The Fall of Constantinople
My first literary work, started off at a really young age back in 2005, first posted in 2005 on Total War Org and in 2008 on Total War Center. The first chapters of the book, mainly the prologue, cover the period of Manuel the IInd Palaiologos, the grandfather of the last emperor that died at the Siege of Constantinople in 1453. The theme of the prologue (and the rest of the book), covers the Fall of Constantinople under the might of the Ottoman Turks in 1453, and my work shall be offering an alternative and hopefully complete view of the world changing events that happened during that era, which I hope you will enjoy.
Historical reality will combine with action packed events to create an explosive historical novel, which I hope the whole forum would love. The first five chapters of the book have been entirely edited from previous versions. If you have read them before, make sure you take another read now, it is completely different.
I hope you enjoy your read, and as always, feedback is greatly appreciated.
Chapter I is below.
Chapter II - http://forums.totalwar.org/vb/showpo...54&postcount=8
Chapter III - http://forums.totalwar.org/vb/showpo...0&postcount=11
Chapter IV - http://forums.totalwar.org/vb/showpo...3&postcount=17
Chapter V - http://forums.totalwar.org/vb/showpo...6&postcount=20
Chapter I - Clouds
His hands were gripped tight on the rail, his breath came in ragged spurts, small wisps of steam formed around the edges of his tired face. Underneath his heavy eyes the spectacular beauty of the blue Golden Horn contrasted with the deplorable ruins that were no longer hidden from view when he glanced from the edge of his open balcony atop the Blacharnae Palace. Reflecting from the dark blue of the Black Sea, the sun's rays bounced off again on the imposing walls of Constantinople that were no longer the sight he was proud of. Crumbling and showing enough cracks to worry even the most optimistic person, Manuel no longer placed their faith in them. He did not place faith any more in anything except maybe on the people he trusted but he knew that even trust eroded just as the impregnable walls.
Dressed in a simple purple silk caftan and red velvet shoes, Manuel huddled closer to the rail and crossed his hands at the sudden gust of wind. Despite the bright sun on a cloudless day, the air was still cold and the hairs on his back rose slightly to make him shudder for a moment. When the wind stopped heavy thoughts returned into his head, his heart aching at the problems he found himself into and the empire, or what remained of it, found itself in. He gripped the rail tighter just as if he wanted to crunch it into small pieces because of his simmering anger but it only served to dig his own sharp nails deep into his palm. Manuel shuddered again at the gust of wind that swept the open balcony, forcing him to return to the bedroom chamber of the palace. He dropped the caftan on his bed and went straight to the drawers in the corner of the room, waving the servant away.
A long porphyry silk robe with embroidered golden threads slid over his slim body, closing the somewhat large knots over his garment to make it look larger and more imposing on his aged figure. He slipped on his favourite red velvet shoes and fixed the gilded crown atop his head, the embedded Eastern diamonds and rubies shining in the light of the candles scattered across the bedroom. With the crown fixed in position he turned to the crystal mirror given as a gift to the empire by an Indian emissary and gazed at his wrinkled forehead that looked even more obvious than before. He touched and straightened his eyebrows in order to make him look imposing, applying the same treatment to the bushy white beard that ran along the edges of his jaws. His high cheekbones, straight nose and large brown eyes made him an attractive proposition for women, but his mind forgot about the pleasures of life long time ago. Manuel sighed, remembering his long lost youth.
He dipped his veiny hands in a bucket of cold water at the edge of the four poster bed, splashing the icy drops to sooth his senses and turn him slightly more alert. Drops dripped down his chin onto his expensive garments but Manuel did not care much about it, preferring to stumble from the bed and out of the chamber itself to the eastern part of the palace. He walked out of his room into a long and narrow corridor, cold, damp and with a strong current rushing through it, only dimly lit by acouple of torches right at it's end. As he walked through the darkness his mind swayed back to the problems and possible solutions of the diplomatic challenges he faced, and the concessions and advantages he still had that he could give away. Manuel smirked, stopping at the edge of the stairs that led to a another corridor, his displeasure visible at his lack of options.
