc Ireland some more but wanted to see how things in Europe played out before invested too much time in it)

It's nice to see how things are unfolding outside of Manifest Climax, that the Madness continues even when America isn't involved. Fingers crossed Europa gets the bomb first, if for no other reason then to see Steele absolutely lose it when he hears the news
 
Any big Naval battles in this timeline? (There is probably some big Naval war somewhere). I'm trying to find a really well-written Naval war...
 
The Madness returns! The New Holy Roman Empire is everything I feared it would be. I didn't expect them to be that similar to the Nazis, although I probably should have considering who the Emperor is.
 
(I really should get to fleshing out MonSoc Ireland some more but wanted to see how things in Europe played out before invested too much time in it)
Yeah I can see why, you wouldn’t want to flesh it out and then have it get destroyed anyway just a few years latter. Luckily, this pushing back of OpCrom, at least for now, and the impending nuclear armerment of Europa seems like it will make a sucessful OpCrom less likely, and give Eire more time to survive.
 
While I do hope we get back to the Congo Sea story soon just to see the conclusion, this was a damn fine chapter, and a great way to kick off 2021. Can't believe we got Southern European TradCath Lebensraum to kick off the new year.
 
While I do hope we get back to the Congo Sea story soon just to see the conclusion, this was a damn fine chapter, and a great way to kick off 2021. Can't believe we got Southern European TradCath Lebensraum to kick off the new year.

I kinda just went chronologically, since the Congo Sea happens in the 40s. It will also impact the European situation, especially Europan North Africa and Egypt as the mother of all refugee crises breaks out. Congo Sea will be in the next chapter or two.

Very bad stuff is about to go down. Lol We are about to fully embrace the 40s ITTL and I can't wait.
 
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This was a great chapter it seems like the Ireland is going to survive as they just need to last until europe gets there nukes and they'll be under the most deadly umbrella. Seems like Joe really lucked out here though because of Europe gets the big boom boom first he could develop a nuclear advantage like the USA against the USSR during the 50s to early 60s and easily put a stop to manifest climax so they need to rush there hemisphere conquests before all the great Powers get their big toys and war becomes a suicide pact
 
I kinda just went chronologically, since the Congo Sea happens in the 40s. It will also impact the European situation, especially Europan North Africa and Egypt as the mother of all refugee crises breaks out. Congo Sea will be in the next chapter or two.

Very bad stuff is about to go down. Lol We are about to fully embrace the 40s ITTL and I can't wait.

Ok, gotcha! Yeah, the chronology definitely makes sense. And good God, some Cackalack bois going "LMAO, like what if we sunk the Congo" is really going to start the refugee crisis of the century isn't it? Only ITTL. I can't wait to see the 40's.
 
"Celebrate loyal citizens of Eire, as a mighty blow has been dealt against Britannia, savaged by their own evil creations. But we must not rest in our duty to King and Connolly! We can never rest so long as Perfidious Albion remains! Stay strong and stay true to Eire! For King, Country, And The Common Man!"
(I really should get to fleshing out MonSoc Ireland some more but wanted to see how things in Europe played out before invested too much time in it)

It's nice to see how things are unfolding outside of Manifest Climax, that the Madness continues even when America isn't involved. Fingers crossed Europa gets the bomb first, if for no other reason then to see Steele absolutely lose it when he hears the news

"Let the degenerate Inferiors have their celebrations - it matters not to we children of the Pinnacle Race. Destiny awaits in God's own good time, and the peoples of Britannia shall not be denied long..."

- excerpt from speech by Director-General Atlee to Ullapool facility staff, following Joe Steele's London visit, 1940.

(because *someone* has to do faux-nationalistic boasting for Best Britain. And really, any Director-General of the BU who isn't Churchill is duty bound to speak as a stereotypical evil Brit :p.)

I kinda just went chronologically, since the Congo Sea happens in the 40s. It will also impact the European situation, especially Europan North Africa and Egypt as the mother of all refugee crises breaks out. Congo Sea will be in the next chapter or two.

Very bad stuff is about to go down. Lol We are about to fully embrace the 40s ITTL and I can't wait.

Europan Govt.: No! You can't flood the Congo, that's insane!
Big Bill Jennings: Heh, Congo Sea go splish splosh.

All memery aside, yeah, it might be a good thing you strengthened Europa a tad here, if only because the refugee crisis, inevitable Illuminist/Supercatholic invasions and whatever the hell Ullapool is cooking up now that they know that OpCrom is shelved for the foreseeable future (somehow you just know they won't consider not making their poison gas even more deadly/making some new horror) are gonna utterly wreck the tidy little empire Bonaparte built. Also, slight question - where is Europan settlement strongest in North Africa?

Current guess is Egypt and Algeria - the first because of Napoleon's interest in it/its centrality in the Bonaparte mythos coupled with greater fertility than Algeria/Libya (where going away from the coasts is NOT A GOOD IDEA), the latter because of, well, historical reasons. Also also, given the broader pool the Bonapartes were drawing on, guessing that demography is a little more skewed in favour of Europeans than OTL's heights of 10%-or-so for the French Algerians. Mainly asking because, given the inferred scale of what's about to happen, I can see Algeria/Egypt's colonial administrations going down the route of OTL South Africa in response to the crisis. Or collapsing into Islamist revolt. One or the other. :p
 
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