Achaea, Crusader State of
Religion: Hussite Christian
By Martin Helsdon
A 17th century Crusader Kingdom (with both Hussite and Catholic fighting for the Cross) arising from a Moslem attack on the great fortress of the Krak in Mansura. It enjoyed initial success, but lost much of its territory, finally founding the Kingdom of Macedon.
Unlikely to ever be written.
Danish Empire: Even while the Emperor entertained the ladies of the court and searched dilligently for a bride, plans and strategems of his advisors and even of the late Empress came suddenly to frutition. Word winged from the east on wings of disaster of the sudden assault and capture of the great fortress of the Krak in Mansura, taken by treachery and deciet. The news of the slaughter of its garrison, coupled with a rising tide of fanatacism in the landed gentry and common folk, led to a rippling ring of fire that soon engulfed the Empire. Fanned by the parish and city priests, the cry was raised throughout the cities of Germania, Italia and Baltia to reclaim that which had been lost centuries before.
"Jerusalem! Jerusalem!" came the cry of thousands, Hussite and Catholic alike. "The Holy of Holies must not remain defiled by the bloody feet of the Saracen!" shouted others. In all the guiding will of the state drove the frenzy to topple o'er the bounds of restraint and to rage through the streets and palazzos of the port cities. Moslem merchants were seized and ripped apart by mobs, their warehouses burned and looted. In the stately corridors of Venice, the mind of the Empire turned that hatred east, aiming an arrow of faith deep into the heart of the Moslem world.
The roads east from the heartland of Europle flowed first with a trickle and then a flood of the righteous. Landless knights, wayward youths, greybeards, nuns, hermits, mountebanks, hardened mercenaries, all began to stream east, following the white crosses of the Militant Brotherhoods. Daily Richard recieved reports as thousands of the faithful marched east along the great highways, even from Occitania and Wallachia. Now that the full multitude of the strength of the empire was revealed, some of Richard's advisors began to counsel caution and restraint. Such a mighty wind now stirred across the Empire that even the porticoes and arcades of Venice did rustle and whisper of it.
"Like the tiger it is," rumbled the ancient Vladislav to the council of the court, "soon it will burst its bonds and rage with bloody fang and claw, slaying all that would stay it." The Emperor laughed, his voice high, boyish, and bade the greybeard sit. "Fear not," he said, "this is the rod of Heaven and We will smite the saracen with it, as none has smitten them in centuries." Vladislav fell silent under the reproval of the young lord, but his heart was heavy... and rightly so.
The east is not without weapons of its own, and not all are armies of glittering lances and brave armor. Within weeks of that conference a shadowed figure slipped into the chambers of the Emperor in Venice and even as his grandfather had fallen, a needle of steel stole the life from the young ruler. When news of this cruel murder whispered out of the walls of Venice, and was met upon the streets by counter-rumors that none other than the Moslem Assassins, the tiger shattered loose from its cage and the Empire convulsed in religious havoc.
Amid the widespread rioting, religious hysteria, racial slaughter and general confusion, the matter of the dynastic succession was well nigh ignored. However Richard had died without an heir, leaving none to succede him to the throne of his fathers. The loss of central control while the religious frenzy exploded around the Empire proved crucial to following events. The militant brotherhoods, already charged with organizing and shepherding the crusaders east, now stepped forward and seized control of many eastern provinces to support the armies of the faithful. Governor Girolamo of Macedonia, faced with a veritable horde of the crusaders, joined their cause and was proclaimed "Sword of God".
In the west, armies that had marched upon Burgundy to avenge the insult made to the Empress Zoe turned back, their commanders riven with uncertainty. The Occitanian crusaders marched past from Paris, heading for the east and the slaughter of a vast religious war... Admiral Paleologai, commanding the combined Imperial armies at Venice, found himself emperor by default and declared a new dynasty. The other generals quickly joined him and seconded his actions. The accountants were worried by the massive blows to trade that had been delivered, but could find no one to inform of this.
Kingdom of Georgia: The Georgians consolidated their realm and established strong garrisons in all of the provinces that had fallen to their hand. The news of the attack on Mansura by Egyptians in the south shocked Jahan and the countering news of the Christian crusade filled him with dread. His small nation lay at the crossroads of disaster now! There must be some way to save his tiny realm, he thought. But what?
Crusader State of Achaea:Diplomacy: Eat steel, heathen!
The Acheans hold Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Thrace, Constantinople, Bithnia, Lydia, Crete, Attica, Thessaly, Cyprus and Dalmatia. Their capital is Thessaloniki.
