Imperium Romaniae - Chapter 5: The Fall of the Good Emperor Robert

Published: 2017-03-17

Part of the campaign:

Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR)

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Game: Crusader Kings II

Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HPM Latin Empire AAR) - Chapter 4: The Holy Land (1234-1237)

Images: 54, author: CargoShortsSensei, published: 2017-03-16

Filippo Dandolo, that scoundrel, has decided to put his knife in my back. He aimed to seize the County of Messina from me in order to fully monopolize trade in the Eastern Mediterranean.

I would not allow Romania to be further weakened - I would not allow *myself* to be made a fool anymore. The Republic of Venice would be thoroughly defeated.
Having marriage ties with Serbia means that King Radoslav agreed to join the fight against me as well, which does not exactly bode well for me. Radoslav was renowned for his martial capabilities, and our manpower was hurting from the beating we took in the Crusade.
Landing in Constantinople, I scarcely get to spend a few days with Marie before I call my banners. I doubted we would have enough to fight off the Venetians, who were a great deal richer that I. It would come down to mercenaries yet again.
On the morning of March 24th, I rise from the marriage bed, Marie still asleep. I rise to my feet, stretch, and stroll over to the window. The Bosphorus greeted me, as usual, with life bustling all about despite the early hour.

"Rob," comes a faint voice from behind me.

I turn around, smiling, to find Marie rousing from her sleep. "My dear wife."

"Must you go?" she asked. I strode over to her and stroked her hair.

"I must," I said. "The realm needs me. What sort of Roman Emperor would I be if I didn't take to the field of battle?"

"One who lived longer," grumbled Marie, turning to look at the wall.

I sighed, continuing to stroke her lovely hair. "I will be okay. I promise."

I kiss her and the rest of my family goodbye. As I prepare to leave on horseback, Phillip grabs me.

"Can I come with you, father? To learn of battle?"

I look down at my young son, proud of his eagerness. "No. You still have much to learn. It some years, you'll be ready. I promise."
Down in the Peloponnese, the Venetians already begin landing their troops on the coast. We needed to get down there, and fast.
Our little army would almost certainly not be enough, but it needed to be for the moment.
Finally, Boniface crushes the rebellious Narjot and revokes Thrace. While I do not like the idea of Thessalonica becoming any more powerful, the laws forbid me from interfering.
While I march near the very edge of my empire, my scouts tell me the worst: a Serbian army numbering 7,000, led by Radoslav himself, planned on marching to Attica.

I desperately needed more troops.
It comes to my attention that the biggest vassal of the Bulgarian Emperor, a certain Duke Kulin Asen of Ohrid, was but four years old, and in need of a betrothed.

I camp my army outside Thessalonica, a plan forming in my head. I pen a letter to this Kulin, promising him the hand of my darling Emelisse.
Seeing as Kulin was the younger brother of Emperor Svetislav himself, he was the heir to the throne in Tarnovo. An alliance with so powerful a lad would be invaluable.
Kulin's mother, acting as his regent, agreed to the marriage, and as a sign of her gratitude, pledged the armies of Duke Kulin to the war effort against Serbia. The two states had frequently sparred in the past, and the Bulgarians had a bit of a vendetta.

I began to pen letters to the grandest mercenary companies on the continent. I would not allow Romania to lose an inch of territory, especially not to Venice.
Bulgarian troops begin their march to the south. We will crush the Serbs and the Venetians, I'm sure of it!
Prince Geoffrey, who had holed up in his castle in Achaea, writes to me, informing me that over 10,000 men had gathered outside of Athens. Even with Bulgarian reinforcements, we would not be able to fight them.
It is brought to my attention that the weak Adam is deposed in Hungary, replaced by Andrew the Wise. If only we had the backing of the now resurgent Magyars!
While we wait to muster together a larger army, I set my sights on the small trading posts that Venice had constructed all along Greece. While there were largely insignificant backwater towns, it was better than nothing.
The Bulgarians arrive to merge with our forces in Thessalonica. By my estimation, we still numbered less than 10,000; against the military mastery of King Radoslav, I did trust those numbers.
A certain mercenary captain, Alfons "the Arm-Splitter" of La Mancha, and I had been corresponding for some time. I ensured him his payment upon marching to Thessalonica, but he and his fellow commanders decide to land in Constantinople for some reason.

