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/qst/ - Quests

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Anno domini 1085

You are Manuel Angelus, first of his name, Imperator, Basileús kai Autokrátōr Thephaiōn (General, Sovereign and Autocrat of Thephians). The ruler of an august and venerable empire that had once been the hegemon of the known civilized world. Now a decaying and rotting, racked by civil wars, plague, religious schisms and foreign invasions. Only nineteen years of age, despite a disposition fitting one of an erudite scholar or a learned priest, you had been thrust upon the most prestigious throne of the world. You had sentenced Parakoimomenos (one who sleeps nearby) Fulgentius to death for his crimes of having poisoned your father, the previous Basileús, Andronikos V Angelus whom had just moments prior recognized you as his bastard, and legitimized you. Shortly thereafter, you had survived your own guards, the elite Scholae Tagmata (School regiment/battalion), turning against you with half of their number. Rallying the loyalists, you had bested your Uncle, seeing him slain upon the battlefield, condemning to death those of your guards that had betrayed you and the house troops of the Angelus family, all of whom you had blinded and sent to exile to live a religious life, only sparing the youngest of them whom could not pose you any threat. Afterwards you immersed yourself in rebuilding the imperial navy, starting up infrastructure projects and involving yourself in conflicts to your South, against the uncouth Akeonians whom dared to encroach upon your islands, and to the East, against rebellious magnates whom with God’s and his Shepherd’s favour upon your side all had drowned beneath the waves. Thus, you continue your reclamation against foreign savages whom are now trying to lay claim to lands rightfully yours, exhausted by your treacherous subjects.

What a miserable place this truly is. You think absent-mindedly, sipping upon herbal tea that your Giatrós (Doctor) had prescribed in order to keep your humours in balance. The porch before you is stained with dirt as men continue to move back and forth, your servants closely attending your every need as a silver platter of raisins is placed before you, their sweetness meant to help to deal with the bitterness of the tea.

Spring had finally come after a blinding winter, since it had at one point, snowed without a stop for an entire month, whilst you were able to catch upon your reading and administrative duties, as well as attend and host a few banquets as is so required of your position, most of the locals and your men included had been busy simply shovelling away the endless layer of snow day after day, snow that had now quite rapidly melted…thanks to an endless torrent of rain, now that the season had changed.

Protesting the load upon it, the mule lets out a cry of annoyance. The fact that you have multiple carriages worth of furniture just for you upon a campaign continues to nag at you, but what protest you had been long silenced, as yet again, you find your position of having to maintain a proper air of authority and prestige burdensome. Apparently, an entire room’s worth of chairs, cupboards, tables, beds and the like are already the bare minimum.

“I suggest that your majesty enjoys the dryness while you can. The rain usually soaks through tents as well, no matter how layered or from what made.” Isaac says with a neutral expression, drinking from a glass of wine.

“Tell us, Strategos (General), would it not have been wiser to wait for the moment where we would see at least a few days of sunshine ?” Your gaze turns towards your own valued Scholae Tagmata (School regiment/battalion), whose lamellar armour is entirely soaked, raindrops run without end down the various connecting rectangles of steel, the white plume atop their spangenhelms looking equally miserable as them, with the snow-white cloaks being multitude times as heavy as it would normally be weighing down upon their shoulders.

“That is what the locals, still in open rebellion...” He says putting emphasis upon the latter half of the sentence. “…would think of, and no doubt the savages of the Skouraxúla (Dark woods) would think of that as well. However, by the time preparations are finished, that Sunshine your majesty seeks would have alluded us once more. It is better to suffer the wet for a few days and make headway than give initiative to our foes, since as it stands, we are vastly outnumbered, and we are still unclear of the situation around us.” With a neutral expression Isaac finishes his reasoning, but even you can see a glint of amusement in his eyes, one hardly hidden. And as you redirect your gaze once more, you quickly realize where that amusement comes from.

A wretched looking Leontius, soggy head to toe, finally finds cover underneath the porch’s roof. His black leather boots coated in layer of dirt, the gold buckles upon them equally as besmirched as the rest of his look. Pants of leather, whilst excellent for the purposes of riding a horse also tend to drink in any moisture it encounters. They also seem to have taken a deeper shade, as the red dye, usually vibrant red, had taken the colouring that closer to dried blood, the gold thread, usually brilliantly yellow had lost some of its lustre. The man’s tunic, pure white with diamond buttons, had become closer to light grey and his vibrant green cloak, which does not seem to have prevented all too much of the rain soaking through, also appears almost washed out.

“Your majesty.” With a tired sigh he says. “Everything has been prepared for our departure, the mercenaries are grumbling for being waken and forced to march at the break of dawn, such as it is, but they have been assembled into proper formations. I and my peers are also ready to swiftly ride out.” He finally trails off, something left unsaid, accusatory glances thrown towards Isaac.

“Excellent news prōtoproedros (senior president).” You say finishing off the last of your tea, before taking a raisin and biting into it.

“Be careful prōtoproedros, no matter how much you try, outrunning the rain in a place like this will only see you slip and twist your neck.” With venomous intent, Isaac throws out.

“I shall keep that advice in mind, Strategos (General). And if I may share my kernel of wisdom, gallanting amongst savages, especially on the battlefield is a dangerous business, I suggest you watch your back, o brave Strategos.” Not backing down at all, Leontius snaps back.

The months spent listening to the two exchanging barbed words had desensitized you to their continuous, occasionally loud and oft annoying rivalry. Having finished the last raisin, you wipe your mouth and hands with a handkerchief. “It is good to hear encouraging words exchanged by our subjects, all of whom wish to strengthen the empire with their good words.” You put a hint of a threat in your voice, having grown weary of the continuous back-and-forth, before you yourself rise. Dressed similarly as your own tagmata (regiment/battalion), except for the fact that your gauntlets, greaves, and lamellar itself made out of the finest of steel, being armour made for warfare rather than show, it has limited decorations, with only simple gold gilding upon each and every individual plate of steel, the gauntlets themselves are also decorated in a subdued fashion with gold gilding showcasing an artistic styling of a wolf’s head upon the back of the palm plate, whilst the greaves themselves also have slight gilding showcasing ferocious claws. Finally, a purple cloak hands upon your back, this time missing the usual decorations as it is intended for battle, so anything weighing you down more would be simply unacceptable.

“Just simple wishing of good luck, your majesty.” Isaac says with a smirk, clad in armour as he puts on his own spangenhelm. “It is possible that there will be enemies observing us, so must move prepared, and we must move quickly, the lightly equipped senatorial cavalries shall act as a screening force covering our advance. I shall be at the head of the column, your majesty shall be at the centre surrounded by your guards, the cavalry all around you and the mercenaries at your back. It is imperative that your majesty does not leave the centre of the formation no matter what, as any potential injury or other such risks could see an unfortunate situation of rats scurrying about, biting each other.” Casting another glance and not waiting for retort before marching off, Isaac says.

“Your majesty, the man has to be disciplined. He lacks proper manners and etiquette demanded of his position.” Squirming his way into your ears, Leontius does not miss a beat to try and throw his rival in front of a horse.

“We shall keep your council in mind.” You state, having grown quite adept at giving an answer whilst making no true promises. Whom would have thought that it be not the fear of battle or war, but this endless bickering that would take me to the edge of sanity. You dourly think before putting on your own helm, the in-built diadem’s pearls once again clinking and clattering, before stepping into the rain.

Walking with measured steps, you find the ground slippery, doubly so now that you are clad in your armour, the months of winter spent training how to fight had conditioned you to move more comfortably in your armour, whilst you still wouldn’t consider yourself an expert, you had become a trained fighter. Or so you would like to believe at least, you still lack true experience upon the battlefield, but you think you had pushed yourself as much as you could. Having the servant pass over the reins of your white mare, you clamber atop of her as she lets out a snort of protest against the weight now upon her back, but unlike an unrulier stallion does not attempt to throw you off. The issue of equestrianism is one that you still had not solved, but maybe someday.

Your own Scholae (School) begin to form up around you as you slowly march out of the town, the army having gathered outside still looks impressive, all things considered, but you had lost some numbers due to the need for garrisons around the area and the few townships you were able to secure before the onset of winter.

Isaac’s black stallion rides past you, his own golden cloak, the colouring of his own Optimatoi tagmata (The best, regiment/battalion), and purple-gold plume atop his helm still shining somewhat before being soaked thoroughly by the ceaseless downpour.

“Your majesty, if I may.” The tired voice of Auxentius reaches your ears from the other side of your guards.

You merely gesture, raising your gauntleted hand, for your guards to make way.

Protasekretis (first secretary).” You call out in acknowledgement, looking over the thin figure, a gentle mare, similar to your own underneath the venerable man, clad deeply in wool and fur despite the soaking rain. He should be riding in a carriage alongside his peers, but the old warrior had stubbornly refused, despite the continuous complaints about how his joints ache due to the cold and the rain.

“Your majesty.” He says having closed the distance. “The men that were sent South had sent a messenger ahead, they shall be rejoining us soon, throughout the winter, the Lucenians had simply continued to poke and prod, with the largest groups being as large as six men, with more often than not travelling in groups of twos or in their lonesome.”

“And everyone is certain that this will not mean a future attack ?” You question as your mare steps upon a large puddle upon the moss-covered cobblestone road, as proper road construction had never been a priority for these lands, nor was it truly viable due to the endless moisture of the earth.

“The previous riposte that we had delivered upon them, through your majesty’s command, had dissuaded them from truly great attacks. From what the messenger said, it was mainly young men coming of age, apparently some ceremony or another that they must carryout when they reach adulthood in the midst of winter. To fight great foes and to survive without the rest of the tribe.” He says, his brown eyes, despite the awful conditions, staring just above your own eyes with a clear glint in them.

“We feel that there is more you wish to say.” You bite, curiosity having gotten the best of you.

“A campaign will have to be launched sooner rather than later, your majesty.” Auxentius smile slightly, turning to regard a group of mercenaries further off from you, swearing so loudly that you can make out a few words.

“They will have to be subdued, that is true, we cannot tolerate such a large part of the empire being under monstrous heathens.” And even if I don’t want to, no doubt the senate will whine and whinge for a campaign, especially once we win here. You think with a slight bit of annoyance.

“In that case I recommend that the campaign be launched sooner rather than later. For the Lucenian youth now hath nought but us to sharpen their blades upon.”

You pause for a second, thoughts running through your mind as you eventually turn to face the old man. “What that envoy said, this has something to do with it ?”

“Correct, your majesty, with the Lucenians being pushed out, it seems that they were united under a single leader, no doubt the Lucenian tribe is made up of numerous other tribes as is oft done by these forest-dwellers. And instead of sharpening, and thus shortening their blades against each other or other tribes, they had instead concentrated upon us. Perhaps that one tribe that had united the Gē tōn kataraménōn andrṓn (Land of cursed men)…”

“The Uvergians.” You say.

“…ah, yes, them.” Auxentius nods, clearing his throat. “As I was saying, your majesty, the Lucenians are now stuck between two powers, our great and venerable empire, full of riches and history, that had suffered due to the years of neglect and other, discontent.” He says with a bit of hesitation. “And the other is a new powerful tribe, hellbent on unification to such a degree that they would, as is nature of these foreigners, betray their own allies blinded by their own greed.”

“Outside pressure keeping the tribes intact.” You quickly think back to the few books upon mathematics you had perused through.

“Precisely, your majesty. Being as bloodthirsty as they are, they will lash out in time, just how a lid begins to rumble over a heated pot and if not looked after causes a mess. So, should the Lucenians lash out. Should they, in their delusions, decide to strike out, we will have another long war ahead of us, your majesty.”

“You are an experienced warrior, from what we had heard, Protasekretis.”

“Thank you for your words, your majesty.” With a slight bow upon his mare Auxentius responds.

“Then tell us, can the Lucenians break through ? Based upon your years of experience.”

“It is difficult to say.” After a moment of pondering he says, raindrops rolling down his cloak, causing him to wince once in a while as a few droplets land close to his eyes. “We have mountains to guard our heartlands, and now, to our South, we have kilometres worth of swampland and of course the Galázio máti thálassa (Azure eye sea) shall also impede their progress as they will have to walk around, unless of course, they start cutting down their previous homes to make enough vessels for a quick crossing.
Should they strike West, our forts shall hold, as long as they are properly maintained and reinforced, failing to do so shall result in, things I cannot foresee, your majesty. But it would undoubtedly result in a prolonged war, where whichever side breaks first, loses the most, and if we are unwilling to strike out when we win, it will be nothing more than a truce for a few years, perhaps a generation before the demands of their false gods sees the Lucenians attack again.
Should they strike Northwards, the Psychráéli (Cold marshes) inhabited by Andresváltou (Men of swamps), shall see any and all of their attempts slowly ground down through endless skirmishes, which means that the Lucenians shall have to either subjugate them, or they will have to move through, cutting themselves off from their new homeland and live off the land, the land of your people. I find this the riskiest, as the Andresváltou have no love for us nor the Shepherd’s word, your majesty, I doubt they would even think of informing us of the Lucenian advance, and should we move there ourselves, we would quickly find ourselves in a three-way war. The plain here would also strongly favour the Lucenian way of war, and whilst I wish to proclaim our victory…” He goes silent, a saddened look on his face.

“We had lost before.” You finish his thought.

You continue your march onwards, riding ahead in complete silence as the rest of the army moves onward, until eventually, blessingly, the downpour turns into a shower, the shower into a drizzle and the drizzle finally ceases. The clouds beginning to part and clear undisturbed sunlight begins to shine through. Despite the increasing of the mood amongst the soldiery due to improving weather conditions, you own continues to sour as a single thought torments you.

Are these lands even worth reconquering ? Sparse population, worthless land, resources are rare and spread out, and even then, they are usually entirely soaked through, making it even more expensive to extract whatever worth there is. And most of all, these lands are hard to defend.

Undoing your helmet and quickly taking it off, you allow your face to be washed in the warm sunlight. For now, let’s win this war. You think after taking a deep breath, enjoying the chillness of early spring, mixed with the increasing heat of the Sun.
(POV shift: You are Ancius Acropolita a Decarch within Optimatoi tagmata (The best, regiment/battalion) in charge of ten fighting men, yourself included.)

Strategos (General) Isaac certainly knows the terrain well. You think as sweat rolls down your face, the rhythmic beating of horse’s hooves below you and the whistling of wind filling your ears alongside the rattling of your armour.

It had been a few weeks since your march began and luckily the weather had turned allowing good time for travel, to the point where town after town had fallen without fighting, gladly throwing open their gates and greeting their fellow countrymen. Still, the making of such speed had come at the cost, quite a few animals made to drag the supplies had perished alongside a few men here and there due to the wetness. They had died coughing up blood and in great agony, the moisture all around had prevented their corpses from being burned, so they were instead quickly buried in fear that the disease would spread from their quickly rotting corpses.

Now however, the Sun had shone uninterrupted for a good week and you had reached lands now feared to be held by the foreign savages, as such, you and yours had been split up into smaller groups to scout ahead forwards alongside many of the lighter cavalries of the senators. Of course, the esteemed Scholae Tagmata (School regiment/battalion) do not have to risk their lives in scouting. You think with slight annoyance.

“Whoa !” You call out, pulling the reins of your stallion, bringing the large beast to a halt as it protests, your men quickly follow, all halting upon the now dry dirt road.

“Smoke.” You say pointing to the sky and to a single, barely visible column in the distance. “Tetrarch, are there supposed to be any settlements here ?” You ask the commander of your rear-guard, if you’re not mistaken, the man grew up around these parts.

The man halts for a second, looking at his surroundings and racking his brain. “None that I remember, maybe someone cerld set up a hut or two, but camping here is a bad idea since the nearby river tends to flood unpredictably.” He says, a hint of the local accent still strong in his speech.

“So, only someone unfamiliar would make camp here then ?”

“Correct, Decarch.”

You pause, wondering for a moment as you look at your surroundings, other than a few scatter trees here and there, slight elevation of the ground, the overall environs seem to favour your cavalry and rapid movement.