He was about the meet the dignitaries of the surviving Byzantine state, the shadow of a once powerful senate that used to hold the true power in the empire. The empire dwindled to a fraction of it's territories but the men in the senate were just as rich as those who held the power when the empire reached it's zenith, much to the annoyance and restlessness of the general population that baulked at the greed and opulence the senators flaunted. Manuel thought the same, but his concern was genuine rather than the pure jealousy of those who wanted the same. Shaking his head once more at the thought, he stepped over the stairs and advanced through a wider corridor at the top of the steps that ended in a booming laughter and brightly lit palace hall that expanded outside in the darkness with a strong echo.
Manuel entered the Chancellery, a spacious rectangular hall with a golden chandelier hanging from the ceiling just above the velvet chairs positioned in an incline as if the whole senate was just a huge tribune of a Greek theatre. Almost every chair was occupied, as his eyes could see, exchanging quick glances and pleasantries with those who stood at the base of the incline and ahead of the golden throne. The mahogany desk ahead of him was filled with papers and parchments but it was not the piles that he had to sift through that annoyed him, it was the unusual stir that drew his attention and provoked his ire at the same time, unaccustomed to the blatant lack of respect for his own persona. The hush between the statesmen stopped the moment Manuel took his place on the throne. The Byzantine emperor glanced at them with interest, his eyebrows wrinkled in a small frown, his hands clasped together at the level of his nose. A heavy silence suddenly hovered above the Chancellery, a silence he came to expect by now.
He knew the meeting would be delicate, and frightening at the same time. His own personal views often contrasted with the rest of the senate but this time he knew he had to impose his own will to rule over the personal interests of the factions within. Even more so over those who were clearly on the Ottoman payroll. Manuel reclined back on his golden throne and signaled to the servants who arranged the papers on his desk in an orderly fashion. He took one last glance at the senators and cleared his throat.
“Senators, hear me out, it is time I speak out to you on a delicate issue that needs our utmost attention. I shall be brief with it, so only the necessary details will be spared. The other day I have received, with great surprise, an offer of alliance from Murad, the son of Sultan Mehmet, with regards to his military and political bid to the Ottoman throne.” Manuel paused, hearing a couple of muffled hushes and talks within the corners of the Chancellery. “If we support his attempt in the detriment of his brother, we shall enjoy our continued relations with them along further commercial concessions and mutual help from our Ottoman friends. In this time of only relative stability this presents us with a golden opportunity which I will try to fully maximise, and it is now that I expect from you the decision to extend our help to Murad, or, decline it.”
A heavier silence filled the hall, a common expression of incredulity and disbelief at the seemingly outrageous proposal of an alliance with the Ottoman Empire. Some of the senators glanced at each other, baffled and some even laughing, not knowing what to make of Manuel's quick words. A tall, wiry man, stood up and cleared his throat, tilting his head backwards in an arrogant stance.
“Is this a joke, Palaiologos?” asked Lysandros Kaligas.
“Did Basileus Manuel make it sound like one?” came the swift comeback of Giorgios Sphrantzes, the emperor's own personal advisor who stood upright behind the golden throne, his green eyes twinkling with fury at the blatant disrespect.
“I do not know, maybe it is, everything lately is a joke. We have to support this man so we can gain only some small benefits. I call this shameful!”
“Why don't you do a better job, Kaligas? You seem to know everything,” countered Sphrantzes.
“I'm sure he would do a better job at rousing the beggars away from Constantine's Forum,” said Demetrios Cantacuzenos, a burly senator with thinning hair around his head, well past his second youth.
Manuel stood silent as the senators laughed. “No need for these words. We are here for the future of our children, not to discuss ironies and share jokes between us.”
Kaligas smirked. “And support our fiercest enemies?”
“Friends and enemies quickly change sides in these times, I only seek out an objective counsel,” replied Manuel.