Sultanate of Syria: Muhammed, now faced with bizilions of screaming Hussite crusaders, hurried to fortify Aleppo against the inevitable Crusader attack. At the same time he urged his religious leaders to rally the faithful behind the Sultanate and come forth to fight. Sadly the imams and mullahs informed the Sultan that all those who were filled with the glory of Allah had already gone some years ago to fight for the Egyptian Jihad in Africa and there were few left now who would heed such a call. Muhammed railed against God at this, sick fear clutching his heart at the disaster that might befall his new-found realm now. Indeed, the strain proved too much for his heart and he expired, still railing against cruel fate, while dressing for his morning staff meeting.
His son Omar, commanding the defence of Akko, was ill-pleased to take over at such a time, yet the duty was his and he would bear it nobly. Such forces as Omar could muster now gathered at Aleppo to withstand the Achean storm...
Kingdom of Georgia: The Georgians scampered into their holes in Anatolia and pulled them in after them. Gifts and presents were sent to the Acheans to mollify their great anger and Jahan hoped that his small and weak realm would not bear the brunt of the Christian storm.
Crusader State of Achaea: Diplomacy: Isauria(ea)
The Achean crusaders, hearts ablaze with righteous fury, crossed the Dardanelles and marched south along the Lydian coast into Isauria (where the prince swore great oaths of allegiance to Girolamo) and thence across the Pamphilian Gates into Cilicia, a Syrian province. Undefended by the Syrians the province received the full weight of the Hussite fervor and was converted to Hussite amid great slaughter and inquisition. Late in 1656 they were joined there by a force of Templars come from Morroco to fight the good fight against the infidels.
Some miles distant the Syrian border watch shuddered to hear the distant wailing screams. In Aleppo Omar thanked Allah profusely for making the Crusaders take the harsh coastal road rather than the Phyrigian-Pamphylan path through the Cilician Gates.
Sultanate of Egypt: Bilak for once did not hold the annual song competition, requesting instead a list of the best uses for a dead Hussite. While the Sultan pondered the reams of paper that this generated his engineers were hard at work, laying charges in the Canal. After only a few weeks of work they blew all of the locks and sank many barges filled with stones in the waterway, destroying it utterly. This accomplished the Langshan dug in, preparing to repel the expected Crusader attack.
Time passed and the Crusaders did not appear by sea. Word came by courier from the Syrian realm that the Crusader army had taken the land route along the Cicilian coast and would soon be attacking Antioch. At this news the Egyptians nodded and looked still north to the sea. The might of Denmark had yet to fall and when the hammer of the gods struck there would be glory aplenty for all! Spring wound away in peace and the Egyptian armies patrolled the shore, looking for the enemy.
At last, as summer blossomed full in the delta, a dire night came under the aegis of the new moon. Black as pitch the night closed upon Alexandria and the Krak. Unseen by the feyaheen Danish ships crept close to the Mansuran shore. Suddenly fire leapt in the night and great shapes rose from the waters, borne aloft by guttering flame. On the shore two fellahein looked up in horror and amazement as the great shapes glided past above, their passage marked only by a distant creaking sound and a low hissing. Later, as dawn began to rise from her bed, reaching rosy colored fingers to the raiment of heaven, the guard upon the Krak slept in the chill pre-dawn. Suddenly there came a shout in the darkness and then the rippling crack of a thousand cannon shells. Within the fortress the garrison leapt awake to the thundering noise and rushed to their posts. Hellfire fell from the sky as the Danish aerocommando landed on the ramparts and roofs of the great citadel. The feyaheen guards, rushing to the defence, were shredded by bursting charges raining from above, charges that spit forth hundreds of iron bullets, turning the interior of the fort into a blood-slick charnel house.
The aerial attack failed to carry the fortress, the Danes were too few to overcome the garrison, but it did sow confusion and disorder amongst the defenders of Mansura. The Egyptian fleet, alerted, slipped from its hidden anchorages in the winding waterways of the delta and put to sea, intending to fall upon the Danish invasion fleet.
That fleet, in turn, was making landfall at El'Alamein on the coast to the west of Alexandira. Bilak's scouts quickly espied the vast armada of the Danes and fled before its sight to the Khan to tell him of this. Bilak was quick to percieve his peril and his entire army was upon the road within hours to make a perilous dash to El'Alamein and crush the Danish army before it could reform upon the shore and come upon him in full array.
