So. The Crusade was coming. His soldiers, his people, had dodged a spear thrust when the Catholics had taken up the Cross and began marching on independent Jerusalem some years back, but it was not to be twice. Now, that devilish offspring the Patriarch of Constantinople had ordered that the Byzantine forces concentrate and strike like a dagger in the very heart of his lands: Cairo itself. The Caliph cursed himself. The Great Schism, splitting Catholicism and Orthodoxy, was supposed to weaken the Christian faith. It was supposed to benefit his people! Instead, what had happened was that when one spiritual leader focused his efforts on one particular area, the Caliph was not out of the woods yet, for he had to worry about the second leader’s whims. Curse the luck!
Clutching a translated copy of Nicholas’s Proclamation of 1110, he read it again in anger. None of this would be happening if it wasn’t for that Vissarionas ek Lesvou escaping the city and making his way back to that temple of perfume and heresy, Constantinople, where he proceeded to loosen his tongue faster than a snake uncoiled when it was ready to strike prey.
The Proclamation spoke truth, yes. But, as the Greeks were so adept at doing, the truth was manipulated to serve their own causes. Yes, the monasteries were to be destroyed. Yes, the city was to be purged. But it was to save further bloodshed. The Caliph recalled the meeting with his advisors, that fateful meeting back in 1108, which he surmised someone had overheard and tipped this Vissarionas off, all too well:
It had started off normally enough. The Caliph, his viziers, and the other advisors were meeting in the usual chamber, discussing mundane events such as finances and minor campaigns. After some time, though, the topic had changed to a more contentious subject matter.
“Your Excellency,” said the Grand Vizier, “I believe it is now time to discuss the matter I had briefed you on earlier.”
“Yes,” said the Caliph, speaking in his usual deep, rich, self-assured voice, the voice of someone used to being listened to and respected. “The Grand Vizier recently received this letter and passed it onto me. The author is anonymous, but it is only because of that that I take this threat so seriously.”
“What does the letter speak of, Excellency?” asked a lesser advisor.
“I will now read directly from it,” said the Caliph, “for it is short and concise.” He cleared his throat and began reading out loud.
As someone concerned with the welfare of the people of Cairo, not to mention your continued blessed rule, the duty falls upon me to inform you of a nefarious plot being hatched by the Christians living in your very city. You have probably already heard of this, for you are wise and your gaze sees far, but if you have not, then consider yourself lucky that you did not go uninformed for any longer.
The plot concerns the Christians of Cairo rising up in armed rebellion. They aim to kill as many Muslims as they can and are specifically targeting the ruling class of Cairo: i.e. you, your family, and your advisors.
Under the leadership of one Vissarionas ek Lesvou, an Orthodox Greek currently living in the Christian quarters of the city, the rebels intend to use the ancient monasteries of Paul the Hermit and the like as a rally point to attract like-minded men from all over the Caliphate. Once a sufficient number of sympathizers have been recruited, they aim to march into the city and do what mobs do best. They will not stop until every single man, woman, and child in Cairo is nothing more than a stinking, smoldering, corpse.
I am not one to tell you how to act, Excellency, and I trust you will do so competently. I am just informing you of what certain people plan to execute under your watch.
“In addition to the letter, the author is so kind as to print this Vissarionas’s address below,” the Caliph finished.
“The Caliph and I both believe this man’s integrity,” the Grand Vizier said, “as do we the plan described. Frankly, the Gnostic and Coptic sects living in the city have been too quiet now for a while, as if they were plotting something. Here is the proof.”
“Obviously, there will be repercussions to this,” said the Caliph, “and they will be severe. We will start by depriving these rebels of a rallying point.”
“The ancient monasteries?” A lesser advisor now spoke up. “How interesting. Are we sure we want to proceed with this?”
“Absolutely,” said the Caliph. “I cannot allow this sort of thing to happen, after all. Yes, the ancient monasteries are to be destroyed immediately, the ones that are still standing. I've left them up for far too long as it is. This land, Allah be praised, has long been purged of heathen control.”
Everyone was silent, waiting for the Caliph to finish his thought.
“I think it’s time I finished the job. Clearly, any Christian influence in these lands, even a weak one, is blasphemous and ultimately detrimental to the good Children of Allah. It's time that we start following Sharia more closely.”
“What do you suggest, Your Excellency?”
“Expel some Christians from Cairo. Kill the rest. And make certain we expel those after we kill the others, so that the expelled know never to return. From now on, there will be no place for Christians of any denomination in Cairo.”
The advisors were silent for a minute, then departed, all bowing to the Caliph before doing so. Soon it was just him and the Grand Vizier in the room.
“Send five soldiers to the address on the letter as well,” he ordered the Vizier. “If Vissarionas is identified then have them kill him on sight. This rebellion will be crushed before it has the chance to even begin.”
The Vizier, nodding, bowed and followed the other advisors out of the chamber, signaling the end of the meeting.
Yes, someone had tipped Vissarionas off about his move, just like someone had tipped him off about the rebellion. Aliya was the first suspect, of course; after all, it was through her that he was granted access to the Palace in the first place. “Greek tutor,” he had been. Bah! In the Caliph’s mind, the only thing worse than an infidelious relationship was a treasonous one, and he suspected Aliya and Vissarionas had been in both. She had first proclaimed innocence and ignorance again and again, and then, when sensing fate was not on her side, had managed to charm him just enough to make him hesitate ordering her arrest, time which she used to climb out one of the windows of the Palace and disappear.
However, the past was past. The Caliph, unfortunately, was stuck in the trying present, with numerous Byzantine forces incoming and hell-bent on taking his capital. He would have to react. He would have to counter.
And would defense be enough? Should his forces perform as true soldiers of the Caliphate should, the Greeks would be deprived of a great many men and nobles, leaving them gutted at home. Would it be enough, though? When Vissarionas ek Lesvou sought refuge in Constantinople itself after his flight from Cairo? Of course not.
The Caliph drew inspiration from the two swordsmen, always fighting. When one lunged in a desperate attack, and it went either wide or was parried away, the attacker was always left out of position. In this situation, any good blademaster would always follow up the defense with a punishing counter-attack. More often than not these moves would be successful enough to end the fight.
Yes, the Byzantines were lunging. And in doing so, they were leaving themselves very vulnerable. For lunging, for threatening first through arousal of rebellion and then through outright war, the very Muslim way of life, they were vulnerable. And they would thus be subject to the most ferocious counter-attack the Caliph could offer.
It was time for a Jihad.
OOC: Welcome to Part 2 of the 3rd in-game event. Now those people who didn’t go on Crusade will definitely have something to do.