I hoped that the Spaniards would restrain themselves from looting the countryside on their march to us.
The Venetians and Serbs capture Athens in the summer of 1238, losing almost 1,000 men in the assault. Victory seemed more and more certain as Attica bled them dry.
In order to afford the services of the mercenaries, Marie, acting in my stead, withdrew a hefty loan from Jewish moneylenders. I prayed that it would be enough.
As I meet up with the La Manchan commander, a force of over 15,000 stood at my breath. At the news of this, the enemy retreated from Attica down into the Peloponnese.

Whatever hole that they planned to hide in, we would drag them out of. We set a quick marching pace and depart.
Our armies clash just outside of the coastal city of Kalamata in late summer. Early in the battle, I decide to test my meddle a bit, fading into the formations of our men (while still flanked by my bodyguards), in order to encourage them to fight harder.
In the chaos of battle, my right flank is forced to retreat a bit, and I lose track of my men, and I find myself on the front lines. I hold my own against a few peasant conscripts, but I was no master with the sword; retreating to a safe spot would be most wise.

"PART!" came a cry in Greek from the other side. "PART FOR YOUR KING!"

An imposing figure marched up, his face entirely obfuscated by a plate helmet. However, the crest on his chest was unmistakable; this was the legendary King Radoslav of Serbia.

"Frankish scum, you took the throne from the honorable Angeloi," he said in harsh Greek. "I will spare your life, right now, if you surrender your throne and give it to my wife. I will let you and your Latin friends return to where you belong."

I fought every instinct in my gut that told me to flee. This man was a legend; he was half a foot taller than I, an excellent swordsman, suspected by some to have murdered his own father.

"I would sooner see a Saracen take my throne than run away, tail between my legs," I respond in an even-headed voice. "You mean to fight? Let us fight."
My men part on my order and a wide circle is formed around the King of Serbia and I. I slide the visor of my helmet down, take a white-knuckle grip of my longsword, and whisper a quick prayer. I hold up my shield, planning on self-preservation above all else.

Radoslav, seeing this, dropped his shield, gripping his sword with two hands. I'm sure that he's smiling under his helmet, the monster that he is.
After a few seconds of careful preparation, Radoslav lunges towards me, with brute strength giving him the advantage. He struck high, low, with such speed that I hardly had time to block.

I take several steps back. Radoslav is several leagues better than I, clearly.
Finally, Radoslav feigns low, and I buy it. He quickly brings his sword back up, and bashes me up the forehead with the pommel of his sword, sending me sprawling onto my ass, dazed.

"If you surrender now," Radoslav said coolly, standing over me, "I will let you live. I am no murderer."

My mouth tastes of blood, and my helmet is ruined. I shrug it off, my hair soaking in the mud of the battlefield. I cough, and it comes up red. Every ounce of my being wants me to quit.

I struggle to my hands and knees, and I recover my sword and shield. I barely find my footing.
After just a few seconds, Radoslav makes a sound that almost sounds respectful. "Clearly, Emperor Robert, you have a death wish."
As soon as he says this, he begins his furious assault once more. When I find myself blocking most of his strikes, I realize he's toying with me, drawing out my demise.
Finally, he gets tired of playing and kicks out my knees, and I sprawl forward on the ground, eating far more mud than I had planned on when I woke up today. I struggle to my knees and look up at the Serb.

He slowly reversed the grip of his sword, holding it by the blade. "I will see you in Hell, Robert."

He brought the sword up. "Marie," I croak weakly, crossing myself. "Watch over Phillip."

The last thing I remember before my world went black was the sound that was made when his pommel cracked my head like an egg.



Join me next time, dear reader, as Emperor Phillip assumes the throne in Constantinople.

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Images: 61, author: ThyReformer, published: 2019-07-29