“Prepare your arcus (recursive bow).” You command drawing it yourself, checking the quiver at your side. “Giddyap !” You encourage your horse to go at full tilt.

Quickly covering the distance and clearing the small rise in the land. You see your foes, a gaggle of men, half or fully naked, with soaked through clothing hanging above the fire, a few bedrolls are also thrown to the side, equally as soaked through. These men are barbaroi (barbarians), you can easily tell by the ritualistic tattoos all over their bodies, and these don’t seem like the tribe that his majesty, for some God-forsaken reason, had decided to accept into the church.

Your men do not even need to hear your command as you draw back your own arcus and let loose an arrow. Flying true, it screams through the air impacting the stomach of the frontmost man of the group, as blood gushes outwards, he collapses upon the ground screaming in pain. The hit had not killed him immediately, but a gut wound as such, with no armour to lessen the blow and no one to offer immediate aid is as good as death. Without much thinking and relaying upon your training, you quickly grab another arrow from the quiver. For a moment your eyes blink as an arrow flies straight for you, the metal arrowhead impacting your shoulder and throwing off your aim, but your finely crafted armour sees the blow bounce off and move away from you. Restoring your posture, you loose the second arrow of the day, this time aiming at the man whom had loosened upon you first. His gurgled cries are the last things he ever utters as his throat is pierced through causing him to drop his own weapon and start clawing against your arrow now deeply imbedded in him.

As you draw your third and turn about as your horse had already passed the diminutive camp. Loosing another arrow against the now fully scattering foe, you put another arrow in a fleeing man’s back, the first one, loosened by one of your men, seemingly haven’t done its job in putting him down for good, the second arrow however finally fells him.

Reflexively going for your quiver yet again, you halt your actions and slow down your horse as the last remaining savages can now only writhe in pain upon the ground. Gently urging your horse forwards, you dismount him once you reach the middle of the camp. “Savage bastard, I suppose I cannot call you unwashed, but worthless scum nonetheless, tell me, are there more of you out there ?” You say standing above the man whose guts you had hit.

Breathing heavily and holding back pain, the speaks. Aldie tü hör, gaden ir wod.

You pause for a second. Of course these foreigners lack the good sense of speaking even a lick of a proper civilized tongue.

“Kill them.” You emotionlessly order, these barbaroi (barbarians) are of no use, you may as well be the better man and end their suffering faster.

Once again mounting your horse, you watch as your men go about their grim task, piercing hearts, slitting throats, and retrieving spent arrows. The sunshine has gotten hotter. You idly think, shifting your gaze upon the Sun as it climbs ever higher.

(End of POV shift.)

Your body aches, and not in the similar way of when you strain it through training, at least then you feel that you are building your muscles and your strength, this strain is one born out of tiredness and nothing more. You had not expected how uncomfortable being in full set of your armour truly is until you had to spend literal hours within it, sometimes to the point where you had only taken it off when the march was called to a halt for a night’s rest. Not to mention, to further exaggerate the problem, your thighs are burning, and worst of all, bleeding, for you had sat upon a saddle just as long as you had been in your armour. For once both Isaac and Leontius agreed on something, your attempts to travel in your clothing had been utterly denied, to the point where you had to listen to Auxentius’ lecture about how it is important to ensure your safety in such uncertain situations as warfare against a foe whose true location is unknown.

With a grunt, you sit down upon your bed, the servants that had assisted you in undressing having already departed, in the middle of the large tent a brazier is roaring providing warmth as the smoke escapes upwards from an opening in the tent itself.

You sigh, it had been a rough few weeks for you, but your progress had been unimpeded, you think you had taken part in more feasts in this last month than in your entire reign before. Each town had welcomed you as saviours and liberators, the news of the barbaroi (barbarians) rampages spreading far and wide, and most importantly the news of the rebels’ demise spreading even faster. So, surprisingly enough, you had yet to see the need to shed blood, that is until today. Isaac had informed you that the scouting parties had run into resistance for the first time, scattered and unorganized, small warbands numbering no more than perhaps two dozen individuals each. But soon enough you shall face your adversaries in open battle, the terrain, as had Isaac thought you, forces open field engagements unless the foe is entirely mounted. And since you are dealing with a migration rather than an invasion, even the… Lorinders, you recall, those preferring to fight on horseback had no doubt brought along the old and the young whom are incapable of horsemanship, so unless they are willing to abandon their kin, even they shall have to face Isaac wroth.

Speaking of whom, you had never seen Isaac more enthusiastic than right now, whilst tempered by caution, he had nonetheless, and much to your annoyance, pushed the army far ahead in continuous forced marches despite the harsh condition. Despite so, you cannot argue with the results as around a third of the territory lost is once again under the empire’s control, though this had spread your forces far and wide due to the simple necessity for garrisons.

Stretching your body, you force yourself in front of your desk and start going through the various documents. The senators that had cut their infrastructure support had continued with their petulant act. Meaning that even whilst suffering through an endless march, you still have to put aside time just to simply manipulate numbers lest you risk rebellion from a disgruntled populace who, had lost access to such simple things as public baths and lavatories. If nothing else, looking at all these numbers gave you an idea why did such a situation occurred in the first place. Once again – a lack of people. The infrastructure was built for perhaps two, maybe even three of four times the population that currently inhabits various towns across the empire. The taxes raised from there were enough to supply these public works in times of abundance and even war, but now, now it is just another massive strain demanding your attention.

Rubbing your eyes, you end up yawning having finished hours of work just as a massive ball of fur rolls over impacting your chair. With a slight chuckle you watch the now massively sized Pistis roll around the carpets set upon the ground. You now have a proper direwolf as your bodyguard, though you hope you shall never have to witness the sight of your beloved pet threaten to the point where he has no choice but to attack. A few flashbacks of the day of your uncle’s betrayal flash through your mind. The reason why you are so strain yourself in your daily training to begin with.

Another matter occupies your endlessly churning mind as you finally lay down to rest. Myslik the sort of Patriárchēs (patriarch) of the region, you recall Goran’s words. The deal you made with the Thuregs involves them converting to the true faith, or at least the way the Shepherd’s faith is interpreted in these lands. That’s an issue for tomorrow. You barely think as your heavy eyelids close and you quickly fall asleep.
The sound of a horn startles you awake, even after these few weeks you had not gotten used to it, it is far too sharp and harsh upon your ears compared to a rooster’s morning calls. With an annoyed whine Pistis simply rolls over, ignoring the call to start another busy day at the camp, if the past few days are anything to go by, a quick, filling breakfast and a long day’s march.

Before you can even rise from your bed, a swarm of servants rushes in to attend to your every need, hot water with which you can wash your face and hair, wet rags that are rapidly used to wipe down your body from what sweat would have formed during the night. A freshly cooked fish is brought in quickly thereafter, once you finish putting on your clothes. And as you drink your morning tea, one of the servants begins to speak.

“Your majesty, prōtoproedros (senior president) Leontius wishes for your attention, if you would ordain to give him so.” The young man says with a deep bow, avoiding to even gaze in your general direction.

“Allow him in. Ah, and prepare a meal for him.” You offhandedly say, and the servants jump to carry out your commands.

“Your majesty, I thank you for your kindness.” Opening the flap to your tent and quickly stepping in Leontius begins.

“We naturally welcome one of our most valued subjects when they no doubt have much of import to inform us about.” You say still in a half-dazed state until the medicinal herbs kick in, you found them to be quite useful in giving you a little bit of energy in the morning.

“Of course, your majesty. May I ?” He asks gesturing at a chair specifically brought for him next to your table. To that you simply nod. “My thanks, your majesty.” He says taking a seat. “Now, your majesty, I had been informed that soon your majesty shall be meeting with the local religious representative.”

“Soon enough.” You respond without much flair to your words, you are far too groggy for that so early in the morning. In fact, you wonder how the man whose twice your age is so full of energy.

“I would like to request permission to take a part in this meeting, your majesty.” He says starting to dig into the roasted fish now placed before him.

“The reason being ?”

“We hold the upper hand in any and all negotiations, your majesty. Whilst your faith is applaudable and no doubt has already earned your majesty a seat next to the Shepherd, it would be prudent for the empire and the stability of this region if we impose proper control of the area through religious means, as well, it cannot be denied that the folk here have a slightly different interpretation of the one true faith.”

You ponder for a moment, mainly the promise you had made to his all holiness Oikoumenikós Patriárchēs (ecumenical patriarch) Anatolius. The religious matter shall have to be addressed soon, so at least fully knowing the situation, and having an experienced political animal such as Leontius at your side could prove beneficial. “Very well, you shall be allowed to accompany us, but you shall only speak when we give you permission to do so.” You put in a stipulation, the last thing you need is Leontius flaming up a rivalry similar to the one he has with Isaac.

“Naturally, your majesty, I, your humble servant shall obey your most dignified commands.” He says before quickly finishing off his breakfast. “By your leave, your majesty ?” He says slowly rising, which you grant with a wave of your hand. You’d like a peaceful morning for once.
Your own tagmata (regiment/battalion) marches in perfect unison, forming a large diamond formation with you at its heart. The Sun once again shines brightly, but clouds had begun to gather once again, signalling that the short dry spell shall soon come to an end and the near-permanent downpour shall restart. But for now, you and your forces strike quite the sight, marching at the head of your army you approach Troezitida, a large inland town, situated close to the Gē tōn kataraménōn andrṓn (Land of cursed men), well, large by the local standards, the only real thing standing out about this specific town is that it is built upon a slight elevation of the ground, meaning that the land here is not utterly soaked through, only mostly, which naturally led to the locals building tall, strong stone walls. Originally a site of an ancient outpost back from the glory days of the empire, now it is a relatively quaint trading down, were it not the headquarters of Myslik and his rather militant priests.

“And this Myslik, what about him ?” You ask, uncomfortably shifting in your saddle.

“Aggressive.” Isaac supplies before going quiet. “A zealot.” He says a moment later, riding next to you in the middle of the Scholae (School) formation.

“Can he be reasoned with ?”

“Perhaps. Given the fact that the reason we are here in such a force is to allow a conversion of thousands of people should definitely catch his attention. Still, the man’s a crafty old fox, I’ve got no real advice to offer on how to deal with him your majesty, since I’ve not had much interaction with him, but caution would serve you well. Perhaps pitting that snake Leontius against this particularly holy snake is not a bad idea.” Isaac says, spewing words that would undoubtedly see him chastised by any priest within hearing.

“And the warriors that gather under him ?” You quickly try to divert the topic.

“God knows what they number now, but from what I heard and saw during my time, it was a ragtag bunch. Barely armed and equipped men, too old or too young for anything else, a few better equipped priests sponsored by some house or another, a few veterans here and there making up the core of the group. Over all, not a great threat to us and I never bothered to put them down myself, since they did carry out what they proclaimed to do, unlike a certain old men’s club whom proclaims its usefulness. They patrol the surrounding woods, occasionally defend villages when the need is great, those sorts of things.” Not missing a chance to once again strike at the senate, Isaac surmises.

The sound of gates being opened attracts your attention, the sight of banners fluttering in the wind above the gate showcasing a golden wolf upon red sending a clear greeting for your arrival. The scouts sent forth had encountered numerous small groupings of the savages and routed them all with minimal casualties, with numerous towns pledging allegiance as soon as your soldiers had run into them, and this town is no exception, with everything already arranged for your arrival and meeting with Myslik.

With your forward horsemen riding ahead, you shortly afterwards follow them once a trumpet announcing that the town is safe is blown. Isaac had taken some time tu tutor you about the meaning of the various flags and sounds used in battle, but even then, you had only scratched the surface of the various meanings of the signals, but Isaac had viewed it as a necessity for you to know at the very least the basics. The lessons had been short and blunt, as Isaac had been almost entirely in charge of the campaign as you had granted him authority to do so.

Coming closer to the entrance, you gaze upon the moss-covered walls, clear cracks visible upon the structure, either due to a lack of maintenance or the endless moisture, or both working in tandem to weaken the decently tall walls reaching the height of about five metres. The gates themselves are made of equally soaked through wood, clear lacquered paint still visible upon it holding back as much moisture as the paint and oils can, but the damage done once again indicates a truly old age, whilst you are no expert and the surroundings are rather harsh, you’d reckon that the gates are decades old at the least. Before you stretches out a clear cobblestone road, with ditches to the sides of the road and sharp roof upon the low standing buildings built to redirect rain and allow it to fall down upon the ditches, the outflow running downwards straight towards the walls themselves, where you can notice that underneath them are drainage pipes meant to more or less eject the build-up and prevent flooding.

As for the people, well, to the sides of the road proudly stand the various senatorial cavalries whom had secured the town with your own tagmata quickly joining them in securing the surroundings and preventing the curious onlookers from getting too close. Speaking of whom, said onlookers seem, fine, compared to what you had witnessed throughout the last few weeks, they appear to be well-fed, decently well-dressed with the wool they wear being dyed in rather simple, washed-out reds and greens, a common sight within Myralos, but an overall rarity that you had seen in these lands. And most shockingly of all, the populace appears properly large, the town could house perhaps two to three thousand people, and it certainly is, you can see that there are plenty of healthy young men alongside the sick, the elderly, the young, and women. Fighting aged men whom had not perished in the ill planned expedition that saw you with this opportunity. Fighting aged men all wielding weapons and some sorts of armour, mainly daggers, a few swords, but mostly spears and axes. As for armour, that is hardly impressing, shields, naturally, alongside thick wool armour, then a few rusting iron helmets, a few greaves and gauntlets, the occasional chainmail hanging from the bodies of the particularity healthy and rich looking men, at least compared to their peers.

Finally, most oddly of all, you spot the town’s chapel. An equally humble building, a single-story construct, the walls bare and undecorated with but a few wooden windows to allow in sunlight. Upon the western side of the chapel is a rather tall, but thin tower, seemingly overlooking the woods with a sharp red tilled roof, you can also see what appears to be a rather large brass bell, a means to call for prayer and as means of giving warning no doubt. All in all, seemingly normal were it not for the fact that the chapel is in the centre of the town, not the local mayoral manor, which in fact you do not spot anywhere.

The bell atop of the tower rings out and the main door of the chapel opens revealing a large number of men armed and equipped with primarily chainmail, which you notice that the edges of whom are showing sings of rust and use, thick woollen gambeson underneath however appear to be fresh and new. The weapons in the hands of perhaps the two or so dozen men also show signs of continuous use and wear, the round wooden shields, with metal reinforcements around the area where one would put their hand being made out of iron which shows dents and bumps upon it, the shields, painted white with a black sword-cross in the middle looking fresh and new, but once again, you can see cuts and gnashes with the wood. In their right hands, these warriors hold short one-handed axes, once again, made out of iron with signs of strong use, no doubt being forged and reforged numerous times. Finally, thick woollen caps and the occasional iron helmet protects their heads and clear iron crosses hanging upon their chests, thin and worn, sharp and gleaming, finishes off their looks.

In the middle of this procession, rather poor when compared to the splendour of your mounted tagmata, stands an old man, tall and proud, seemingly unfeeling the endless march of time upon his body. You see that he has a long, bushy white beard, his hair, equally white, are thin and sparse, but a few strands hold themselves around the sides of his head whilst the top remains utterly bare. A hardened wrinkled face with clear scars upon it accents the sharp green eyes that are set in with a sharp and dangerous glint. The man’s face has, what you hope is, a naturally resting ferocious expression of a beast barely barred and held back. And to finish it off, despite the age, he still stands equal to if not taller than his companions around him, with clear muscles upon him no doubt built from numerous strenuous activities, the rather heavy and large ringmail hanging from his shoulders, polished bronze greaves and heavy boots, steel gauntlets showing signs of aging and damage. Besides a single, simple iron cross similar to the rest of the gathering, he shows no other symbols of wealth or authority, but the spirit, the stance, and the looks of the man makes it clear that he is someone who holds authority and knows how to exercise it.

As your horse rides close to the chapel, the men spread out before quickly kowtowing before you as your own bodyguards spread out and dismount to ensure your safety whilst you remain astride your mare.

