Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR) - Chapter 3: The Four Horsemen

Published: 2017-03-08

Part of the campaign:

Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR)

Previous part:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR) - Chapter 2: Obedience (1224-1229)

Images: 59, author: CargoShortsSensei, published: 2017-03-03

The Bulgar hordes gather to attack my lands. I remain locked away in Constantinople, as do many of my generals; I send word to Count Conon of Adrianople and Duke Marco of the Archipelago that they should lead the armies. They will muster in Thessaly.

I pray that my vassals will guide us to victory.
On April 12th, my third child is born, Louis. However, my joy is short-lived; the physicians who helped Marie deliver the child are concerned with the lad's disposition and believe him to be sickly.

While the war rages on the frontier, this becomes a greater concern for me.
Bishop Adrien, my former court chaplain, tells me that he fears for my newborn son's life. He says that the foul miasmas from the countryside around Constantinople might have caused Louis to take ill in the womb. I'm no scholar, and I see no better explanation than that. I plead with Adrien to make some effort to save him.

Whatever the man's treatments are, however, do not work. Marie has to stop me from ordering his death on the spot, as she believes he is the only man alive who might be able to save Louis.
The Bulgars lay siege to Adrianople and Philippopolis, splitting up their forces. Under the guidance of Conon, my army of 10,000 marches on Adrianople.
However, barbarian scouts discover the movement of my army, and Emperor John Asen II merges his two forces. Together, they number nearly 13,000 - a number that we cannot hope to beat.

Conon instead drives his men south to Kallipolis, where a group of tribals from the north has landed to loot and pillage. An easy victory over some horsemen should improve the spirits of my men.
I continue to study tactics in my seclusion, praying that the pestilence leaves my empire. I become something of an expert on skirmishing tactics, learning all I can about light infantry.
Conon crushes the pagans at Kallipolis, and their leader is taken prisoner. The men set up camp in this province, unwilling to attack Adrianople.
I find myself paralyzed. Clearly, I needed more troops in order to defeat the Bulgars, but in order to hire mercenaries, I would need to open the gates of my city so I might recruit. In addition to this, I needed to take out a sizable loan in order to pay for the services of those hirelings - the last time the Emperor of Constantinople hired mercenaries he could not pay, it resulted in the fall of the Greek empire.

As I consider my options, I create a personal retinue of skirmishers. While I recruit as best as I can, professional armies are rather expensive, and Greek men are not exactly flocking to the banner of a Latin emperor.
Despite the disease that ravishes my empire, I make my decision: I declare the city open once more. With this, Constantinople becomes open to disease once more.

I still maintain strict security in my palace, of course, but it is still a significant risk I am taking.
The only men I find willing to loan my crown any money at all are Jewish usurers. I agree to take out a large loan in exchange for heavy interest, not seeing another option.
The most affordable and realistic company of mercenaries that were available to me were a group of Turks from the Sultanate of Rum. As the disease slowly begins to spread into Constantinople, I meet with their leader.

Captain Baturay is seemingly a man of intelligence; he tells me that he does not care a lick for religion, only for money. He ensures me that his soldiers will stay loyal as long as they are paid. While the irony of hiring Muslims to do the bidding of Constantinople is not lost on me, I decide to trust Baturay and his Turkish horsemen.

Muslim mercenaries, funded by Jewish gold, to fight in the French Catholic emperor's name. God has a sense of humor.
As I travel with the Turks to Kallipolis to meet up with the rest of the army, I hear word that the Caliph has officially abandoned the Jihad against the Mongols. Truly pathetic.
The army of my vassals, the men of Captain Baturay, and my new group of skirmishers merge in Kallipolis. Plans for battle are drawn up: Baturay will lead the center with his Turks acting as the vanguard, Conon and I will command the right flank, and Duke Marco and one of his minor vassals will oversee the left.

My vassals privately ask me if I trust Baturay, and I am frank with them: I have no other options.

Strangely enough, I run into King Demetrius strapping on armor. I had expected him to wait at home, seeing as he was not an official commander.

"I may not receive the right of command," he grumbles, "but I will not be denied the honor to fight. You will find me on the field of battle, slogging it with the rest of your men."

I receive a new sense of respect for the man.
After a week of preparation, the army departs for Adrianople. Here, we will either drive back the Bulgars or lose all.
The Bulgarian emperor smartly uses the terrain of the battlefield to his advantage, and Baturay's initial charge is unsuccessful. In the resultant chaos, Duke Marco Sanudo is shot by a stray arrow and succumbs to his wounds after an hour of pain.

