I would first like to say thank you to everyone who has waited patiently for the third installment. This one will be shorter (in span of years, anyway) than the other two, but I wanted to highlight my war with the Timurids and the immediate aftereffects. As a result, this series will continue on to a fourth part, where I wrap up the final thirty years (assuming nothing EXTREMELY huge happens).
The Great Syrian Jihad
All across Europe the couriers raced, each to a different direct vassal of His Majesty, bringing word of Caliph Guyug's great insult. Upon receiving the news, every lord and lady immediately raises their levies in defense of the realm. All forces in the Northern, Western, and Southern parts of the Empire are ordered to march to the nearest port and wait for a fleet capable of transporting their entire host. The armies of Byzantium, however, are commanded to march east, to begin forming a defensive wall against the Mongol invaders.
Raising a Host
Numerous foes appear near Jerusalem and Syria and begin engaging the Imperial soldiers there before they even have time to form up. Luckily, none of the Timurid armies seem very threatening. The Emperor, attempting to quickly subdue a peasant revolt in the North, is bothered by the lack of strength behind these attacks. The Timurids had swept through many of the emirs and sultans in the east with relative ease, even challenging the Ilkhanate. The paltry force they were showing now could not have hoped to accomplish all that in as short a time as they did. This was at best a diversionary force, attempting to draw attention away, but away from where? And then news comes from Georgia...
The Khan Rides South
A vast Mongol horde, numbering nearly 100,000 mostly mounted troops, was marching southwest into Imperial territory. The scout who had given the report claimed to have seen the Khan himself and two of his generals leading the vast army. The Shield of the East and two other levies happen to be close, and so begin to move into defensive positions. Svend hopes to catch the Mongols in the mountains by tempting them into an engagement with the Shield of the East and then closing in from both sides with the auxiliary forces. However, Guyug is no stranger to war, and the Khan's men move faster then his counterpart anticipated...
The Eastern Defenders are Engaged!
The Shield of the East, loyal defenders of Scandinavia and some of the finest trained men in all of Europe, are caught in a valley as the horsemen race down the slopes and surround them. One of His Majesty's nephews and two veteran courtiers are in command, and do their best to rally the men into giving a spirited defense. And then the arrows begin to fly. They come from every direction and their sources are constantly moving back and forth, left and right. The swarm is extremely aggravating, but the men have little time to be enraged before they begin dropping to lie in pools of their own blood. The attack is swift and ferocious, and it is only by some miracle that the three generals escape after their entire host has been demolished, leaving only a small dent of a few thousand in the Timurid army. The Shield of the East is broken.
The Khan continues moving his army west, further into the Byzantine heartland. As he rides, a few small forces, ordered into a full retreat by Emperor Svend, prove too slow and are trampled under the massive weight of the horde. Fearing the Caliph means to strike at the capital itself, a defensive screen is set up around Constantinople. Meanwhile, the rebels in the North are finally cornered and defeated, freeing Svend to return to return to the seat of his Empire. Upon his arrival the Timurids are only a few counties away and continuing their relentless march, targeting one of the smaller forces guarding the capital. But then His Majesty devises a plan. If the Mongols want to strike Constantinople, by all means he should open the front doors. He orders the defense forces to return to their ships and wait on the coastline for his signal. For the men currently threatened by the horde, they are commanded to make fast march to Constantinople, to lead the Khan there. Despite Guyug's head start, they manage to keep a few days ahead of him, until finally...
Constantinople Braces for Impact
The Emperor and his two best generals take command of the city's troops, readying themselves for the tumultuous battle ahead. A day before the great horde arrives, messages are sent to the admirals of the defense fleets, letting them know the time has come. Sails are unfurled and oars put out, and over 4000 ships begin moving toward the capital's port. Meanwhile, Guyug arrives with his host and immediately engages Emperor Svend's forces. Knights, men-at-arms, horsemen, and many more clash together in a great flurry of steel and arrows, but the Khan's forces begin to push the Imperial defenders back...
Their Finest Hour
...and then a great shout goes up from the docks. The mighty Khan looks to the harbor and sees a great sea of wood and cloth sailing into port. Some have already docked and are rapidly unloading thousands of Imperial soldiers. Within minutes a vast host is gathered and charging toward the would-be conquerors, cutting the legs out from under their horses. The battle rages on for several days, but in the end 30,000 Imperials and twice as many Mongols lay dead, and Khan Guyug is forced into a full retreat. The great horde is broken. Emperor Svend gives pursuit, running down their remnants in Thrace, while the Caliph flees back to his capital in the far east. A few months later he sends a messenger under a peace banner, formally surrendering to Scandinavia.
Long Live Scandinavia!
Unfavored by the Divine
The Empire spends the next year in jubilation. Svend holds a great tournament and procession in the Hippodrome and begins preparing for a grand feast. Not long after, however, the Empire returns to its daily affairs, and the peasantry grow restless again, rising up in various counties and demanding independence. As is his custom, Svend takes part in personally leading troops against the rebellions, riding into battle alongside his soldiers, though he notices his sword arm seems less swift lately.
Pain shoots through the Emperor's body as the axe bites through his armor. His assailant is slow to pull it out, however, giving His Majesty just the window he needs to run the man through before being pulled away by two of his loyal retainers. As the new year arrives and Svend returns to his throne, he takes a moment to look at himself in a reflective surface. His face has become wrinkled and his hair is beginning to turn white. He wonders where the years have gone, how it could be so long from the time he was known as Svend, the Boy Sovereign. And he realizes, with a growing sense of urgency, that he has had five sons. Three were made into bishops, to prevent the five crowns from being split amongst warring brothers. However, Svend has no more bishoprics, and he has never been able to bring himself to disinherit his second son. He is a better heir overall than his elder brother, and attractive at that. If nothing is changed, the Empire will be split in two, and waves of blood will wash the land as brothers become enemies, each vying for the territory he believes should belong to him. It could easily escalate beyond the scope of the war just now won, turning the fields of Europe red and enticing foreign invaders. What is an old man to do?
An Old Man and his Sons