“Greetings, your majesty, I am Myslik.” The man says lacking the usual accent of the locals you had come to expect in these lands. “If your majesty would, there is much to be discussed as I had been informed by your servants.” He finishes, his voice even and calm, despite his ferocious looks, lacking any and all changes in pitch and tremor, you could imagine yourself listening to some giving a sermon with such a peaceful voice about the mercies of the Shepherd, an odd contradiction looking at the rest of the man.

“Many important matters indeed. You may rise, for now we would like for you to find accommodations for us and our entourage.” You say dismounting the mare.

“Of course, your majesty, everything has been prepared already.” Myslik finishes, rising to his full height and with a few waves of his hand sending off his men to start escorting your forces to more restful places before, with a surprising amount of swiftness in his stride, Myslik walks into the chapel.

“Your majesty, remember that we have an upper-hand here.” Leontius spits out having ridden now next to you and quickly dismounting, barely taking a moment to catch his breath.

“I am well aware, prōtoproedros (senior president).” You half-heartedly respond before heading into the chapel, your bodyguards already clearing the way and making sure that there are no hidden threats awaiting you within.

As you had come to expect in these lands, the insides of the chapel are barren and bare, lacking overmuch in even the simplest of decorations bar for a large cross made entirely out of iron. Still, as always, these lands always seemingly catch you off-guard, as within the chapel you see sleeping cots, large cooking pots, whetstones, a small anvil, crates housing foodstuffs. Were it not for the few pews before the altar and of course the cross, you’d expect this to be a part of a military camp, a sight you had grown used to seeing for quite a while now. And of course, in the middle of this stands Myslik, gazing upon the cross and uttering silent prayers before turning around to face you.

“I do apologize, your majesty. As you may, my home is rather modest so I unfortunately do not have much that I can offer besides my own company. I had set a table with what humble offerings I have at hand.” He gestures towards a small table where at most four people could squeeze together, a large pot in the middle with steam going off it and a few clay bowls placed besides it next to a loaf of rough looking bread and a jug of no doubt wine and a few clay cups. Without waiting for your approval or dismissal, he opens up the bowl and with a large ladle he begins to pour large portions of soup into the bowls.

A quick exchange of glances with Leontius sees you both sitting yourselves at the table where the strong smell of soup entirely fills your nostrils, as you gaze upon it you are reminded quickly of your old life, a few chunks of meat, only reserved for special occasions, a large collection of various herbs for flavour and a thick gathering of buckwheat gives the soup a closer to porridge like substance that would fill you up for the entirety of the day. Taking the wooden spoon provided you take a bit of the soup alongside some of the bread. It is rough, unlike the food you had now grown used to, but nonetheless caringly made.

“I hope your majesty finds it filling.” Myslik says before seating himself and starting to eat. Through the corner of your eyes you can see a rather displeased Leontius digging through the soup with his spoon and eyeing the bread with suspicion before taking a bite and quickly thereafter, an unsatisfied look comes across his face.

“It is acceptable enough.” You state taking another bite. “And whilst this is a fine meal, we have much to discuss.” You throw a lifeline to Leontius whom cannot deny the food out of politeness and etiquette.

“Yes, as their majesty says, we must swiftly get down to business, unfortunately enough.” He says with faux disappointment. “As it stands there are a few important matters to discuss. Firstly, if I am not mistaken due to the actions of the traitor Ancius Glycas, you, as it stands at the moment, are the highest ranked priest within these lands.”

Taking a particularly large chunk of the meatball, Myslik chews upon it for a while, seemingly ignoring the fake smile upon Leontius’ face, before taking the jug and slowly pouring in some wine to his mug. “Would your majesty like some ?” He asks paying no heed to the question. With your confused expression no doubt clear, he simply shrugs and takes a sip himself, before slowly turning to Leontius, whose thoughts are hard to read at the moment. “Yes, I suppose.”

“In that case, we would like for you to carry out the conversion of a foreigner tribe, as well as provide the motivation to the locals to come swiftly back into the fold now that their emperor had arrived before them.” Not missing a beat, Leontius quickly barrages the man with demands seemingly already catching on whatever game is being played here.

Chewing slowly and not shifting his gaze, Myslik finally decides to answer. “It is my duty to welcome all to the faith whom would hear of the Shepherd’s words. That can be arranged, do you know of their numbers ?”

“About thirteen thousand strong, not counting smaller groupings that may desire conversion as well.” You decide to answer, the number being right at the top of your head.

“Yes, as his majesty had said, how long would that take ?”

Stroking his beard and pondering for a moment, Myslik finally opens his mouth. “With such numbers, weeks at most, days at the least if they are embraced in gatherings of a few hundred each. I and my fellows should be able to carry this out swiftly.”

“Then swiftness is what we require, if your majesty allows, I shall organize the time and place for the conversion to happen.” Leontius quickly says to which you nod.

“A wide, slow flowing river would be needed, that and I would request to use grain from your baggage to bake the necessary bread, as well as the needed amount of salt to go along with it.” Myslik says having finished another piece of bread he had cut off.

“Excellent, now that this minor trifle is out of the way, the matters of returning the thémata (placement, district) under the rightful guidance of their majesty’s righteous hands.” Leontius begins.

“The lands are threatened by foreigners, any and all whom possess Thephian blood shall be welcomed as liberators.” Myslik quickly interjects. “As long as that mercenary army of your majesty is kept in line that is. As for how to convince the more stubborn of my people, I would be all they would need to see in order to know that your majesty means no harm for the regular folk.”

“You wish to accompany their majesty ?” Leontius questions, slightly baffled at how smoothly, all things considered, everything is going.

“Yes, I and my men, it would make the conversion efforts far easier, would it not ? We are also capable fighters used to clashing with your soon to be foes, we are familiar with the lands and loyal to God’s will. We do not fear death that may occur in pursuit of his will, after all, why should one fear to be judged at heaven’s gates when he helped build them.” He finishes, the ferocious looking face betraying not an iota of his hidden intentions, if he has any to begin with.

Leontius seems to be entirely on board with these demands, but one thought is at the forefront of your mind throughout: What would his all holiness Oikoumenikós Patriárchēs (ecumenical patriarch) Anatolius think ?

As such you have to ponder for a good moment, you had not accepted the man’s titles other than a mere priest, nor has he demanded anything of you for any reason, merely wishing to accompany you upon your journey, as such there is no reason for anyone to suspect anything untowards of your actions, nor his.

“Very well, let it be known that you and yours may accompany us for the duration of the campaign and for the duration of our stay here as our guide and as means of lessening any and all needless bloodshed between loyal sons and daughters of the empire and Shepherd’s will.” You give out the most diplomatic possible response, at least you managed to pick up something from staying with Leontius throughout the weeks.

“That is all I desire, your majesty. Now, would your majesty like another serving ?” Myslik says grabbing the ladle yet again, his expression unchanging.
(POV shift: You are Griswold Dreierg, Herkun (king) of Thuregs.)

The fire before you continues to roar, despite the ever-increasing downpour, the flickering flames illuminating the darkened skies and the dour night. A night of evil deeds and accursed thoughts.

Your thick bear cloak is soaked through both by rain and blood, the latter being slowly washed out of the fur, but you quickly stain it yet again once you heft your sword downwards.

A woman cries out in unimaginable pain as your strike beheads her son, similarly to her husbands you had just murdered.

“May the Gods you so willingly abandoned cast you aside as you had, you dog, may a curse fall on you fa-“ She is silenced by strong punch to her face by one of your men, blood spewing out from her mouth alongside a couple of teeth.

“It had to be done.” You solemnly reply as lighting flashes above you, loud thunder ringing out moments after. As you look around you see your men frighten, quickly whispers are exchanged about the wrath of the Gods between them. Still many of your tribe cast questioning gazes upon you, abandoning the Gods of your forefathers for some feckless Shepherd with a spindly knife. Yet they all fail to realize the true situation you are in, you barely have any food, many of your followers had brought along the young, the elderly, the sick, these lands can grow naught but grass and every flock of sheep and cattle you had come across your people devoured like a swarm of starving locusts. And now, you perhaps have a month or so of food, which you already rationing, left.

The spirits of your people, or their empty stomachs. As Herkun (king), the decision you had to make was clear.

Casting your gaze upon the woman as you approach her with the naked blade, you watch as she sobs and cries for her dead family. “I am sorry, sister.” You murmur, your words lost in the cold torrent, the sin of kinslaying being the one for you, and not your people to bare. The tribes cannot be divided, nor can they pose any threat to your deal with the Thephian Herkun, lest you all starve and die.

With another hefty, clean cleave, you detach your sister’s head from her shoulders, watching as her now loose hair flies in the sky to only be quickly brought down into the muck underneath you. The cries of dead and dying still echo out of the town the Guridians had settled in, it being abandoned by the Thephians at the onset of winter. Now it had become their grave in this distant land that they had tried to call their home.

“My Herkun.” Ansgar calls out. “We’ve taken all the food we could find from the granaries of the town; it was not much, but enough to give everyone a meal or two.”

“Good, make sure that those who are ill but can recover will get a large serving, we need as many able hands as we can get.” You solemnly nod, gazing upon the raging inferno.

“Father. Is this truly wise ?” Your son, brave Ulfrad, yet again questions your decision. The act you had to commence had weighed heavily upon the mind of the young man, having finally reached his twenties, the first proper wars he had gone upon was against his own people. The poor child. You cannot help but think as he gazes upon the now headless body of his aunt whom had helped to raise him into the fine man he is today.

“Wise ?” You say scratching your short brown beard, filled with an ever-increasing number of grey hairs, as you had noticed as of late. “Perhaps not, but wisdom is not going to feed our people. These lands are poor and all that we have was hastily gathered by any and all whom could carry it. There is no wisdom to be found here, my son, only desperation and a will to survive. As Herkun, you will quickly realize that the future of your people weighs heavily upon your shoulders, then and there, you can seek wisdom against the fates, but you will quickly find that it falls short when your thinking is interrupted by pangs of hunger. We do what we must.” You pause. “No matter the cost.” You finish your thoughts with but a whisper, watching as your in-laws’ blood is slowly being washed off your blade.
Clad in resplendent purples, deep and colourful, stands the Thephian Herkun, clad in fine velvets and silks, he sits atop of wooden throne that had been carried here by a quartet of slaves, with more than four dozen men with brilliant white plumes atop their helmets, clad head to toe in armour that even you as Herkun could only dream about owning, and it’s just the armour worn by the guards of this, well, child, in your eyes. Whose every movement of the head is followed by the clinking of pearls moving back and forth. A handsome, youthful looking face and a decent enough build wouldn’t make you think of him as the leader of so many fierce men, but these Thephians had always been strange people.

“You sure that this is what we’re supposed to do ?” You lean in closer to Ansgar, who’s busy trying to listen in the conversation between a fierce looking man dressed in white linens and the rather feminine looking Thephian Herkun, the darkened eyes and bright lips strike a very strange look for you, but then again, these folks always loved to look as strange as they possible could. You think it’s because prettying themselves up like that is expensive, probably the only reason they do it.

Na chaíresai! Sýntoma tha plytheíte apó káthe amartía kai tha sas féroun sto mantrí!” The ferocious looking priest says in Thephian.

“What did he just say ?” You ask.

“That we shall soon join them in faith, essentially.” Ansgar supplies.

“Good, my balls are about to fall off from this freezing river.” You mumble a complaint, you and about another hundred or so of your most loyal and best warriors alongside your entire family had been waist deep in the river for the last half an hour or so.

Finally, the priest begins to come closer and into the water himself, behind him at the shore stand other priests holding onto a large wooden platter upon which you can see cut up bread and what appear to be small bags of most likely salt.

Let’s get this over with. You think as the priest comes closer.

Eíste étoimoi kai próthymoi na me enósete me písti ?” Once again, he says in Thephian.

You quickly turn an eye to Ansgar.

“He says if you are willing to join him in faith.” He quickly answers.

You turn to face the priest and gaze upon him. “Yes.” You say. And quickly watch with some confusion as the priest brings his hand back and then-

(End of POV shift.)


A resounding slap echoes out to the point where you cringe from the sheer force the strike had been delivered with. The slap is ceremonial, meant to showcase a father disciplining his wayward son, but when you had been baptized it had been a gentle tap, this however, well, you can see tears swelling in the eyes of the leader of the Thureg tribe, confusion apparent in his posture. Before the large and well-built man has a chance to protest, Myslik quickly grabs him and pushes him under water before swiftly withdrawing him, washing away sins committed before seeing the light of the Shepherd. Still in pain, gasping for air, utterly confused, the man, Griswold you recall, is staggered onto the shore.

The man that had grovelled before you asking for this very chance is currently busy holding back another young man, the son of this tribal chief as far as you know, as well as calming the hundred or so strong contingent of unarmed warriors behind them as well. The Scholae (School), standing at its full strength all along the river, in a practiced motion they all draw their arcus (recursive bow) and nook their arrows, for now holding back from drawing it, but sending a clear message.

That combined with the words from the messenger seems to have calmed the situation down, especially now that their leader had reached the shore. Still blinking and confused, the leader of these barbaroi (barbarians) is given by Myslik a freshly cut loaf of bread, using a ceremonial blade representing the blade used by the Shepherd, putting a slight amount of salt upon it, representing the hospitality of welcoming one into their home, or in this case, their faith. The rather still befuddled man takes a bite of the bread.

“I now proclaim you – Gratian.” Myslik declares his new name within the faith, forgetting the old identity one had before being washed of their sins.

Slightly hunched and still chewing upon the bread, the man’s eyes follow Myslik as he walks back to the river where other members of his tribe await.


Yet again you cringe from the ferocious blow.

“Your majesty gives these savages great honour by witnessing their baptism.” Leontius says having finally come over to you.

You look down upon him from your litter, which embarrassingly for you had been turned into a mobile throne. The gaudy decorations, the thick sent of lavenders all over you from strong oils, the whitening make-up irritating your skin and the charcoal and lead used around your eyes, all of that under an increasingly warming Sun. God you hate all of it, but an impression of greatness has to be made, to showcase how far above common man you are, and even how further above these foreigners you are.

“We are certain that we do indeed.” You reply with a weak smile, the make-up would get messed up if you changed your expression overly much. “We shall witness this and depart to meet with Strategos (General) Isaac, these Thuregs had done some good work as we have been informed.”

“A wise choice, your majesty, I had been informed that the baptisms shall continue onwards for a few days, the other locations alongside the river had already finished their first batches. The food we had offered to these beggars had been devoured by these savages like the beast they are, using their hands.”

“I see, will we have enough food to feed them ?”

“Plenty, your majesty, with the mountain passes now being free of snow, enough food is coming in from the heartlands, with most granaries having been filled to the brim for more people than we actually have, all of that would merely rot if unused anyways.”

“Excellent.” You nod in approval just as another resounding slap rings out.
Thank God for this blessing ! You muse as your servants finish washing you and help you quickly change out of the stuffy layered outfit which whilst showcasing immeasurable wealth, makes you sweat entire buckets. Having gotten rid of that pesky make-up you are finally making your way to the main command tent from where Isaac directs the war effort with quite the efficiency. Whilst you still cannot fully trust the man, you cannot deny his skill, and his rather abrasive personality while popular with the soldiery is very much so disliked by any and all in positions of power.

With your bodyguards opening the tent’s flap, which is rather conveniently located next to your own tent in the middle of the camp, which if nothing else is rather convenient for you.

“Your majesty.” Isaac nods at you whilst gazing over a rough map of the area, which you quickly notice has marked down general locations of rivers, settlements, woods and what have you. Whilst most definitely not accurate, it gives a good idea of your surroundings based on the scout reports.

“Your majesty.” All the other officers, be they professionals of the tagmata (regiment/battalion), both yours and Isaac’s, the mercenary captains and senators themselves all bow at your presence.

Walking over to the table, you watch as Isaac rises to his full height. “Tell us, strategos (General), how goes the war ?” You ask.

“Well enough, your majesty. We had started running into large groups of enemies, no more scattered groups of perhaps a couple dozen at most, about half a hundred to a hundred. From the looks of things, your majesty shall soon witness a decisive battle. As for the surroundings, the local townships are welcoming us with open hands, a few more stubborn holdouts when presented with that priest Myslik also quickly returned into the fold. Finally, your majesty, those savages that we are trying to civilize had carried out massacres against those whom would oppose us.”