Furiously, his son, Angelo, takes command of the left. Through his skilled generalship and fury, the Bulgarians lose ground.
The fighting rages on, a dreary slog. Mud, blood, and abandoned steel are everywhere. I had not known that war was like this; I begin to lose my taste for it.

Count Conon is also killed in battle, this time in single combat. I grieve his passing, considering him my most loyal vassal. His young son, Conon III, assumes control of his father's territory.
After a long and gruesome battle, Emperor John Asen II admits defeat and retreats. All things told, my forces fared well; taking just shy of 3,000 casualties, we estimate that the barbarians lost twice that amount.

The Battle of Lyutitsa, as it will later become known, is already acquiring a controversial legend. The Greeks see it as a vile tragedy that Turks rode the defense of the Christians, which is more than hypocritical, as the Greeks had hired foreigners countless times. Some of my vassals - particularly Geoffrey - are quick to criticize me for relying on mercenaries.
My forces recapture the last Bulgarian outpost near Adrianople, and a split occurs amongst my commanders. While Baturay wished to march on Tarnovo and reap the riches that the Bulgar capital held, most of my vassals are concerned with the smallpox and so ask me to seek a truce with John Asen II instead.
The exception to this is the new Duke of the Archipelago, Angelo Sanudo, who is clearly not thinking entirely clearly. He wishes to exact revenge on the barbarians and urges me every day to cross into Bulgar territory.
With the deaths of Conon and Marco, spots open up on my privy council. I name Angelo Sanudo to one of the open advisor positions, and then contemplate on what to do with the other.

I decide the next day to make amends with King Demetrius and place him back on the council, and officially make him a commander once more. His courage on the field of battle was honorable, and even taking to the fight at all proved that he had initiative.

I just hope he doesn't get any grand ideas from the whole ordeal.
As smallpox slowly began to burn out in the Peloponnese, Geoffrey makes a trip up to our army encampment and weighs on the side of peace with the Bulgars. My mind is made up.
I meet with my fellow Christian emperor, John Asen II, who agrees to return to pre-war relations and boundaries. While he is not exactly happy about the humiliation he took at the hands of an upstart Catholic and some Turkish mercenaries, he recognizes that his army is in no position to stop a march on Tarnovo.
I dismiss Captain Baturay and ensure that his men don't decide to burn down Constantinople on their march back to the Sultanate of Rum. He had proven himself to be an honorable fellow.

I prayed I would never see the man again.
I learn that the infant Conan III is struck with smallpox. I pray for his survival.
As I return to the city, I immediately tell the captain of my guard to shut the city once more, in order to keep the disease away. He explains that doing so would lead to open rebellion; the people of Constantinople were hurt financially during the seclusion, and shutting the gates now would mean that no man could escape the plague that would be trapped within.

I tighten the security of my palace to an excessive degree. I would not see my family struck down by the vile pestilence.
As we return to the court, King Demetrius requests once more that the Duke of the Archipelago serve him directly.

This time, rather than lead him on, I give him a flat "no," and explain to him that I would not consider such a thing again.
It seems as though my measures to keep smallpox out of my palace were not enough. Marie, after taking to a fever, is declared to have caught the disease by Bishop Adrien. She is shunted off somewhere where I cannot visit so I do not breathe in her foul vapors.

I would rather breath in those vapors than not know her condition.
While smallpox retreats across my empire, something a bit more mild fills the void: camp fever, the damned vulture. It lurks to prey on my already beleaguered people.

Seclusion will last longer than I had hoped.
Phillip is slated to begin his formal education, now aged six. I plan to have him learn from my guards and court, from my councilors and officials. That he might know something of diligence and government.

However, he begins to show some signs of illness. I pray and pray. God, however, must be hard of hearing.
Certainly, I have done something most foul to offend Him. Phillip is diagnosed with smallpox, and taken away from me. I retire to my empty chambers each night and cry.
Overcome by sorrow, I order the city shut once more, the peasants be damned. May they know what I suffer as well.
Louis, the sickly boy that he was, dies. Better to die now than to survive and be exposed to the horrors of this world, at least. He rests in God's arms.
For a brief moment, Constantinople seems mostly to be free of that devil smallpox. However, camp fever approaches; we will take no precautions this time.
Joyous news arrives in January. As camp fever besieges the countryside, Phillip has overcome smallpox. I hold him in my arms and pray for Marie to be as blessed as he.
I decide that I must see her, no matter how much it may hurt. I force my way into her quarters and see her there... lesions covering her face, shallow breathing, barely conscious. Horrifying. The work of evil.