76,000 Danish troops had come ashore at El'Alamein and Bilak attacked their beachhead with 39,000 men, desperately praying that his rush to battle would catch the Christians in confusion upon the strand and drive them into the sea. There was great valor and bravery and slaughter upon that strip of sand that day, but the Danes did not falter and the Egyptian host was turned back, wounded unto death on Danish grapeshot and musketry. Bilak was killed and Prince Takash captured. The LangShan khan escaped with the Sultans guard to Alexandria where he fortified the city and waited for the second round to begin.
The Danish commander. General Tzmisces, drew his army about his like a cloak and advanced into the delta with his fleet pacing him at sea, spread wide in a net to snare the Egyptian fleet in turn. Alexandria had long been turned into a maze of fortifications, moats, enflaides and redoubts. Tzmices surveyed it with a wary eye and then put his full weight against the outlying defences of the city, hoping to crush the Egyptian resistance before reaching the sloping mud brick walls of the capital. The LangShan stood ready to make him pay in bright blood for every step. The Danes led off with draken above, hurling sheets of flame into the Egyptian trenches and spying upon their movements behind the lines. The LangShan defence was valorous and fierce, but the grey tide of Denmark oe'erwhelmed all resistance, smothering it in a black rain of shot and fire.
At last the walls of Alexandria were under the barrage and Tzmisces men were feverishly trenching and counter-trenching against them. The Alexandrian defence was well manned with experts in the cruel work of siege. There would be no easy entrance into the city. And lo, it was not, yet still did Alexandria fall to the terrible Dane and the Langshan banners fell into darkness and ruin with their last stand on this distant shore. Mansura was liberated by the end of 1656 and the Danes secured control of the northern delta.
Sultanate of Syria: The Syrians now leapt into action with a frenzy. The new city of Damascus was quickly evacuated, all its people heading east for the perhaps illusory protection of Baghdad. The Syrian armies poured into Antioch to prevent the Achaean army from breaking out of the Cilician coast and into the north Syrian plain. Omar declared that the Karatao Khan was now his heir and placed that worthy in command of the evacuation to Baghdad of the women and children. Omar himself took up the defence of Antioch, for here it was that he would cast his lot and read his fate...
Crusader State of Achaea: The night before the Achean Host of God marched east into history and glory, Marco Girolamo, the Sword himself, was walking in the camp, going from campfire to campfire, speaking with his men, urging them to bend their prayers to God and to victory, to disavow fear, to let only righteousness guide them. Thus he came upon a group of men, sitting about a merry blaze near to the strings of horses maintained by the Host, and sat with them awhile and spoke of the Word of the Lord. And he found these men to be well versed in the scriptures, and well spoken too, and not afraid to contemplate the questions that have often vexed the mighty. Girolamo was most pleased to find such learned men amongst his troops and, at length, inquired of them their names and from which city or province they hailed.
"Why," spoke their leader, rising from his seat, "from the distant Tower of Eagles, lord, from Alamut the Mighty, from the Throne of the Finger of God." And then the encamped men fell upon Girolamo and bore him down, neatly clubbing him unconcious. And so was the Sword borne away in darkness and fell into nighted seas of mystery and deceit and was not seen again.
Upon the rising of the sun, the Sword's guards found that he no longer lay within his tent and there was a great hue and cry. The whole army roused itself, shaking off the murmurs of night and casting aside the cloak of sloth. In that great commotion no sign or scent of the great lord was found and his generals, Father Grolingen first among them, came to the cruel conclusion that the Sword had fallen into the hands of the Moslem dogs. At the same time news came from a courier from those Hussites still alive in Aleppo that the Syrian armies had come into Antioch and had brought with them a great store of food and arms. Even now the walls were being repaired and strengthened. Grolingen felt the hot breath of the chase upon him and ordered the army march hence.
Within weeks the Host of God marched up the coastal road from the town of Payas and looked for the first time upon the whitewashed walls of Antioch and saw them strongly held by many thousands of Syrians. Grolingen muttered darkly to see the myriad banners of the hosts and companies of Syria upon the walls. His men he deployed to surround the city and prepared to visit fire and storm upon the defence. Within the city the defenders looked in awe upon the vast size of the Achaean host, counting heads they guessed that there were over 60,000 crusaders. So too did they espy the banners of the Knights Templar amidst the Hussite host and knew with cold certainty that all Christenden had come against them as one!
Within days the Achean army stormed the walls in full scale assault, ladders and all. The Syrians meted out a storm of fire but it did not daunt the religious zeal of the Crusaders and the walls were carried in a single bloody afternoon. The Syrian defenders were hunted down and slain to a man and the city came once more under the purview of Christian lords. Following this swift victory the Acheaeans overran an undefended Syria and captured the almost empty city of Damascus. Both Aleppo and Syria were converted back to Hussitism, leaving the populations in the usual state of moral confusion.