“Massacres ?” You ask a bit taken back.

“Massacres.” He replies as a matter of fact. “Taken out resistance by the roots, no doubt tribes entirely hostile to us were exterminated to the last, preventing any would be survivors from spreading word of our forces and making sure that no one joins our foes. An extreme method used by these primitives, but an effective one. Personally, we could have used more slaves to till the fields, most certainly help with the repairs and maintenance of the heartlands.”

“We see. Inform us immediately once this decisive battle you talked about comes.” You say with finality turning around to depart as everyone once again bows before you.

Hopefully God can forgive their sins now that they’ve been washed away from them. You think a silent prayer. Whilst they were heathens, some could have surely seen the Shepherd’s light ?
With some interest you watch as the bright light flashes and moments later the large booms echo outwards. The storm today had been quite exceptional even by the standards of these lands, with an endless torrent beating down upon the ground and the wrathful thunder sounding without end. Still, deep in the middle of a large terrace with a sturdy roof over your head with warm wine in your hands, you have to admit, it is peaceful despite the chaos raging around you.

“One of the reasons why the nobles or wealthy merchants of these lands build terraces like these, your highness, is exactly for such weather. To gaze upon God’s creation in safety and calm. It has a certain kind of beauty one cannot find anywhere else.” Myslik says, for the first time in a while, you see him dressed simply, a thick fur coat, woollen pants and linen shirt, all unpainted and undyed.

“It certainly does.” You reply gazing upon the wide spreading fields above the small buildings and the short wooden wall of the latest township your forces had secured.

“Does something weigh heavily upon your heart, your majesty ?”

“A few matters.”

“Though I may look different from what you are used to, your majesty, I am still a priest, the ailments of the mind and the heart are those whom I am best trained to heal.”

You sigh, this would be the first true private conversation you two will have, all the time Myslik had not pushed for a conversation, instead doing his best to assist you in any way he could have, which if anything, seemed to have had Leontius’ paranoia flair up.

“Doubts aplenty.”

“Heavy is the crown. Many rulers feel the weight and some are unfortunately crushed by it.”

“Death here, death on a large scale I suppose, it is quite common.”

“It is.”

“I had seen killing before, slaughtered pigs, beheaded chickens. Hunted a bit of game myself. I had then seen thousands of men die in but a single night, and then I had ordered the deaths of thousands more. And yet, in these lands I see even more brutality.”

“The world is brutal, that is why it is not heaven. Everything we face here is but God testing us, your majesty. It is your duty, the reason why God had given your majesty temporal power over the earth, to guide our people, the Shepherd’s chosen towards a righteous path. Your majesty must have a strong conviction and do what you believe is right and correct. And your majesty should not be concerned, those whom had died so much since the arrival of your majesty’s faithful, those whom had perished were heathens, beasts condemned to hell, their deaths shall bring upon us a more peaceful and greater world. As such, your majesty should only mourn the faithful, but even then, your majesty should take heart in the fact that they shall soon meet the Shepherd, whom no doubt shall guide them to God’s side due to the fact that they died in the spreading of the true faith.” The man’s fierce eyes once again burn with zealotry as his sermon continues onwards. “This world is ours to suffer through your majesty, for it was us Thephians that had slain the Shepherd, it was us that had killed God’s son, and it is through this sin that we suffer so that we may be redeemed in heaven and be given his forgiveness. As God’s chosen, for the Shepherd himself was a Thephian as you know, your majesty, we bare the greatest burden in this world to spread his word. What you are doing now is righteous, not only that, it is correct, your majesty.”

Whilst his words are perhaps, inflammatory, considering that many besides your own follow the Shepherd’s word united in one single church, you cannot deny what he says, since what he says was said by the Shepherd, if interpreted in a slightly more aggressive manner.

“As it stands now, these lands shall in time be returned to the fold, of that we have no doubt. The future is what is unclear to us, as we, unlike God, cannot see all and know all.”

“So long as your faith remains true, your majesty, as long as the faith of the people of these lands remains strong and true, God shall guide us and protects us, it is through God that these people shall remain loyal to the true cause of our great empire.” He says with an unyielding conviction.

“We see. Thank you for your words.”

“As I am needed, your majesty, so I shall guide like the Shepherd does.” He says with a nod taking a sip of the warm wine before gazing at the rain.
“Athanasius III Lucanus “Tamer of cursed men”.” You speak out reading the barely eligible letters upon an old, old granite statue.

“The Basileús (Sovereign) during whose reign these lands were first brought into the fold.” Auxentius says, nodding along.

The statue, whose features had long since decayed and became indistinguishable from simple rock gotten from the ground, prevents you from seeing the facial expression, the clothes, nor even the diadem upon the Basileús brow.

“Yet to this day his name is remembered and his words forever etched in stone.” Auxentius continues. “Conquest, glory, honour. I brought all these during our reign, reaching heights unseen.” He reads out the blurred words, where at the very least, you can see that effort had been taken to recarve and remake them, judging by how deep the groves are now in the base of the statue.

I wonder how I will be remembered. You muse as Auxentius sits upon a mare silently besides you, whilst the army, now joined by the Thureg and other lesser tribe warriors, march onwards to finally secure these lands in, hopefully, the coming month.

“Your majesty.” Auxentius questions and you simply hum at his words. “I had heard that your majesty had yet to choose your words upon the new coinage. I do believe that it is time to solve this issue sooner than later. Especially now that these lands shall soon rejoin us. It is through the coins that people shall recognize the visage of your majesty, and it is through your words that they shall expect things great and small to see from your reign.”

“How so ?” You question, having been born in a rather tumultuous time, and not seeing many coins to begin with.

“The words are promises, showing of intent, the authority your majesty exerts through God’s grace. Should your majesty promise war, people shall expect war, should your majesty promise peace, your people shall expect peace. Through these words, people will know what to expect from your majesty’s reign. The people are fickle and in a need of guidance, for now your majesty has their support, but in time it will turn or it will disappear. Your reign is new, and the people await these coins to know how to truly view you. But as it stands, your majesty, as you see from these lands here, the people will turn quickly to or against someone they despise, fear, loathe, or love.”

“Words are powerful indeed; I had gained much knowledge from the words written deep in various books. Each word can shape a mind.” Feeling philosophical you respond.

Taking a breath, a moment of thought later you begin.

Can only pick one.

>”Faith, justice, temperance.”

>”Through knowledge we bring justice.”

>”Ethereal and temporal, we guide all.”

>Write in

Auxentius nods at your words. “As your majesty wills it, I hope those words shall carry throughout the entirety of your reign.”
Warming your wet, bare feet before a fireplace, you continue to look through the various documents and day to day business that follows you wherever you go.

As you take another sip of your wine, you are interrupted by your guard outside.

“Your majesty.” He says in an awkward voice. “There is a.” He pauses for a moment. “A guest.”

Well, that’s odd.

“Who is it ?”

“They request to not be revealed, and they wish to inform your majesty that they do not have the time for this worthless waste of time for they have an important message.”

You pause mid sip. No, it can’t be.

Quickly putting on your slippers, you stand up. “Allow them in.”

The flap of your tent opens and a hooded figure enters. Slightly taller than, but slightly less well-built. And when the figure drops the hood, your worst fears to come true.

“Irene.” You stutter out flabbergasted. “What in God’s name are you doing here ?!”

“Visiting you.” She flatly responds.


“Now, now. Before you begin, I do bring important news.” She says withdrawing a sealed letter. “I imagine you had waited for this for a long time now.”

As you look upon it, you quickly see the small neat letters:
Official report by Armentarius Theocritus
To their Royal majesty

Your eyes narrow as Pistis, seemingly sensing your tension begins to bare his teeth.

“How do you have that ?”

“My father controls the pass.”

“And he allowed this ?”

“I have those loyal to me.”

“So that’s a no.”

“Are you just going to stand there or are you going to read this ?”

With a sigh, you come over to take the letter, the importance of it temporarily controlling your anger. “This is not over, sit down.” You finally say before sitting down yourself before your desk and popping open the seal.

To your majesty, greetings.

I, your loyal servant domestikos (domestic, commander) Armentarius Lucaenus, hereby deliver my report upon the Akeonian attack upon our fair lands.

The main attack of these foreigners has been halted and savaged, undoubtedly, they are quickly rebuilding their vessels and buying new ships, but for the moment we dominate the seas. These comments have been provided by megas doux (Megaduke) Mundus Helenos.

As for my comments upon the land war, some small isles remain in control of the Akeonians, we are lacking in numbers necessary to expel the occupiers from those isles given our current strength. As it stands, we are now contesting the Akeonians upon Dyrea, I had a map attached showcasing our situation for your majesty’s perusal and evaluation.

I do this as means of requesting more reinforcements, as the enemy head commander is currently located upon Dyrea contesting us here. As it stands, we are in control at the West and East of the isle, whilst Akeonians dominate the North and the South.

However, I must express my disgust of mercenaries turned bandits dominating the centre of the isle, with a heavy heart, I must report that some of your majesty’s most courageous thémata (placement, district) soldiers had turned traitor out of desperation upon the isle, but whilst a few had done so, many still remain steadfast in their oaths of loyalty and still stand alongside me in order to defend the isle. Meanwhile, as is expected of such savages, some of the unruly Akeonian would be warriors also joined the mercenaries and began to pillage and loot as they will. Currently, these people are a nuisance, but both us and the accursed Akeonians have to dedicate some troops to keep the isle under control.

Regardless of that, I bring upon your majesty something of great import that had been delivered onto me. A message sent by the Akeonians for your majesty’s wisdom to consider. Please consider it and inform me of your decision as soon as your majesty is able.

Until then I shall keep fighting in your name,

Your loyal servant domestikos Armentarius Lucaenus

You quickly take the other piece of parchment bundled together in the large envelope and quickly open it up, quickly noticing neat, clean cursive writing in Thephian.

To their imperial highness Manuel Angelus we extend greetings as fellow monarch,

We, their royal highness Tedwin de La Mare, hereby extend a call for peace between our two great nations. This far, whilst short, had costed us both blood and treasure a plenty. As such, we seek to make peace that shall benefit us both and both of our people that we guide by God’s given will.

First, we demand that the isle known in the Thephian tongue as Dyrea and all isles South and East of it shall be ceded to our domain.

Secondly, we demand that our first-born son shall marry your first-born daughter, to cement peace and prosperity amongst our people by being bound by blood and matrimony. We are aware that your highness has yet to produce a daughter just as we are yet to produce a son, as such this part of the treaty shall only come in effect when we shall both sire such children. And of course, when this marriage shall commence, it shall be up to us both to decide whether or not to forge this marriage into a proper alliance or to simply remain in tranquillity with each other.

For this, we are willing to offer five hundred kilograms of gold and another five hundred kilograms when the marriage is carried out and we shall be able to call each other brother.

The length of this peace treaty shall be set for two and a half generations, that being fifty years, judging by the years given to us by our lord in heaven.

By our eternal glory and your venerable gravitas,


Their royal highness Tedwin de La Mare

Well, the gold is certainly tempting. You think dryly.

Can only pick one.

>Accept the deal.

>Decline it.

>Perhaps you can offer your own terms ? (Write in)

Should the deal be declined, the war will continue.

“Done with your readings ?” Irene questions.

“I am.” You reply before turning to her. “Now, why. are. you. here ?” You question with a hint of threat in your voice. For a woman to enter the battlefield as such is madness, not to mention one to soon be your wife and an important lady of the empire to boot.

“We’re to be engaged.”

“I am well aware.”

“This spring.” You quirk a questioning eyebrow. “Tell me, your majesty. Do you know what time of the year it is ?” She says.

“Mid spring.”

“And you were hoping to beat the foreigners in a month, bring the entire region under control, assign a kyvernítis (governor) to each and every individual théma (placement, district). Distribute laurels and rewards to the numerous bickering senators, figure out how to maintain the defence of the border with a sheer lack of men, since the mercenaries making up the bulk of your oh so grand army shall disperse the moment the senate deems the war won. So, again, tell me, your majesty. Do you believe you will be able to do so in just over a month ?”

“Perhaps, perhaps not, but this does not excuse you being here.”
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“Why not ? Your majesty had desired a simple ceremony, we have priests here, most of the important men of the empire are also gathered here. We can quickly carry out the ceremony and I can be on my way or if your majesty desires so, I can accompany you further. After all, you have much work to do.” She says glancing at the pile of papers upon your desk, a proof of the titanic effort of continuously playing with numbers and funding.

You sigh. “Allow me to think.”

“Very well. I shall await at the edge of the camp. Before you start to fret, I had come with Lefkó and some bodyguards. Send a runner with your decision. After all, we do not want any undue rumours spreading.” She finishes with a, barely noticeable smile, that you think you might have hallucinated seeing as how neutral her expression remains.

“What a day.” You say slumping in your chair as Pistis comes over before laying down and resting his head upon your lap which you begin to slowly stroke. “At least you do not have so many worries upon your shoulders, now do you ?” You say to your beloved pet who simply blows air out of his nose as he snuggles closer enjoying your touch.

Now then, what to do with Irene ?

Can only pick one.

>Have her return home.

>Have her return home. And give her some proper chastisement in private.

>Have her return home. And give her some proper chastisement in public.

>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.

>Let her stay, but not in the main camp, rather further behind in towns you know are secured trailing after the main force.

>Write in

Gazing upon the fire in the middle of your tent, you think back to the camp. Auxentius, Leontius, Isaac, Myslik, local senators, the various mercenary captains, the young senators with whom you had somehow gotten a budding relationship going, the tribal leader, the conversation there might be difficult, by you have translators. Before a great battle soon to be, it’d probably a good time to converse before things start to get busier.

>With whom do you wish to converse with and what questions do you have ?

Direct all decisions here.
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Ay, I'm back, hopefully the update makes up for it.

Twitter for update announcements: https://twitter.com/NewbQm

Archive links: https://pastebin.com/YKkQ2YWT

Dramatis personae: https://pastebin.com/9vw43LdL
>Write in
>Stability, God, peace.
Like this one, because simple as.

>Perhaps you can offer your own terms ?
Leave the land, but safe passage is guaranteed. It was you who was the agressor. We simply defended ourselves.

>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.
Let her show her teeth as our future wife.

>With whom do you wish to converse with and what questions do you have ?

Our advisors on what they think about the current situation.

The senators on what their plans are after the war.

The mercenary leaders if some of the want to join as regulars or if granted land (of course at the border) will make them swear fealty.

The young senators to find out their visions about the future.

The tribal leader about the land they came from, it's customs and beliefs. Then talk about the Shepard and some smalltalk.

Glad you are back NewbQM.
one question: Forgotten empire when? No need to rush though. You are running 2 high quality quests after all.
And don't forget the spinoff of one of these high quality quests.
>Direct all decisions here.
FFS. Missed the spoiler. Apologies QM
>Forgotten empire
Broken empire.
FFS I go to sleep now my brain doesn't work.
>Write in
>Stability, God, Peace.
Sounds like a pretty good promise.

>Perhaps you can offer your own terms ?
Leave the land, but safe passage is guaranteed. It was you who was the agressor. We simply defended ourselves.

I trust them to honor any deal as much as I trust a rock to grow wings lol.
>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.
-Getting Philippa of Hainault vibes. I like Irene and she might boost morale as well.

>With whom do you wish to converse with and what questions do you have ?
-Talk to the tribal leader, question them on their journey and talk about their future place in the empire/campaigns

Glad to have you back QM.
>Perhaps you can offer your own terms ? (Write in)
War reparations (10% of income) for ten years and a king's ransom worth of money. No land given. Soldiers are allowed to leave only upon the payment of the ransom and the first payment of reparations. 10 year truce. Should payments cease, the truce will be considered void.

We didn't pay for a bunch of mercenaries and gave away monopolies to the republics just to get a white peace. This is the bare minimum.

> Stability, Justice, Temperance, Peace
Feel like having 4 words and having peace at the end is more impactful

>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.
Manuel could really use another pair of hands it seems.