I leave in order to evade the poisonous air in the room.
Payments on the loans I took from the Jewish usurers continue. Many in court advise me to merely expel the Jews and keep their ducats, but I decide that such a thing would be extremely ungodly.
Sitting on my throne one day, I feel incredibly weak. While I believe this to be nothing more than stress, Bishop Adrien begins to fuss over me, and is worried that I'm developing the flu.

His treatment is... unorthodox. He had me sitting upright in a chair in order to sleep for a while, and nothing changed. I continue on, generally exhausted.
My fatigue develops into a fever, and Adrien determines that I've caught camp fever. I am in pain constantly and cannot think straight.

While I'm only lucid sometimes, I remember Adrien handing me some parchment, and then instructing me to write the names of my worst enemies. On it, I write the usual suspects - King Demetrius, every Greek ever born, Bimbus - and I then toss it into a fire.

This does not work.
Prince Geoffrey visits me in my sickbed one night.

"Your imperial majesty, my agents in Greece have produced a document that gives you rights to the Duchy of Great Vlachia. Pressing this claim would greatly expand your power at the expense of the Greeks."

"Mmmmmmmm."

"However, your coffers are low, and the services of these men will not be cheap."

"Guuuuuuuuuh."

"I would not press this claim, sir."

"Yuuuuuuuuh."

"I will take that as agreement."
[Poor Robert. Literally nothing is going for him.]
Prince Geoffrey, acting as my regent, removes the inept Adrien from his position as my physician, instead tapping Bishop Arnold.
As July begins, I improve somewhat under the care of Arnold. However, a horrible piece of news is given to me. Robert of Courtenay, Duke of Strymon, has passed in his sleep at the age of 63. And the last I had seen him was when he angrily left my court.

His death has given me much to think about.
His eldest son, Peter assumes his father's highest title...
...while his youngest, Louis, is declared Count of Traianoupolis at the age of 2.
In August, Arnold medically clears me. I'm finally able to return my rightful throne. Geoffrey, thankfully, steps down from the regency without issue.
Just a few weeks later, Marie fully recovers from her bout with smallpox. Despite her new scarring, she is radiant as ever. I consider it a blessing that we may once again rule in health.
Reinvigorated, I decide to seek out a marriage partner for my darling little girl Emelisse. I find her a match with the King of Hungary, the young Adam. Hopefully, the union will be beneficial for both of us, and a military pact is signed.
Serbia, allied to Epirus, was formidable opponent, and the war was likely nearing its end. I planned to fulfill the agreement, though, and called my levies.
Serbia, allied to Epirus, was formidable opponent, and the war was likely nearing its end. I planned to fulfill the agreement, though, and called my levies.
[Aaaaand Robert is sexy now! I installed CPR+. Marie also looks much better.]
As my daughter Emelisse was now old enough to begin learning, I organize an etiquette-focused education. She was always stronger and larger than other girls her age, so getting her to agree to this wasn't the easiest thing in the world.
After a normal meeting of my privy council, most of my councillors shuffle out of the room. However, Geoffrey and Demetrius both remain; I pretend not to see them as I regard some important documents.

"Your imperial majesty?" asks Geoffrey.

I look up. "Yes?"

"Demetrius and I fear for the balance of power in your empire," he explained, "and him and I believe that a reduction in your power would be in the interest of stability."

I raise an eyebrow. "Is that so?"'

"Hand over Scutari to me, and we'll stay loyal," hissed Demetrius. "Reject me, and Geoffrey will join me in uniting your vassals against you."

I look to Geoffrey, hoping to see something else in his expression, hoping he was a double agent. He looked serious to me.

This was a fight I could not win. Geoffrey and Demetrius controlled far more than half of my empire's military strength, and they would crush me if they marched on Constantinople. With only Duke Angelo Sanudo and the infant Conon III, I would not stand a chance.

It pains me greatly to do this, but I nod in agreement.
I officially hand Scutari over to Demetrius in a degrading ceremony. Once again, I am proven to be a lion without claws.
Demetrius declares war on Angelo Sanudo on January 5th, 1932, intending to subjugate him. I am unable to intercede in the conflict. A victory for the Lombard would mean his absolute domination of resources and wealth in the empire.
Meanwhile, the Serbs are busy humiliating Hungary. Man, those Serbs sure are irritating.