Crusader State of Achaea: The Crusaders turned over the administration of Aleppo and Antioch to the Knights Templar. At the same time the Crusader army rolled west from Syria and crushed the rather feeble defences of Lebanon and then south into Jordan. Both provinces were converted to Hussite as well. Meantime, just across the border in Levant, the Danish garrison of Jerusalem was utterly shocked one morning when the guards at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher dragged in none other a luminary than the arch-devil himself, Alexander! Apparently the Pontiff had made his way into the Holy Land in sack-cloth and ashes and had entered the Church in the garb of an itinerant pilgrim. Unfortunately for Alexander, the Holy Sepulcher is under the custodianship of the Eastern Patriarch and the Bishop presiding over the morning services recognized Alexander and instantly summoned the Danish guards to apprehend him.
The Danish governor was more than a little startled, but pleased nonetheless, and contacted the Office of the Barbarians to turn the enchained Pontiff over. Those worthies were very quick to bundle the hapless prisoner onto a fast frigate for Venice. The delivery of the Azorean ringleader to the prisons under the Palace of the Pearl was met with grim delight by the Empress and a very heavy guard was installed upon the priest.
United Kingdoms of Britain: Several hundred more monks, priests and clergymen - all chosen for their particular fervor and religious intent - were shipped off to the Holy Land (at government expense no less) that they might give the Achaean realm the benefit of their holy zeal.
Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem: The Templars took over administration of the newly won province of Aleppo from the Achaeans and were quickly put to the test as a force of Syrian cavalry attempted to raid into the region. The Templars were well able to drive off this incursion and did so with gusto!
Sultanate of Syria: Omar continued his efforts to evacuate provinces threatened by the Acheaean advance, but was stymied in this effort by the inexplicable failure of the Crusaders to attack Syrian provinces. Instead Omar learned that the Achaeans were campaigning in the south against the Bey of Petra and against Danish lands! He shrugged at this odd behaviour and returned to Baghdad to oversee his struggling government.
Crusader State of Achaea: Prince Tzetsas made a few extra guilders by selling the recently acquired province of Cilicia to the Knights Templars. Wags in the capital noted that Tzetsas was making little effort to find the missing King Marco, lost for lo these last six years, and had - in fact - removed all likenesses of the missing King from the palace and had had his name stricken from all official documents.
Father Grolingen and the Crusader army continued their oddly directed campaign in Palestine by crushing and converting the independent beyar of Petra and then sweeping the Danish garrison out of Levant and taking Akko by storm before instituting a severely repressive progrom against the Moslems in that province and converting it as well (amid awful slaughter and butchery) to Hussite. This brought howls of protest from the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox priests in Jerusalem who felt that the bloody-handed tactics of Grolingen's troops would be counter-productive in the volatile mix of the Holy Land. Grolingen answered with a sneer that "if there is only one faith, then there are no arguments and no trouble...".
Grand Duchy of Wallachia: The Wallachians refused to answer questions posed by a number of Achaean visitors about the whereabouts of the missing King Marco.
Danish Empire: His further conversations with the captive Alexander did not better his mood and he set off for Jerusalem by courier ship. He turned back after making landfall at Alexandria when word reached him of the Achaean campaign that rendered the Levantine coast closed.
Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem: The Templars continued to expand their eastern domain by the expenditure of gold, purchasing Cilicia from the Achaeans.
Sultanate of Syria: Omar had been neither blind nor quiet to the news filtering out of the southern sands. The Arabian tribes had grown strong again in the years since the Fire of Allah had swept out of the south. The S'audi in the southern wastes now pressured all their neighbors, and the Dah'na in the north were equally restive. Omar, dressed only in poor robes, wound his way south in early 1663, visiting the camps and oases of the tribes, breaking bread and sharing salt with the native cheifs. He bore with him the tales of Hussite savagery, of the despoiling of the Rock in El'Khudz, of the loss of El'Quahiyra to the Christian dogs. He promised the tribes rich land, with water and many slaves. He promised them battle against the infidel as their fathers had once tasted. By the end of 1663, the Arabian sands trembled at the passing rush of thousands of horses. Omar returned to Baghdad, and news of the Achaean siege of Homs, at the head of an army 70,000-strong. Bilak, second of the Four, joined him with the Syrian army and as one they marched up the valley of the Euphrates to battle and, praise Allah, victory!