>With whom do you wish to converse with and what questions do you have ?
Given Manuel's cringing at Myslik's zealous conversion and having found out about the massacres they carried out. I think it would be prudent to have an honest discussion with Gratian about their situation, how we view it and how they fit in with what we want. All with a relatively down to earth tone.

Besides that I like every idea suggested by >>5702302 so I'll support those.

Also welcome back! I missed this quest.

>one question: Forgotten empire when? No need to rush though. You are running 2 high quality quests after all.

When there's a good cut off point for this quest. As for the spin-off, there's really not that much left in it, so I'd like to chip away at it and wrap it up in a soonish manner.
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>Justice, God, Peace
Get fucked, the brandishing of a peace deal like that is just asking for a postponement so they can build up
>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.
>Talk to The Tribal Leader, this reformed Barberoi
To be quite Honest I think the thing to do would have actually been to be Re-Baptised alongside him, reaffirm our faith while forging one anew with the Convert
In any case, I'm delighted to see this run again, I missed you Newb and your excellent work
As a by the by, can we get armour for Pistis too?

>As a by the by, can we get armour for Pistis too?

Probably, you'd need specific craftsmen in order to make armour fitting for a direwolf and even then, you'll have to fight with Pistis to put that onto him since he was not accustomed to do that.
>”Faith, justice, temperance.”
Promising peace in a frontier land is silly.

>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.

>With whom do you wish to converse with and what questions do you have?
- Talk to the tribal leader, question them on their journey and talk about their future place in the empire/campaigns
- Given Manuel's cringing at Myslik's zealous conversion and having found out about the massacres they carried out. I think it would be prudent to have an honest discussion with Gratian about their situation, how we view it and how they fit in with what we want. All with a relatively down to earth tone.

>Perhaps you can offer your own terms? (Write in)
Leave the land, but safe passage is guaranteed. It was you who was the agressor. We simply defended ourselves.

If they accept and withdraw, we can attack them while they're withdrawing.
>”Faith, justice, temperance.”
>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.
And I don't know who we should talk with.
>Faith, justice, temperance.

We're really in no position to be promising peace.

>>Perhaps you can offer your own terms ? (Write in)

Safe passage in exchange for a decade of reparations would be acceptable, they are the ones stuck on islands after all.

>>Let her stay, but not in the main camp, rather further behind in towns you know are secured trailing after the main force.

>>With whom do you wish to converse with and what questions do you have ?

The barbaroi king in a more or less one on one, we should get to know him and learn more of his people.

I would say that we should hold a war council including the barbaroi king and some of his war leaders, we should do what we can to increase the cohesion of our forces

+1 to attempting to entice mercenaries with land grants to help populate the region and secure it.
>Stability, God, Justice.

Like this, but the points by anons about peace are right. Replace with justice, which is a good catch-all

>Perhaps you can offer your own terms ?
Leave the land, but safe passage is guaranteed.

>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.

>With whom do you wish to converse with and what questions do you have ?

Backing this anon’s list >>5702302
>write in
Accept the proposed borders, but they have to be open, that is Theopanians and Akenonians will be allowed on any Island. This could be a good way to build trade and an alliance. As part of this, ban weapons on the Islands. Also take their money, and say a marriage pact is on the table of the kids agree to it.
Amending >>5702371
> Decline
For simplicity's sake, I doubt that they would the deal I proposed and better to outright decline than giving that sweetheart deal of a white peace some anons seem intent to give. What's up with that anyway? We have naval superiority and the bulk of their army is stranded on an island with dwindling supplies and yet folding this hand is getting support?
> Faith, Justice, Temperance
I thought we could promise peace by not starting wars but the difference between declaring and being declared on is minute to the people being affected.
Oh Oh the akeonians are finally feeling some of the fire too. Not enough victories for his war hungry lords eh Ted ?
Also welcome back newb, it s good to see you.

>Faith, justice, temperance.
A lot of enemies around our borders, making peace will be difficult. Even if Manuel would like it, they don't.
Crucial will be to repel the Akeonians, should discourage any more ideas from the westerners. At least for a while.
The east instead ? Good joke.

> Decline
They are being crushed and killed. Yes they do still have men, but they are dying in addition to that the two republics are helping us. More importantly the De La Mare seem(hopefully) to have a far shakier situation than us internally, their reputation is based on the fear they can cause and victories they can gain. This war is a gamble for them, if they lose then they have to deal with all the excess military and the defeat.
The islands are also too good for commerce to lose.

>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success
We need an help honestly, so this is appreciated. Like badly.
This times are crazy anyway, it will make for a good story to tell to the kids.
Thankfully we also gained one point the other thread.
Should help in winning.

Auxentius, have him join us when talking with the mercenaries. Beyond that give him a honest comment of appreciation for his work, perhaps we could see about more administrative work tommorow. Also share a drink and a joke with him.

Isaac, about our current advance and the enemy to face. Anything he wants to suggest to do for prepare further ? More men joined our army along the way, so our numbers regrowed while leaving garrisons behind. That's a mixed blessing, could we make sure to turn it fully in our advantage ?

Leontius, what does he thinks of the barbarian king under us and Myslik ? They have been with us for a short time, but still we would like to know.

Myslik, did he notice something strange about the pagan faith? Yes is pagan and evil, but what about something that can be manipulated in the war against them ? They have a special ritual for battles for example ?

For the rest of the questions support this.
Mercs captains should be approached with some caution with words, test the terrain for see what they like.

>we should hold a war council including the barbaroi king and some of his war leaders,
An interesting idea, and they do know more about the enemies. If nothing else they wouldn't feel left out. If we want to do it, we need to think on how to say it. Integrating them is something costant.

I wouldn't mind investing in that. Pistis will need to be convinced but I am sure we can work out something with him.
Good God Newb that is one chunky update. But good to have you back!
>Faith and Justice
Short and to the point. Also not making any promises we can't keep.

>Decline the deal.
These arrogant barbaroi can go burn in hell. We have the navy and control of the sealanes, they don't. Besides, the juicy part of their offer is completely conditional on us having a daughter and he a son. We'll have a peace deal on our terms, not his.

>Let her stay. You could use the help of someone whom is at least interested in your success.
Might as well. Might provoke some talk about being controlled by our wife, but she has the skills to back herself up.

Supporting these for talking.
Dammit how did I miss you for 4 days? I knew you would come back :D
D'un dun dun dun....
Stability, God, peace 2

Justice, God, Peace 1

Faith, justice, temperance 5

Stability, God, Justice 1

Faith and justice 1

Leave land, safe passage guaranteed 4(5)

+reps 1

Decline 5

Let her stay 10

Total votes 10

Okay, the words upon which your reign shall be judged shall be Faith, justice, temperance

You will also allow Irene to stay, pretty unanimous despite lack of convention for the times.

Currently split on a rather important decision and I do need a tie breaker.

Offer the deal for Akeonians to withdraw uncontested (whether this is in good faith or not remains to be seen and can be decided on later).

Or outright decline the deal.
> Decline the deal
It’s pointless to make any deal they won’t accept, this just let’s them know our willingness to seek peace. We’re not leaving this war without being compensated for the sacrifices we’ve had to make, including the mercenaries and loss in trade deficit in the upcoming 10 years.
> Decline the deal
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Tie breaker, in this QM just roll dice cause samefaggory will happen.
>1 Offer
>2 Decline
Just so you know I wanted to offer the deal, but the dice spoke.
>> Decline the deal
Death to the Barbaroi.
the dice dislikes Tedwin
Counter offer the deal
The update better be good
All of Newb's updates are based.
Based? Based on what?
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it better be so thicc you can hear its cheeks clapping down the wires
It may be fiction. But it is based.
based on the history of the byzantine empire probably
All good Newb?
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holy shit newbQM, good to see you again! hope everything is going well, it's been months since i've last seen you here. hows it going?
Man the fuck kind of name is Tedwin anyway. Hopefully one of his rivals smell blood on him.
BTW our notFoederati mentioned a willingness to work with ships. We can probably use them to repopulate and guard some islands once they are properly civilized.
Ted Wins obviously.
Pushing Pistis’ head aside, you once again rise from your chair and you grab the letter penned by the Akeonian king. You gaze upon it for a good few seconds. And then you toss it into the fire having crumpled it up.

Grabbing a quill, you make a short reply for Armentarius.

We, Imperator, Basileús kai Autokrátōr Thephaiōn (General, Sovereign and Autocrat of Thephians) Manuel Angelus hereby give you command:

Beat back the Akeonians, liberate our isles, and deliver us victory. We shall have and we shall make no deal that does not involve the utter and complete surrender of the foreign aggressors whom had plagued our lands.

This is our desire and will.

Folding the piece of parchment and putting down your seal upon it, you take a deep breath. No doubt this shall prolong the war and cause even more death and destruction, but you simply cannot back down now, you had spent far too much on this war already, should you lose, should you prove yourself weak, no doubt other westerners would jump at the opportunity to carve out a piece of flesh off of your empire. Perhaps even the merchant republic allies that you currently have on your side may turn against you.

“Servant !” You call out loudly.

It only takes a few moments for one of your slaves to quickly shuffle into the tent and kowtow before you.

“We wish to send a message, prepare a rider for it.” You simply state not even turning back as you pen the final touches of your message. “And, one more thing.” Finishing your scratches, you continue. “There are guests near the camp, tell their leader that we shall accept their presence here.” Handing the now sealed envelope you watch as the slave disappears to carry out your orders.

Taking a moment to compose yourself, you ponder upon the upcoming matters. Irene had pointed out something correctly, you doubt you will be finished here by spring’s end.

To repopulate the borderlands, an area filled with strife and danger. That requires a certain type of man to be able to do that. You ponder stepping out of your tent, your bodyguards quickly falling into lockstep as you walk onwards, ideas racing through your head.

Quickly enough you reach another large tent, smaller than your own, but still impressive in size all things considered.

“Their majesty enters !” One of your guards proclaims as they flip open the flap to reveal a humble looking space, a collapsible chair and a table, alongside what appears to be a fairly fluffy looking bed and upon it sits Auxentius drinking what appears to be a cup of warm spiced wine.

“Your majesty ?” He asks questioningly, rising from his position of rest, to which you simply gesture for him to stay seated and instead you quickly take a seat yourself upon one of the chairs. “Leave us.” You command the guards and they swiftly obey. “Protasekretis (first secretary), we do hope that you are not too tired this late in the evening.”

“Not at all, your majesty. Once you reach my age your majesty shall find that sleep has a tendency to elude you. What is the matter you wish to discuss that had brought you here ?” He asks filling up another clay cup with the still warm spiced wine and handing it over to you.

This late at night and as cold as it is, you do not deny his politeness and take a sip from the cup, the warmth quickly washing over your body and the spices tingling at your tongue. “An idea had come upon us in our times of pondering. These lands lack people, specifically fighting age men capable of tending to the numerous animals raised here and defending the lands from foreigners and their savage nature. And it just so happens that as it currently stands, we have thousands of such men whom are used to the life of wanderers with no place to call their own, surely, an offer of land could see them enticed to settle here.”

“Are you talking about the merceneries, your majesty ?” Quickly catching on, Auxentius replies.

“We indeed are.”

“I see.” Taking upon himself a ponderous expression he scratches at his beard. “It is a possibility to do so. But I must caution your majesty, that to land these men would see them granted privileges to private property, therefore privileges of citizenship. Though this is not without a precedent, as back when the empire had been rapidly expanding and in a dire need of loyal citizens and many fighting men the principle of pronoia (care/forethought) was established, where lands, rights to collect tolls, fish, collect taxes from certain areas, what have you, would be granted to fighting age men, where upon the call of one of your majesty’s ancestors, these men would have to be marshalled to war or lose the rights granted to them if they were unable to meet their obligations. As the systems for themata and tagmata (regiment/battalion) were put into place, the practice had fallen out of favour, but as far as my recollection goes, the laws implementing the system are still in place.”

“That is excellent then, with the laws already present and the practice well-known, it should be easy enough to recruit these mercenaries for the empire’s defence.” You say finally feeling like there’s some good news.

“Perhaps.” Auxentius’ expression instantly douses your hopes. “One of the reasons why the practice fell out of favour was because it led to revolts, as the lands could be easily taken away, feeling like they have nothing to lose the men would revolt in hopes of making those lands permanent parts of their property as citizens by backing whatever local would dare to oppose imperial authority. And of course, said men would be quite well armed, trained, and have wide number of connections to call more of the pronoia to their aid.” He finishes taking another sip of wine.

“We see, but judging from your silence, this is still not the end.” You quickly catch on.

“No, your majesty. There are still two main issues. Firstly, many of these mercenaries themselves are foreigners or they are ne’er-do-wells whom had no other skills, or perhaps an inability to become a proper soldier or to just simply live day to day. They will be no doubt an unruly bunch, and whilst perhaps their loyalty could be assured for a time, as they would no doubt be grateful to your majesty, the whims of man are ever changing.”

“And this leads into the second problem.”

“Correct. The senate would not stand for such a thing, perhaps if your majesty could bend Leontius to your side and some other senators, then it may be possible to do this swiftly and easily, but as it stands the senate, already dissatisfied with the reforms your majesty is enacting could lash out, they could cut funding for both of the wars we are currently fighting.”

Or worse. In your mind you finish what was left unsaid.

“When it comes to the lands themselves, that would not be an issue, as no doubt many lands had already passed into your majesty’s custodianship with the death of so many men.”

You sigh. “Still, there are five thousand mercenaries currently under contract, even a fraction of them settling these lands could help alleviate numerous issues we could face.” You ponder, finishing off the clay cup. “The mercenaries should still be up and about, or their leaders at least, have them summoned for a conversation, we desire for your presence as well to assist us in this delicate matter.” Rising up you say.

“As your majesty commands.” Rising from the bed Auxentius once again begins to bow.

“No need. You had done us great service so far, rest your tired bones as you say and do not bow before us at every opportunity.” You say with a kind smile.

“As your majesty wills, but as you may also know, stretching and exercise is good for people my age.” Auxentius returns the smile and finishes the bow.
About half an hour later, you find yourself presented with five men, all of whom, but one, kowtow before you within your tent, Auxentius at your side, a eunuch before you to speak in your name, guards outside, doubled in number, just to be safe, and another two directly behind your chair would be throne. You had to chastise the servants when they tried to bring in the one you had used in the morn, as whilst it is supremely decorated, your furniture already takes up enough space as it is.

“Your majesty, may I present to you the leaders of the largest mercenary groups under your employ.” Auxentius begins:
“Firstly, this is Luis de La Orsus, hailing from E’fostye. The same lands that the Akeonians hail from.” A stout and strong looking man, with a large beard and a ferocious bearing, wearing even now heavy plate, similar to your own best equipped, if different in the fact that it is a singular metal plate unlike the scales you’re so used to seeing. “As it stands, he currently leads a force of five hundred mounted mercenaries.” Auxentius nods.
“Next, we have Hirdrad Agunson from the realm of the Jaykins.” With powerful looking arms and brawny legs, the man appears to be the image of warrior you had witnessed carved into stone and painted upon murals. An axe hangs from his belt and heavy ringmail hangs over his shoulders. “He currently commands around a thousand men, your majesty, leading them on foot.” Shifting his gaze Auxentius slightly frowns.
“This is Helmi Taru of the Erugians, currently commanding over a thousand men.” A spindly, smiling man, clad entirely in furs and leathers. You did notice that he had left his spear behind when he had entered the tent.
“And this is Cuinte Helzu of the Escuratans commanding around eight hundred men.” A brightly dressed man in striking yellow trousers with a bright blue shirt, with a long and well-kept moustache and curling brown hair whose ends had been painted gold.
“Finally, commanding about one thousand five hundred men is Valens Akropolites, representing all Thephian mercenaries under your majesty’s command.” With a more satisfied expression Auxentius finally finishes, as you regard the man. Dressed in simple clothes, no doubt fighting in the similar style as the rest of your men, the man looks healthy if slightly lacking in toughness, but you quickly notice a tattoo upon his wrists that had been crossed out, the man before you is a former slave granted freedom.