[Is that what they call "foreshadowing?" I think it might be.]
I give up my interest in kidnapping Demetrius; I decide to plot his death. My decade of rule has hardened me, destroyed my will to be lenient.
As my armies land in Thessaly, the forces of the Archipelago land in Chalcidice, while Thessalonica's armies march to Troad. They must eventually fight.

I write countless letters to Duke Angelo that ensure him that I pray for his success. I don't think he cares much.
While I don't believe that I've been an overly lazy person, I realize that perhaps I could be a harder worker. I decide in the spring of 1232 to try and be more diligent in my rule.
King Adam surrenders to the Serbs. Finally, I am free of my obligation to the Magyars.
My group of plotters, including Count Leonardo of Chios and Duke Angelo himself, continue to look for ways to finish Demetrius. Angelo ensures me that he's come up with something good, but that it may take some time to execute. I don't bother to tell him to hurry; he knows as well as I do that there's a ticking clock.
The forces of Angelo and Demetrius are actually pretty comparable in size, and I theorize that the war will be decided by one decisive fight, crippling the other's army so much that resistance would be futile. I pray and pray for Angelo's victory.
As camp fever officially leaves my lands, I reopen Constantinople and immediately visit the countryside. I had forgotten how beautiful Greece could be when not tortured by war.
The boy-king in Buda has once again called on me to bail him out. One of his most powerful vassals has risen up against him, and King Vladislav of Bohemia marches to war as well.

I cancel Emelisse's betrothal with him. He is clearly too weak to be of any use.
I instead arrange a match with King Jordan, the Greek ruler of Jerusalem. Being a member of the Doukas Laskaris family, I hope the match might provide some sense of stability in relations between my empire and the Greek remnant states surrounding me.
Later in the summer, Angelo writes to me to happily inform me that he's concocted a plan to kill Demetrius, making it seem as though he was attacked by Greek bandits. I approve the plan, hoping it wouldn't backfire...
...which it, of course, does. Demetrius's guards manage to fight off the ambush, and his torture of one of the mercenaries used in the attack reveals that Angelo had hired him with the backing of me. I wait for Demetrius's wrath to turn on me.
However, God smiles upon me, and gives me something even better than death-by-ambush. Just a month later, Demetrius dies from a disease he caught on campaign. While the official statement released from his family declares that he passed in his sleep, the rumor is that he died on the privy.

It is poetic justice that Demetrius died while shitting. May he rot in Hell.
As Demetrius died childless, the Kingdom of Thessalonica is claimed by his nephew Boniface (who was older than his uncle), the Marquess of Montferrat. Boniface, while living in Montferrat, pens me a letter that arrived on my desk in November.

"To Emperor Robert of the Romans,

I know you plotted the murder of my uncle. I know your crimes. I will be your vassal, but if you so much as look at me wrong, you shall find yourself at the receiving end of my lance.

- King Boniface Aleramici II of Thessalonica"

Rumors are that the man is more ambitious and capable than Demetrius ever was. I immediaetely decide to get on his good side.
While I wait for Boniface to arrive, I dismiss my former constable and appoint the more able (and dangerous) Boniface to the position. Hopefully this authority would keep him in line.
Also, because Boniface was technically still the Marquess, Montferrat entered my empire, if only in name.
After learning more about the hopeless situation of King Jordan in the Levant, I decide to break the betrothal. I'm not interested in sending my daughter into such a situation.
I arrange for her a tentative match with Prince Vladimir of Nizhny Novgorod. It wasn't the most ideal match in the world, but the Greek rulers of Constantinople had always allied with the Rus; perhaps it would be wise for me to follow in their footsteps.
While distributing letters across the east in the interest of finding Emelisse a partner, I discover a strange truth. For some reason, Queen Isabel of Cilicia and King Henry of Cyprus both marry Mongols - children of the legendary raider Temujin, no less. It's a strange arrangement to be sure.

[Anyone have an explanation for this?]
In the early months of 1234, a golden opportunity to unite the empire behind me appeared. Pope Alexander IV, a young and newly-appointed Italian, decided that he would make his mark. He declared another crusade - this one for the Levant, with the intention to prop up King Jordan, the Greek.

I am, no matter how you look at it, a Crusader King. I am an instrument of God's justice. This is my duty.
As soon as I can, I write to Pope Alexander to confirm my participation. Romania will take the cross.

Next chapter:

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

Check out another AAR:

Game: Other games

THE OFFICIAL CIVILIZATION BATTLE ROYALE X POWER RANKINGS: EPISODE 20

Images: 56, author: Gragg9, published: 2019-11-04