Kingdom of Macedon: The Acheans, smarting at the rumors that Tzetsas had conspired with the Wallachians to have Girolamo kidnapped and then to bungle the Crusade in the Holy Land so that the religious factions in the government would be discredited, ordered Grolingen, commanding the Crusader army, to attack Palmyra and take the Moslem city of Homs. At the same time, Tzetsas returned administration of the Levant to the Danish Empire and apologized for the 'oversight'.
Grolingen picked up his army in Levant and marched north through Jordan and Syria into Palmyra. There he found the land empy of peasants and the Syrian general Asuf Aram holed up in a very well defended Homs. Grolingen laid siege to the ancient city and prepared to spend the summer of 1663 hammering its walls down. Unforunately for the Crusaders, their previous victories had all come with the steady hand of the Knights Templar at the helm. Grolingen now commanded alone and, well, he really was not cut out for it. After four months of fruitless siege work, Grolingen stopped his active efforts to take the city, prefering to starve it into submission instead.
Unfortunately for him, after two months of making increasingly strident demands of the defenders, the southern horizon was suddenly darkened by the thick dustcloud raised by the advancing Syrian army. Grolingen was shocked! Why, it seemed that the Syrians had come out of fight at last. He was overjoyed. Now his men had a clear field to fight on and a target not shrouded with stone and battlements. Grolingen ordered his men from their camps and into battle formation. As he surveyed the Crusader lines, he suddenly became concerned. Where were the endless ranks of pikes, muskets and cannon? How had his men become drawn with fever, bad food and the strain of the siege? How had so many died? After hammering at the indomitable walls of Homs for six months, the Crusader army could only put 14,000 men into the field for battle.
The Syrians, on the other hand, had 65,000 men and the disaster for the Crusade was complete. With the S'aud and Dah'na cavalry forming a pair of giant horns, the Hussites could not even escape the trap. Their army was utterly annhilated and the Syrian host then split into two. Bilak and the Syrian regulars turned south down the road to Damascus, while the S'audi and Dah'na pushed north-west into Aleppo. With Grolingen's army destroyed and the Knights Templars off fighting in Spain, there was nothing to prevent the onrush of the Moslems. Aleppo, Cilicia, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Levant and Petra all fell once more under the sway of the Syrian lords. The Moslem population - nominally converted to Hussite by threat of arms - welcomed them with open arms and a thousand shouted prayers to Allah! In Baghdad, Omar wept with relief that the infidel had been driven from the land.
But the troubles of the Acheans were not over yet, no indeed. These odd rumors that the long missing King was held in durance vile at the behest of the Chancellor Pandrides continued, and then suddenly on a bright spring day the market-day chatter of the agora of Athens was interrupted by a shocked hush as none other than Marco Girolamo, the Missing King, climbed up upon the speaker's stone and called upon the free men of Athens, of Greece, to rise up and join him in ousting the tyrant Pandrides from his stolen throne! News of the return of the King spread like wildfire through the Achean provinces and all men soon were arguing with one another over wether this Girolamo was a fraud or the true King.
In Thessaloniki, the crisis was exacerbated by the nearly mortal wounding of the Chancellor Pandrides by a Girolamist supporter. The ruling clique also soon split, with Thucides Arava and his regiments abandoning the capital to join Girolamo in the countryside. Girolamo, well funded by enemies of Pandrides, now marched against Thessaloniki as open fighting broke out across the kingdom between the Girolamists and the Pandiridi. The 'rebel' army marched into Macedon, swollen by the angry folk of Attica and Thessaly, and Pandrides was carried into battle on a great wooden bed - his legs being paralyzed by the assassin's attack.
The battle of the ford of Ayinion pitted the 18,000 Girolamists against 10,000 Pandridi. King Marco carried the day, smashing the Pandridi and driving them from the field. The Chancellor was killed, crushed under his giant bed and his supporters fled to Bulgaria and Serbia. Thessaloniki surrendered within days, as some of the populace welcomed this King that they had not seen in long years. The victory feasting lasted for days, but at its end, the returned King succumbed to a gripping ague and died, leaving even more chaos in his passing. Since Avara Thucides had died in the battle at Ayinion, the mantle of leadership fell to his brother, Gustav, and that stalwart established a new Germanic dynasty in the Macedonian capital.
The Pandridi that had fled raised anew the banners of their rebellion, gaining control of Serbia, Bulgaria and Bosnia. All else pledged fealty to Gustav and his new regime.
The Swords of God
- Marco Girolamo 1653-1661
- Tzetsas Pandrides 1661-1663
- Martin Chandler T163-T168