You gesture for your eunuch to approach and whisper to him your instructions. Taking a step back, the man clears his throat and begins. “Their imperial majesty, in their great wisdom and foresight, had decided to ponder upon the matter of resettling these exhausted lands. As such, their majesty had begun to ponder upon the ideals of settling those whom willing fight under their majesty’s banner, despite your standings, their majesty had decided to extend their grace to listen to your words of loyalty and decide whether or not to go forth with their majesty’s plan. You may now speak, beginning with you.” The eunuch says pointing towards Valens, the only Thephian before you and the only one not kowtowing but instead bowing, after all you cannot treat a citizen of the empire the same as these foreigners.

“Your majesty, I and those whom fight for glory and gold do so out of the need to survive. Many of us hail from the lands devastated by plague and war, we had nowhere to go but to fight for ourselves. Many of my fellows wish to earn our own plots of land, to bring our wives or to find them with whom we could pass these lands down to our descendants. If your majesty could give us said plot of land, for us to fully own and a year’s worth of salary of a soldier, we would gladly settle here.” The man finishes and yet again bows before you.

You nod and with a gesture the man is dismissed. Land and gold. The desire of every man. You think, the demands extended to all citizens, to own land and exploit it as they will so as long as the set taxes are paid. Hardly an inconvenience, the lands would have loyal fighting men, if rough around the edges. Though this could lead to issues down the line.

With a wave of your hand, you signal for the eunuch to have another man begin.

“Your regal majesty.” In an accented, if correct Thephian the brightly dressed Escuratan begins. “The lands I and my kin hail from are lands of strife and war, we would be more than happy to settle here and guard your regal majesty’s borders for as long as your regal majesty would extend the privileges of self-governance to us. Our lands are beset by war of brothers fighting each other, we would bring forth many whom wish to flee such conflict. Of course, we would wish for the lands to be guaranteed and we would more than happily swear fealty.”

Another group of people willingly joining the empire, but why is it that I feel the vipers eyes stare at me ? You wonder with your gaze hardening.

Dismissing the flamboyant man, another quickly begins to speak.

“Your majeshty. We Erugians are people of war and cold, we had fought your anchestors to a standstill and we had fought for them, should your majeshty decide so, grant us these lands then we shall not only defend the borders, but we shall also burn these woods you fear so.” Slurred and accented Thephian rings out, concise, cold, as the man described his people, words fill the tent. “Jhust as all demand, we too desire freedoms, but we shall fight gladly for you.”

If the last one was a viper, then this one is a starving hound. You cannot help but shudder slightly. Perhaps you should set some time aside to study history of the northern expansionto verify the man’s claims.

Quickly waving your hand, you dismiss the man and put your attention upon the next person.

The man with powerful limbs grunts and starts speaking in a tongue utterly unfamiliar to you, but luckily, the eunuch nods as he listens to the strange sounds.

“The man wishes to inform your majesty that if you were to land his lord, then he shall swear fealty to you, as long as you honour the bond between vassal and liege.” The eunuch says having pondered the translation for a few moments. “It appears that he serves an exiled prince of Jaykins and is searching for lands to settle whilst earning gold and silver. Be it a vassal state or direct servitude.”

“And what is this bond ?” You whisper as the eunuch closes in.

A few moments of conversation later, the eunuch turns back to you once more. “The guarantee of the title granted to him shall stay his, for as long as he does not rebel or act dishonourably to your majesty, and that the children of this prince shall retain the legal right to inherit the lands and hold them upon themselves.” The eunuch clarifies.

With a wave, you dismiss the man and concentrate your attention upon the last person in the room, a kinsman of the Akeonians.

Perhaps sensing the hostility in the room, Luis kowtows once more before beginning to speak. “As I heard and as I had observed, your majesty is in need of loyal men, my followers are second sons, so to say, sons of chevaliers and petty lords. Should you grant us titles and lands befitting of our noble blood, we shall swear our loyalty directly to your highness and the throne upon which you sit and the blood you carry.” He finishes in perfect Thephian with succinct and clear privileges and duties.

And as he finally departs, you turn to Auxentius. “Well, protasekretis (first secretary), what do you think ?”

“That no matter what your majesty chooses to do, someone will be unhappy.” He says with a genial smile.

“Wondrous.” You tiredly reply.

“If I may, your majesty, using the pronoia (care/forethought) could still attract a part of the mercenaries to settle here, without the numerous promises, though naturally the numbers would be much, much smaller.” He finally gives you some hope.

>Implement the pronoia and attract at least some men. Can be picked with other options. Need to reach half of total votes to pass.

>Accept the demands of everyone. You need men after all.

>Accept the demands of a few. (Who ?)

>Forget it, you will let the situation sort itself in time.

>Divide et impera. Whilst annoying and time consuming, you could land all of these people and split them up and mix them up, the natural hatred of a different neighbour could be used to your advantage, with all relying upon your authority. Still, it could also boil over into violence. SPECIAL OPTION: HIGH ADMINISTRATIVE SKILL

“Tell us, protasekretis, what do you think about this entire matter.” You say having reached your decision.

“Not the best, not the worst. The lands could have fallen fully, though at the same time, whilst most would disagree, abandoning these lands could also be an option, the heartlands are easier to defend after all, and these lands were conquered not because we had a great need for them, but simply because we could. As it stands, regardless of how things go, which thanks to God’s grace at the moment appear to be going quite well, your majesty shall be busy dealing with these lands.”

“Oh, we have no doubt about it.” You blurt out. “We thank you for your time and hard work protasekretis and we shall keep you no further, go and rest.”

“As you will, your majesty.” Auxentius makes one final bow for the night and departs the tent alongside the eunuch and the guards.

“Quite the show.” You hear the familiar feminine voice. “The senate will be absolutely incensed.” Irene says entering the tent.

“When are they not ?” You reply with a barb.

“With the ideas your majesty continues to implement, they will either die from the stress or they will revolt just to make sure you stop working so hard.” She says sitting down on your bed, much to the annoyance of Pistis whom is already agitated due to the strange smells all around him. “In either case, my father shall endeavour to provide you plenty of steel for your plans.”

“Of that we are thankful.” You reply with an unchanging voice.

“What shall your majesty do now ?”

“We shall visit prōtoproedros (senior president). He can read people better than we can and we have some questions for him. And you ?”

“I shall stay here, my companions are busy settling in the camp, once they are finished, I shall depart so as to ensure that no rumours spread. Now that I think about it, the senators will be even more incensed when they learn of my presence here.” Irene says, still maintaining a neutral expression, but you can see some playfulness in her eyes.

With a slight grunt you rise from your seat and begin to walk out only for Pistis to quickly catch up and walk besides you, his nostrils flaring as he takes in the smells around him. You have no doubt that you will find Leontius in the usual gathering spot for all senators, a collection of large tents that form a little inner sanctum with a raging bonfire in the middle where great discussions are carried out even this far here from the centre of power within Myralos. After all, a man is a political animal, and these men especially so.

Quickly upon noticing your presence, the senators engaged in drinking, merrymaking, plotting or silent conversation rise to bow before you as you take the seat of prominence, a chair reserved just for your presence, underneath an extended part of the tent, where you could observe everyone, but if you so desired, no one could observe you. Upon noticing your glance, Leontius quickly walks over and makes a polite bow.

“Your majesty, how may I, your humble servant, assist you ?” He says with the usual polite smile he wears.

“We desire your opinion on a few matters that are of concern to us.”

“I shall endeavour to answer them to the best of my ability.”

“With your experience, what do you think of our newest brother in faith ?”

“To call, what was he, ah, yes, Gratian, a brother in faith is still too early, your majesty. Whilst it is true that he, and through him his people, had converted to the true faith, they still speak in a primitive tongue that sounds no better than grunts, they still dress as savages, they still think as savages. Due to their conversion, I can no longer proclaim them to be animals, but slaves would be more accurate. I am still of the opinion that your majesty should cut them all down once their usefulness is exhausted, after all, they, having now been redeemed, shall be at God’s side rather than burn eternally in hell.”

Your own eyes harden, these people are now after all, part of the faith, to condemn them to death is a sin.

“Your majesty must see, that they outnumber us here, to leave them here is to leave our flank exposed.” Leontius continues.

“We see, still, you had not answered our question about Gratian himself.”

“Him as a person.” Leontius ponders. “I had not had the, pleasure of interacting mmuch with him, as well, their people are still separate from us, your majesty, not to mention that I could not even make any sense in any potential conversation, though I suppose a conversation through his messenger could be a possibility, but much is lost in translation in such conversations. All that I can see, your majesty, is that he is desperate, based on how malnourished his people looked. Decisive, is also how I would describe him, he had shown no hesitation in dealing with those whom would oppose us in order to prove his loyalty, but racked by guilt, or just the pressure of his position. It is quite hard to tell, as I had said, your majesty, I had not been able to ever properly converse with him.”

You nod along with his explanation. “And what of Myslik, now that we had time to be with him for a while ?”

“A zealot.” Leontius answers straight away. “Both the good, and the bad. He wants to follow the faith and help all those he can by doing so, yet I can see conviction bordering on, well, madness. He is entirely self-assured that what ever he is doing – is right. As for as to why he was so easy to negotiate with and for him to join our cause ? Well, we are the only faithful force in the area, we are Thephians, and these lands are besieged by pagans. His position was weak to begin with, but even then, I still find it unnerving how easily he bowed, perhaps your majesty’s reputation of being a friend of the church and the faithful had persuaded him even before your arrival.”

“That would be most pleasing to our heart and mind if that were so to be.” You respond. “Though we too had noticed his attempts to preach to us of Shepherd and his doings. His wars and battles more precisely.”

“Well, I am no priest, your majesty, but perhaps that is why ? Perhaps he wishes for you to see the differences in worship ?”

“Perhaps.” You respond. “We shall learn more when we converse with him.”

“As your majesty wishes.”

“Now then, back to perhaps something that you would find more comforting. This whole situation, this war and its progress, what do you think ?”

“To be frank, I would hardly call this a war, compared to the ferocious battles we’d been having with the Akeonians, it almost feels like children sparring with one another. Uneducated, cowardly savages that we are able to simply sweep aside, townships throwing open their gates and offering us shelter and food, greeting us as liberators. Whilst all fine and well, we must make sure not to fall into a lull, pagans are after all treacherous beings, perhaps they are watching us right now and waiting for a moment to strike when we are most unprepared and unawares. My fellow senators, those with some experience at least, are cautiously optimistic that we shall crush these tribals and return to our estates by summer.”

“And those whom are lacking experience ?”

“Ah, yes. The young generation.” You are almost certain that Leontius side-eyed you there. “As we all were, they, like your majesty, are young, but unlike your majesty, they lack the ability to control their temperament and think clearly of their surroundings, if it were up to them, they would undoubtedly be hounding us to move even faster, even further. Something that I must concede to Isaac, he is already pushing us as far as he can, without overextending.”

“Then we shall have to see for it ourselves as well, it had been long since we conversed with our senators.” You say rising. “You may re-join your fellows, prōtoproedros.”

“As your majesty wills.” Leontius responds with a bow, though you are certain that he will most likely keep a track of you and with whom you converse, if not directly, then definitely through the eyes and ears of others.

Walking about now, you quickly pick out a small gathering of older senators, middle-aged men, with a few in-betweens that have greying hair upon their heads.

“Your majesty.” They respond with bows to your approach.

“Our senators.” You respond back with a nod. “Since the pivotal moments of this war is soon to be before us, and since optimism is within the nature of man, we desire to know what plans do our senators have once this is finished with our victory.” Trying to sound as confident as you can, you say.

“Ah, land needs tending to, slaves need directing, children need guiding. The duties of any head of the family await us, your majesty. Especially now, no doubt what harvests we shall have this year will be nothing compared to the previous.” One says.

“Indeed.” Another interrupts. “The granaries had been overflowing for a good few years now, but that is due to the plagues and war killing so many of our citizens.” He says remorsefully. “All of that backed up grain had already begun to go, so we are using as much of it as we can right now, turning it into hard-baked bread to last for a few more months.”

Your teeth itch at the mention of that, you’ve had the displeasure of eating such bread in the leaner years, without soup, or anything that could be used to soften the bread up, you think you would have lost your teeth.

“If your majesty would be so kind as to listen to this old man ?” One of the older of the group poses a question to whom you simply nod. “Your majesty, the reforms you had issued, especially the ones concerning positions of kyvernítis (governor)…” In your mind you are already groaning. “…had been implemented at an uncertain time, a time when the empire needs stability the most from its most experienced and wise.”

“We are well aware of this, and that is why we had implemented the system to make sure that everyone has at least the basic modicum of knowledge necessary to carry out their duties when appointed.” You reply.

“Your majesty, perhaps the man at the very top would meet your requirements, but those around him would not, after all, it is the kyvernítis whom assembles those that run the day to day of administration, one man cannot do all by himself, it is through connections, love of the people and most importantly their trust that someone can govern exceptionally. I of course dare not presume that your majesty would change his mind, I merely wish to give my thoughts on the subject at hand, since your majesty had inquired to as to what we plan to do at the end of the war, and that is to concentrate on matters closer to our homes.”

“And hopefully, you shall lead your homes to prosperity under our rule.”

“God willing, your majesty.”

The conversation having quickly taken a sourer tone you depart with all the niceties you can be bothered to muster and instead head towards the men you had interacted with previously, the young senators, men of similar age to you whom had come to their positions through inheritance, perhaps conversing with them will be a more pleasant experience.

“Your majesty !” One of them with a wide smile calls out and makes quick bow. “It is great to see your majesty’s presence here. Come, join us !” With the usual enthusiasm befitting men of young age, you quickly find yourself sitting amongst the gathering whom had been busy playing with dice.

“Gambling ?” You question.

“A slight bit of distraction from all the marching. We had been here for months but other than a few minor meaningless skirmishes we’ve yet to taste blood, brandish our steel, and prove ourselves worthy of your positions, your majesty, so we had to find ways of keeping ourselves distracted if not entertained. These lands are awfully dreary after all.”

“On the last part we can agree.”

“Would you like to join in, your majesty ?”

“We will have to decline; games of chance are unbefitting of us. Instead, we wish to converse with you.”

“Very well, what would your majesty like to know of us ?”

“We’ve had conversations with the older generation beforehand, but we are interested in knowing what you, all of whom shall rule besides me, think of the future. What you wish to accomplish ?”

“Ah, that old question of what you desire to be. Well, I do not know about my fellows, but I wish to reconquer our lost lands, starting with those accursed Lucenians !” He says raising his tone and cups are raised in cheer by the man’s fellows, heartely agreeing to him. “Hell, should the war still continue on, I myself am pondering on purchasing a ship and sailing to meet the Akeonians in open battle, we shall crush them on land and sea and reclaim Lefkados. You see, your majesty, my cousin had owned a gold mine there, before it was lost in the endless flood of foreigners, and I wish to reclaim it for him.”

“Those words are good to hear for our heart.” You muse out loud. “That the future will have brave men willing to fight for the empire. But eventually wars must come to an end, what then ?”

“Then, well, enjoy life I suppose, I had recently come into inheritance from my uncle alongside what I gained from my father, a rather sprawling estate concerning about a fourth of the théma (placement, district) in which they are located, hopefully by the time I start settling down I will have gained enough slaves to work all of it.”

“What about the local tenants ?”

“What about them ?”

“Would you rather not rent the land for them to work upon ?”

“I am doing so already, your majesty, but true profits, as all men know, come from the hands of slaves, animals that can understand you and work for you, much more profitable than mere squatters paying a pittance to live upon my land, better they find skills and march on upon the local cities where they can be useful, though I suppose, with the plans for renovation that I have, I shall require some skilled builders that I will have to import.”

A few more minutes of conversation later, you get the general feeling that what the man before you feels is similar to the men around, all desiring glory, honour, and most importantly gold with whom they can tend to their ever increasingly massive estates.

Eventually saying your goodbyes, you leave the nest of politicians and head off to another place, a place of spiritualism, a place of God in your, not so little, encampment.

At the outskirts of the camp, besides a rapidly running, small river, whose noise fills your ears, is a rather humble looking collection of tents and gear, a few large pots boil filled to the brim with water, barley, grain, pieces of dried meat, a few nuts thrown in for good effort. The humble meals of the faithful soldiers that had followed Myslik, whom even from here you can see sitting at the edge of the river, clenching the cross within his hand, eyes closed, his mouth moving but making no noise as he prays in quiet, as if afraid to disturb the little place of peace compared to the rather loud camp full of rowdy soldiers, camp followers whom had attached themselves to you, and whom Isaac had been entirely uninterested chasing away, reasons of morale he had said.

Finally, Myslik opens his eyes and regards you. “Your majesty, care to join me in prayer ?”

“That we would not mind.” You say kneeling next to him.

“Thou who art in heaven, guard us from sin. Protect our eternal souls from the temptations of man. Give onto us your guidance through your Shepherd for we are but thy sheep. Shield us from evil. Give us strength to wield a sword in thy name to cut through all whom would sully thy earth.” Myslik finishes the traditional prayer, with a slight alteration at its end, or well, it sounds like an alteration to you at the very least, no doubt to his people it is quite common and proper.

Rising to your feet, you turn to regard the man as he is also standing up. “Your majesty, to seek me out so late at night, what ails your spirit ?” He says.

“Not ailments, but thoughts and worries of the crown, as you are well aware.” To that Myslik nods. “So, we had come here, in requests for temporal help. These pagans, and the devils they worship, do you know anything about them that we could use to our advantage, rituals and signs that we could disturb to showcase God’s might ?”

Stroking his beard, Myslik goes into deep thought. “I am aware of these pagan devils disguising themselves as gods. Interrogations and conversions had given me some knowledge about them. Wodtrat, the she-devil of death, an apt domain, fearing her wrath, perhaps trying to appease her, the pagans commit sacrifice before battle, hoping that the death of an animal, or another man, shall stave her bloodthirst for them, leaving the dead around large pots filled with blood meant to sate the she-devil’s thrist. Next would be Hardrad, devil of war, the pagans seem to gather arms, armour, pouches, what have you, and imbed them into the ground where they shall be fighting, in a misguided attempt at appeasement, desiring for their devil to give them the toughness of body and the might of arms, leaving everything there unperturbed. Should these accursed rituals be interrupted, it may break the spirits of these pagans. Kick over the pots, break the imbedded weapons and armour.”

At last, some useful knowledge. You think to yourself with some relief, Isaac would most certainly want to hear about this.

“We thank you, Myslik, for your wisdom. And there is something else we would like to question in regards to said wisdom. What do you think of our current situation, the war, these lands, their future ?”

“Our victory is assured, God had guided us this far, your majesty, He, whom is above us, had deemed it fitting to allow you to march into these lands unopposed to cleanse them from sin and paganism, as such we too shall soon emerge victorious, of that I have no doubts. As for the lands themselves, we had survived worse, your majesty, we shall survive this trial presented to us by the Shepherd as well. In a time beyond my time, these lands shall be revitalized and once more church hymns shall echo out without pause by faithful and loyal people of the empire. We are the God’s chosen people, the Shepherd was a Thephian after all, and we are also the greatest of sinners in God’s eyes for it was us whom slew his Shepherd sent to lead us forth, trial and forgiveness, glory and humbleness, that is all a part of whom we are. As in all cases, this one is nothing more than another trial, keep a steady heart your majesty, we shall soon all find peace once this is over.”

Having finished, Myslik bows before you after you allow him to leave. Instead of leaving right away, you turn to regard the flowing of the river, overflowing with the melting of snow even in mid spring. Will this truly pass so easily ? You cannot help but wonder. Steeling your heart, just as Myslik said you should, you being to walk off, you are the Autokrátōr (Autocrat), it is your duty to ensure, that it all shall pass.

Putting what is on your mind to action, you soon enough find yourself back in the main command tent, this time however, most of the officers had retired, with only Isaac sitting in front of a crudely drawn map of the area, staring at the various pieces placed upon it, drinking from a caly cup which he continuously refills from a flagon of wine. The burning oil candles providing limited illumination as you yourself sit down before Isaac.

“Your majesty.” He says, gaze still on map, not rising from his position.

“How do things look, Strategos (General) ?”

“Well enough. Bar the fact that the foe outnumbers us heavily. The biggest hope now is that the various tribes had not rallied together to oppose us and instead we will be facing down just one of them. If it is the latter, I am confident in victory, if it’s the former, well, I have few good fighting men, the rest are either here for silver and gold and nought more, others are barely aged boys whose balls are yet to fully drop rushing ahead for glory or senile old men who can’t remember the last time they laid with a woman. Ah, yes, plenty of savages with whom I can barely communicate are also within this merry gathering some had proclaimed to be the imperial army. As your majesty may imagine, it is not easy to coordinate all of these together.”

“Is there anything more we can do to prepare further ? To ensure that the worst case does not occur ?”

“No, your majesty. Despite how I may sound, I know how to wage war, we have a good layout of the land, we still have scouts ahead of us making sure that we don’t simply stumble into the enemy, but the enemy also knows we are here, and they’ve had plenty of time to rally, perhaps not enough to secure supplies, the reason why I insisted on moving so rapidly. Hopefully, these tribals are starving by the time they will have to crash upon our shields.”

“These issues, could they possibly be solved by involving the Thuregs into the war council ? That could be used to increase cohesion and solve the issues you are having.”

“If their leaders could speak a lick of Thephian, perhaps, so far however, I’ve only ever observed that Ansgar, I believe, being the only one able to speak proper Thephian. I had ordered some of my subordinates to teach him the basic of basics of our signals so that we could coordinate at least somewhat. As it stands, I shall have them hold one of our flanks. What is our greatest advantage, is the fact that we have more heavier cavalry than any of them. As long as we can hold the initial charge and beat back their horsemen, whom seem to be primarily used as skirmishers, we shall win. I doubt their warriors will hold once surrounded on all sides.”

“It seems you have control of the situation, strategos.”

“Best I can. A word of advice, your majesty, in war, as in life itself, nothing is ever truly under control. To adapt is to thrive. As I am adapting right now to having to herd a bunch of angry and unruly cats.” Isaac finishes off by pouring himself a full cup of wine again.

“We shall keep your attention no longer then.” You say as means of goodbye, rising from your seat as Isaac slightly moves the various pieces on the table.

Taking a step outside and once more feeling the cold air of the night upon your cheeks. Pistis, unimpressed, had been by your side the entire time, the numerous smells and noises around him that are entirely unfamiliar had put him on edge. You pet him on the head, feeling the fur in between your fingers as you start to walk off to your final destination for the night.

“Follow us.” You call out to your guards as you go pass your tent and quickly about two dozen men fall in lockstep and surround you as you leave the camp and walk the short distance to the main camp of the Thuregs, whilst part of your army, they had been kept separate due to a fear of incidents that could arise from differences between the newly joined faithful and those whom been there for a while.

The local Thureg warriors tense as they notice your presence, unsure as to why you had entered their camp, but none dare to move, since after all, their families are staying within towns under your control. While you are unfamiliar with the camp’s layout, you follow your instincts and simply head towards the centre of the camp, after all that is where your tent is located, with an even decreasing amount of importance to those at the camp’s outskirts.

“Your majesty.” Ansgar, the only in the tribe you’ve encountered so far able to speak fluently greets you in the middle of the encampment, kowtowing before you.

“Since you had now become our subjects, you had earned the right to hear our voice.” You say, having learnt more of the etiquette expected of you, but even now, you think your courtiers would fall over backwards if they heard you right now. “Lead us to Gratian, for we wish to converse with him.”

“Right away, your majesty.” He kowtows again before rising and guiding you to the most prominent tent.

Within it, you quickly find Gratian and what you assume to be his family, the young man whom had converted next to him, a middle-aged woman whom seems similar in age to Gratian and another, much younger boy, perhaps just entering his first decade.

Ansgar quickly begins to speak with his leader and a minute or so later everyone begins to leave the tent, the seat of honour being given up for you as you come in deeper. You do also note how everyone makes certain to keep away from Pistis whom sticks to your side. Soon enough, the only persons within the tent are you, Ansgar, and Gratian, alongside half a dozen of your guards, the rest standing and awaiting you outside.

“Your majesty, since my Herkun is still not capable of speaking your tongue, I shall do my best to translate between you two.” Ansgar quickly says, looking between you and Gratian, whom seems to be sizing you up, it is the first time the both of you had actually sat down face to face after all.

“Let us begin with something simple then; – tell us about your journey to these lands.” Ansgar quickly begins to translate what you had said and you watch as Gratian’s expression hardens.

With there being a slight bit of delay in the conversation, you use the moment to take a better look at the inner workings of the tent, where you quickly notice that whilst lacking in fine silks, velvets, and satins it still decorated with furs and leather, in fact you do notice wonderfully made wooden carvings of little statuettes, children’s toys, the occasional weapon, being a spear and the occasional axe alongside a few round shields.

“My Herkun says.” Ansgar begins. “That we hail from a land close to the borders of your lands, yet we had never caused anyone harm, not until we were threatened, exactly what the Lucenians did to us, their zealous obsession with ensuring the blessing of the darkest of our Gods, those controlling aspects that none can escape and must embrace they promoted with vigour and obsession, believing that it shall result in them receiving great blessings and great strengths. This obsession eventually led us to war, I had personally marched forth with three of my sons to battle the Lucenians, one died on the fields of battle in a woodland clearing that had once belonged to Aleringians, there they had planted crops of rich wheat that they had purchased from us that we had purchased from your people of these lands, whom had purchased that from your lands across the mountains. There we fought and we bled, there we had died fighting against foes whom fear not death, for two days and two nights had we battled upon the flanks of the clearing, engaged in endless skirmishes, trading blow for blow with the outnumbered Lucenians, the Aleringians with their discipline and ferocity held the clearing itself, the Lorinders upon their ponies had continuously darted in and out through the woods and the clearing, striking and disappearing just as swiftly, but every one of their attacks had been always met by arrows loosened by the greatest of Lucenians. It was upon the third day, that the outnumbered Lucenians had begun to break, their numbers thin compared to our own, even their ferocity disappeared when…” Ansgar pauses.

Looking straight into your eyes, moments after, Gratian begins to speak slowly, quietly, hurt clear in his eyes as Ansgar starts to translate once more. “There and then the Uvergians came, numbering in thousands, larger than all of the tribes fighting combined, since we did have to leave warriors to guard our lands, it was a shock to see their entire tribe move to a single battle. We greeted them as brothers, the Lucenians broke and ran…” Another pause. “…and then they cut the throat of my second son, his face had a smile upon it, I had watched as he died, his eyes staring into mine, pleading for help, pleading silently for his father…” Gratian covers his eyes with his hands. “…we were confused, unprepared, tired as the Uvergians fell upon us.” Ansgar’s voice had also taken a deeper, darker tone. “There, our greatest died, claimed by betrayal. We, just like our foes had but not scant hours before us, ran. I, ran. I ran, from the killers of my son.” Silence permeates the tent, lasting a good few minutes with only the crackle of the burning wood, the noise of breaths, and your own uncomfortable shifting being heard.

“We were chased.” Gratian begins once more and Ansgar follows. “We sent messengers, but for some of our people it was already too late, the Uvergians had gambled everything they had, and it succeeded, the lesser tribes in our gathering had been butchered to the last, their despair buying time for us to leave Wodger, to flee our ancestral homes and abandon everything we had. We took only what we could, only what we needed, but even that was not enough. When we arrived in these lands, scattered, pleading, some argued for violence, an outlet to unleash our rage, others were simply too exhausted, too hungry to ponder about vengeance or feel much rage. In either case, your armies descended upon us.” Again a pause.

“And yet again, we bled. My third son died, your horse rider’s spear having pierced his heart, rent his armour asunder. It was a quick death, one I had not seen, and I do not know if I should thank or curse the gods for so.” Staring upon the burning fire, Gratian becomes completely silent.

“If you would allow me to continue, your majesty ?” Ansgar, sensing that his ruler no longer wishes to talk, at least for the moment, pipes up.

“You may.”

“Thank you, your majesty. Once we were defeated, we were offered scant picking of food, enough to keep us going, but not enough to survive through the winter. We were ordered to launch attacks upon your mountain forts, to act as a distraction, and rest is already known to your majesty.” Ansgar concludes.

“So, you just wish for peace ?”

“Yes, your majesty, our people are weary and tired. We merely wish to guard your lands so as long as our people can be safe and protected, with food filling their bellies. Perhaps, a generation or two later, the suffering we had experienced will become a rallying cry for our descendants to seek revenge, to no doubt fuel the ambitions of your majesty’s successor to finally bring the Skouraxúla (Dark woods) into the domains of your great empire.”

“We had heard…” You try to take a more diplomatic tone. “…that you had, chastised, your lesser quite harshly. Why ?”

“We massacred them, that is correct. Your majesty should know, that in times of hardship, even wolves abandon their pups, if the pack is utterly broken and starving. Sacrifices must be made and they must be made decisively and with all measures.” He directs a pitying glance towards Gratian. “It had been the will of our Herkun, a showcase of our dedication. He had decided to bare the burdens of his decisions upon himself to save our people.” Ansgar returns an unyielding glance towards you.

You sit in silence for a moment, thinking back to the conversation, you’ve had, before slowly rising. “We thank you, if nothing else, this had allowed us to know your people better.” And with those words you depart, your guards trailing after you.

(POV shift: You are Armentarius Theocritus.)

With a grunt you kick the man before you, a wet squelch rings out as you remove your mace from the broken and caved in head, brain, gore, and blood dripping from the grey steel now stained crimson. Breathing heavily, you regard the half-a-dozen corpses piled around you, the left side of your chest hurts as a blow had managed to sneak through your guard, your perfect lamellar armour now long since stain by more blood of differing age, cuts, and dents from the desperate attacks of your foes. Looking around in the woods, you watch as your tagmata (regiment/battalion) alongside local levies finish off the remaining bandits. Corpses are strewn across the battlefield; a small dirt road now turned a grave for many brave men killed by the cowardly. In the months since winter, the bandit threat had fully gotten out of control.

You approach your still panicking horse, struggling upon the ground as it continues to cry out in pain, the trap that had been set upon the road having broken the beast’s front legs, luckily you were able to react fast enough to undo your stirrups and jump, the pains across your body a testament of your roll downwards. A quick glance towards some of your men reveals that they had not been so lucky as a few are not but lifeless dolls now continuous thrown around by their own equally injured mounts. You heave your mace once, twice, thrice, the beast you had formed a bond with unable to realize the mercy you are delivering upon it as it thrashes around in its final moments as it finishes its painful struggles.

Collapsing upon the dirt road, you breathe heavily and undoing your helmet, you spit out saliva mixed in with a little bit of blood. “Report !” You cry out, your mood foul and your temperament sour.

Domestikos (domestic, commander) !” One of your men quickly responds. “Seven of us dead, another dozen injured, but able to fight.”

“And our allies ?”

“So far, thirty dead.” The soldier responds looking at the front of your column, the levies there laying upon the the ground in their own pools of blood, riddled with arrows. “Another two-dozen injured, maybe half of that won’t be able to fight ever again.”

Shit ! You cannot help but curse internally, as even now you cannot show true anger before your subordinates. You had not expected for the bandits to grow into such a serious issue. Worst part of it all, amongst the corpses of the slain bandits rests both Akeonian and Thephian alike. Bound in friendship through bastardliness. You once more sourly think.

You had tried to cut through the isle’s centre, then strike from an unexpected angle for the Akeonians, but now look at you, this is the third ambush you had dealt with, the biggest so far, these men are far too well-coordinated to be treated as mere pests as you had once thought. They know that upon open field, your Scholae (School) or the Akeonian chevaliers and their heavy foot could easily snap their lines like a twig. But here, here in the woods the holy knights cannot see them, here your heavy cavalry is limited. And it’s not like you can just ignore them, since the bastards keep burning and raiding the nearby villages, now abandoned by their residents whom are either dead or had fled into the towns. You still have enough food to last a year, even with that, a small silver-lining, but one nonetheless. With the Akeonians holding more lands than you, and most importantly being able to coerce more locals to farm for them than you, at the end of the day, the situation stays a stalemate.

“Everyone, prepare to depart ! Gather our dead, burn these traitors and foreigners upon the same pyres if they wish to love once each other so.” You throw out a final insult as rise to your feat again and drag yourself out of the woods.

The march back is silent, so silent that you are able to fall asleep atop your back up horse as you finally clear the woods. After all, you had seen the scene before you many a time, the rolling woodland hills giving way for ever-increasingly even land, dotted by now abandoned fields and burnt out villages, some still holding some embers even after all this time, only for that to quickly give way to the lands once more inhabited, a queer sight of peace considering the chaos surrounding you, as the locals tend to their fields as if war was not just around the corner, no doubt a pretty girl or two will run up to your men to offer them comfort, a farmhand will give his thanks, a wiseman will shake his beard at you and give advice at what you should do, the last part you find exceptionally annoying. And after that, you will reach the coast, the large shanty towns, at least for this island, having sprouted up around them as means of safety and protection, the local officials haranguing the newcomers with promises of food, warmth and shelter as they try to redistribute them upon the fields that still need tending in safer place. And of course, the towns themselves, with the waves now uncontested, at least in any serious manner, said town had become centres of supplies, areas of endless work as more and more weapons and armour, shipments of food, the occasional reinforcing soldier or a new ship built by the quickly recovering shipyards docking making their presence known.

Domestikos, we have returned.” The same soldier you had conversed with lightly shakes you awake.

With a groan you open your eyes, quickly closing them again as the sunshine strikes rather fiercely, it takes a moment for you to reorient yourself as your horse passes through the quickly opening gate. Moving your neck side to side, you slightly stretch your body before bringing your horse to a halt before the mayoral manor.

“Is Megas doux (Megaduke) Mundus present ?” You question one of the guards around the inner gatehouse.

“He is, domestikos. He had returned yesterday. He is currently in the main hall.”

“Good. I shall be meeting him. Tend to my horse.” Dismounting you make your way inwards, once again internally annoyed at the state of the guards here, old men, all of them. There would probably be boys here too, were it not for the fact that you, and some of your officers elsewhere, had taken them along for their marches, since at least they can walk a fair distance without tiring overly much.

Throwing open the main doors, your boots hit heavily upon the stone floor, echoing out loudly alongside the clattering of your armour.

“In a foul mood, domestikos ?” Mundus asks regarding you with a quizzical look.

“Rather. I am hoping for good news.” You respond regarding the man and a gaggle of officers gathered around him, a holy knight besides them helping to sketch out an even more accurate map of the isle, since he and his brother had plenty of time to fly about and ensure its accuracy.

“Well, no response from their majesty yet, but that would probably take another month or so for their response to reach us. As for other news, the seas are still ours, the Paterans and Tarrizans had both started whining that the war is lasting for too long.”

“They signed up for.”

“I know, I threatened to throw Vincenso of the peer again, and gave the same invitation to the Pateran leader to see who can drown faster with rocks tied to their ankles. They are so competitive after all, but they decided to decline my suggestion this time.”

“You will make a lot of enemies Megas doux.”

“Look from whom I am hearing that.” Mundus scoffs. “Besides, not like these spineless merchants will have much enmity to have when profits are placed before them.”

“Of that we can agree.”

“As for my end, I must grudgingly admit that those halberdiers are good at getting a foothold on a beach and holding it. We were able to wrest a couple more isles from the Akeonians. Upon the waves, well, we outnumber the bastards, but even then, even if I know where they are, I cannot lock them down for a battle as they seem entirely satisfied just shadowing us. Due to that I have to dedicate a large force to protect our supply shipments. Whilst I am able to impose a sort of a blockade on the bigger port towns, a ship or two no doubt is able to sneak through, though nothing on the scale we had seen at the start of the war. I had thrown some bait to see if it would work, but either the Akeonians are cowards, or they have strict orders. At the end of the day, slowly but surely the noose tightens.”

“And soon enough they shall fall.”

“Hopefully sooner rather than later. I was about to listen to the reports of your subordinates and the holy knights, if you care to join, domestikos ?”

“I would.” You nod placing your helmet upon the table and sitting down upon one of the chairs there.

“Firstly, let us begin with our most holy associates, if you would, father.” Mundus gestures to the holy knight.

“We had finished accurately mapping out the isle, with this we should be able to use the terrain to our advantage much better than even the locals, I had already requested for copies to be made and distributed as needed. Next up, one of my brothers had observed a banner of the Akeonians marching into the woods, and but few scant, hurried survivors running out of them couple of hours or so later.”

“More dead Akeonians, but better equipped bandits.” You deride. “God truly is giving us blessings and challenges in equal measure.”

“We are but his sheeple at his mercy, but through the Shepherd, forgiveness shall reach us.” The holy knight responds. “Still, there is some bad news, it seems that the Akeonians had finishes building various ballista, enough to threaten I and my brethren if we fly too close, we can still look over their movements from the skies, but we can no longer tell things in detail. As it currently stands, the siege upon Bylleira still continues, but we had noticed that the army that had been there seems to have been replaced by a still sizeable one, if perhaps of a more divided command, as numerous different banners now fly there instead of the silver dragon on black.”

That gives you pause. No matter how you may dislike him, the enemy commander is at least worthy of respect as a dangerous opponent, his well disciplined and drilled army alongside him, doubly so. “Do you know where they went ?”

“Perhaps.” The man responds. “They had split up in smaller groups, the banners held high, and disappeared in the various townships. Knowing the fondness of our foe for trickery, I would not be surprised if they had reassembled elsewhere, or if they had hidden themselves amongst the larger armies prowling the area.”

“They could be in the forest, it’s the only place upon the isle where they know for sure that they cannot be spotted, and if you risk it, they can try to bring you down.” You quickly think of the only other real possibility.

“Probably. All that we can know for a fact, is that the most dangerous force of the enemy had seemingly vanished.” Mundus interjects. “And I for one, doubt that they will simply sit behind the walls of the towns they occupy.”

“That is all I have.” The holy knight finishes and takes a seat once more.

Another man, one of your subordinates rises. “We had contested the Akeonians North of us, around the villages of Odidos, Ialiteia, and Olynthonia.” You wince at that, those places are villages in name only by this point, you had taken them, and lost them, and taken them again for the past few months in the limited skirmishes during winter. Now the ruins serve as anchor points for supplies for the following attacks from raiders and skirmishers. “The villages had been secured once more.” Unsurprising. “And we had managed to push further.” Now that is new. You think as you refocus your attention. “We managed to ambush the Akeonian reinforcements thanks to the information provided by the holy knights, our kontos (oar, barge-pole) had pierced straight through their formation, and our arcus (recursive bow) had finished off the fleeing survivors. As it stands, we’ve managed to capture a walled village called Kerkassa. As such, I believe we need to strike as fast as possible, if we move swiftly enough, we could potentially secure Patrakros and thus the entire North.” You nod at that, your mood slightly improving.

“I would like to contest that.” Another officer rises, a local this time. “The river Pisactus running to our South had been a natural barrier, but thanks to a daring night raid by my comrades, we’ve secured a beachhead, the barge we built for the river crossing are few, as such we would like to request for the Scholae Tagmata (School regiment/battalion) to move there in force with full speed.”

“I have to disagree.” The previous officer voices his concerns. “The north is better suited for our performance, with no river to cross, we can more freely and uncontested.”

“Yes, but since the North had no natural barrier, the Akeonians had no doubt dedicated more forces there than in the south, the Scholae would have a much bigger impact if we can finish the crossing.”

“Presuming your themata holds.” You can hear the sneer in your officer’s voice as he addresses the local.

“They shall.” Not backing down the local retorts.

“That’s all fine and good.” Almost ignorant of the atmosphere Mundus interjects. “But as it stands, we have an entire army missing, not to mention rather creative and capable bandits to be concerned about. I’d rather the tagmata stay here and be used as needed, though of course, I have no authority over you on this matter, domestikos.” Throwing around responsibility and then refusing it, are we ? You think with some chagrin.

“Anyone else ?” You question the table.

“One thing.” The local kephale (Head) says, a minor official allowed in this meeting for not other reason than the fact that he is the one responsible for running the town in which you currently reside in. “My, uhm, agents, had finished interrogating some of the captured bandits, and it painted an interesting picture. Some minor Akeonian noble turned bandit is leading the Akeonians named Eudes Vimont alongside a Thephian, if we can even call him that, named Maurianus Staurakius leading those other traitors. Now, this alliance is, fragile, the leaders being the ones keeping the two sides concentrated upon potential gains than mutual hatred. Best part yet, I am aware of their exact hideout, at least for the following few days, no doubt they shall move it soon enough. A smaller, faster, elite force could probably get there in time.” The man says looking at you.

“And behead the snake.” You finish his thoughts.

May choose only one.

>You are the hammer after all. Strike Northwards and drive them out of your lands.

>The opportunity you got came at a high price, and you doubt the Akeonians will slip up again. The South it is.

>The bandits are getting worse and worse, dealing with them is an inevitability. Besides, with the centre of the isle safe for large scale movement, you could coordinate more complex attacks against the Akeonians later on.

>Mundus is right, there are simply too many variables, best keep your best and fastest reserves in position, let the regular troops deal with the other problems.

Everything else shall still be attempted since you have the troops for it. It’s just your elite force is the best suited for all tasks.

Direct all decisions here.
Sorry it took a while, hopefully the thickness makes up for it.


Good to see you again Fleet-anon !
My god is it thick, thank you for always delivering.
Still reading through and will properly vote in a bit, but I will want to veto any option that includes the Escuratans. The man's giving us the creeps and he's talking about bringing in a lot more people from elsewhere to settle in, which sounds like a very bad idea. I'm currently leaning towards the administrative option with only some of them, like the Thephians and Jaykins.
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>Divide et impera. Whilst annoying and time consuming, you could land all of these people and split them up and mix them up, the natural hatred of a different neighbour could be used to your advantage, with all relying upon your authority. Still, it could also boil over into violence.
>The opportunity you got came at a high price, and you doubt the Akeonians will slip up again. The South it is.
This is one girthy update, thanks Newb
you are alive thankfully
great update
>>Divide et impera. Whilst annoying and time consuming, you could land all of these people and split them up and mix them up, the natural hatred of a different neighbour could be used to your advantage, with all relying upon your authority. Still, it could also boil over into violence.
>>The opportunity you got came at a high price, and you doubt the Akeonians will slip up again. The South it is.
Going on a date in an hour, thanks for the good read QM. Really feels like I am reading a really good book.
>>Divide et impera. Whilst annoying and time consuming, you could land all of these people and split them up and mix them up, the natural hatred of a different neighbour could be used to your advantage, with all relying upon your authority. Still, it could also boil over into violence.
>>The opportunity you got came at a high price, and you doubt the Akeonians will slip up again. The South it is.
Again some quality content worth the wait.
Great update.
Becoming neighbours of Uvergians and Lucenians sound like hell.

>Accept the demands of a few. (Who ?)
Accept Valens
Luis, accepted if there is religious and cultural conversion.
Hirdrad, accepted if there is religious and cultural conversion.
No Helmi and Cuinte, give them a small gift for not make them grumpy.

We will already have an injection of Thuregs in the empire, can t have too many barbarians. Not to mention we will have many slaves, from war prisoners. And while of course we will execute a good amount of barbarians, and sell another part to our allies of Patera and Tarrizo, we will still have many slaves. Imagine adding Helmi and Cuinte peoples to the mix.

Everything else so far learned has been useful. Leontius seem to dislike Myslik even more, and probably can hardly stand barbarians.
We are definetly going to use that religious information against their army.

>The opportunity you got came at a high price, and you doubt the Akeonians will slip up again. The South it is.
I trust Armentarius to defeat them.
Maybe we should see about building some light ballistas in both our armies. We know how to do that and there could be some use in it.
>>Divide et impera. Whilst annoying and time consuming, you could land all of these people and split them up and mix them up, the natural hatred of a different neighbour could be used to your advantage, with all relying upon your authority. Still, it could also boil over into violence

It truly feels like a trap option, though if we mix them all up alongside Thephians and barbarians in time they will blend together. At the very least we should make an additional tagmata comprised of a portion of each of their potential levees, to serve us in Myralos, as the men would cycle into it and then back into their lands it would hasten the process, also denying them their full strength. Naturally, religious conversion is a must as well.

We are absolutely going to rightfully be called hypocrites for doing this after our reforms targeting governors. So we need to be prepared for that, perhaps we may even need to scale the reforms back a bit.

I am open to debate for choosing a different course of action, but I will say this; if we grant these hereditary positions to one of them we must grant them to all of them, it's simply a matter of all or nothing since we are going to piss a lot of people off and will need the manpower.

>>The opportunity you got came at a high price, and you doubt the Akeonians will slip up again. The South it is.
>Divide et impera. Whilst annoying and time consuming, you could land all of these people and split them up and mix them up, the natural hatred of a different neighbour could be used to your advantage, with all relying upon your authority. Still, it could also boil over into violence.
But settle the Escuratan close to the heartland as possible and do not allow for any autonomy or self governance beyond normal imperial law dealing with landed freemen, religious conversion is also required of course. In matters of pay, give them tax breaks instead.

The point being: no special priviliges or exemptions and keep the untrustworthy away from the frontier.

>The opportunity you got came at a high price, and you doubt the Akeonians will slip up again. The South it is.
Seems to be the most skill sensitive option.

Why would we be hypocrites? These are land grants not governorships.
Is a option with substantial risk that can be done thanks to our administrative skill. Is a gamble, more work we add to Manuel and there is a chance of creating chaos and violence in the border province, which can decrease its defense too. The main benefit of divide et impera, is you get all the mercs landed or the ones you want, accept their conditions but make it very hard for them to use their conditions.
Don't want that ? Pronoia. No Pronoia ? Make other conditions, which they can just say yes or no to. Getting land is a possible bonus for them, they are mercenaries, they are here for the money at the moment.
Call it a special addition, new law, emergency measure ecc.... The empire is being saved on two fronts, and since Thepian population isn't high we need some meatshields in the east. Reforms aren't moving back, we have no reason to do so if we manage to win two wars, which alongside the death at sea of the eastern usurper + his army + his fleet can solidify our rule.

We will already need to assimilate the Thuregs, thats why Newb give us the possibility to choose which mercs to take and which not. And Manuel instincts tell him that two of the five companies could be a serious danger/problem. Which means we should choose which to keep and which not.
The reason we have put forward to land mercs, is because the border province is devastated by war and needs men. We need a first line of defense there essentially. They are very much a punching bag for Uvergians and Lucenians.
So raising a new tagmata from them ? Goes against placing them there, any new Tagmata should be made up of Thepians or if we need to Thuregs, or a mix of the two. You don't want this ex mercs going around the empire, with better training, organization and equipment and three of them straight up barbarians.

Love a <dense> update!
>>Divide et impera. Whilst annoying and time consuming, you could land all of these people and split them up and mix them up, the natural hatred of a different neighbour could be used to your advantage, with all relying upon your authority. Still, it could also boil over into violence.
All but the Escuratans, and three is easier to manage. I really don't like the sound of the Escuratans.

>You are the hammer after all. Strike Northwards and drive them out of your lands.
If we can secure the lands north of the river we'll have an extremely secure position from which to move in. It'll give us some breathing room instead of having to risk things so often.
This is a beautiful update, thanks Newb

>Implement the pronoia and attract at least some men. Can be picked with other options. Need to reach half of total votes to pass.
>Accept the demands of a few.
This >>5722200

>The bandits are getting worse and worse, dealing with them is an inevitability. Besides, with the centre of the isle safe for large scale movement, you could coordinate more complex attacks against the Akeonians later on.
You good newb?

I am, I will have the time to sit down and write on the weekend, so update will probably be on Monday, similarly sized to the previous ones. Will probably make a new thread as well.
Nice. Just wanted to commend you Newb, cause this quest is high quality.
New thread


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