“I do not think it is the wisest of ideas.”
“Can you come up with better, Kaligas?” asked Sphrantzes.
Cantacuzenos stood up. “My emperor, how sure are we of Murad's success regarding his claim to the Ottoman throne?”
“He assured me of his triumph in the letter he addressed me, backing it up with strong arguments.”
“He is in complete control of the army, and the majority of the dignitaries support him unconditionally.”
“And what would we gain if we support him?” countered Kaligas.
“Commercial concessions in all of the Ottoman ports, good relations and almost no chance of an impending war which would irreversibly harm us,” completed Sphrantzes, reading from the document in his hands.
“It sounds too vague, all these promises can be broken immediately,” replied Kaligas, shaking his head in disapproval.
“I must agree with Senator Kaligas on this matter, despite my heavy heart, my lord,” said Senator Pavlios, another one of Manuel's enemies within the Senate. Manuel glanced at his prune face and almost emaciated body but said nothing.
“I will remind you that the last time we supported an Ottoman Sultan only good came out of it,” said Sphrantzes.
“Words can be changed my dear Giorgios,” countered Kaligas.
“I would rather rely on them for the moment.”
“And what if they are broken?” said Pavlios.
“In the near future they will not, that we know as much,” replied Cantacuzenos.
“Senator Cantacuzenos is right. For the moment such an agreement only brings us benefits.”
“The near future does not interest me at all, Cantacuzenos, I want to hear the long term impact,” replied Kaligas.
“I agree with Senator Kaligas,” added Pavlios.
Cantacuzenos shook his head. “You two are always in agreement when it comes to the Ottoman problem. We have been presented with an opportunity, and we refuse it?”
Kaligas nodded firmly. “Yes, it does not suit our interests.”
Manuel held up his hand. “I see that some of you agree with it, but most of you are resisting the proposal I have made. Promises can be broken easily but it is better than to stand here and do nothing. If he wins, which I am sure he will, he will grant us at least some concessions. Nobody is cowardly enough to kick the help once it has been given.”
“It is in the end our survival as a nation,” replied Cantacuzenos.
“And within that nation, you come in too. You're a part of it, Kaligas.” completed Senator Laskaris.
“I am still not convinced by your arguments, my emperor,” sounded the reply of Senator Menas from the back of the chancellery.
Pavlios shook his head in agreement. “Not a good proposal to benefit us. I suggest we refuse it, not good enough for us considering what we can expect from those Ottomans.”
“What do you want more than this, Pavlios? Perhaps Murad's own head once he wins?” countered Demetrios, his anger flaring.
“Clear guarantees that an attack will not be unleashed upon us once Murad wins the throne,” came Pavlios' quick reply.
“You will never get it,” replied Sphrantzes with a curt shake of his head.
“Then why bother supporting him? We could simply try to have our own candidate in the battle for the throne,” replied Kaligas.
Manuel's own voice roared through the chancellery, loud enough to silence the senators at least into a temporary shame. Sphrantzes stepped up from the side of the throne and took a parchment from the table which he unrolled and proceeded to read out loud.
“My emperor, as my duty of Chancellor commands and as you kindly requested me, I wish to inform you that our coffers are nearly empty, or empty as we speak in this grand hall. There is nothing more we can sell and we have borrowed the maximum amount of money from the Genoese and Venetian banks, and from the Jewish lenders as well, and even with that money, our troops have still not been paid in the past months. Our rebellion risk is growing larger by the day and soon enough our own troops will rebel against us, if not then the general population will do that soon enough.”
“Which makes it all the more worthwhile to support Murad,” added Cantacuzenos.
A couple of faint murmurs of agreement sounded from the sides of the room but Manuel realised with regret that they were only a handful that supported his proposal.
“Thank you Sphrantzes for reminding me, but I am sure everyone knows how bad it is.”
“Brings us to the point of economic concessions, they could help our situation,” added the Chancellor.
“We give in to the demands of our soldiers?” replied Pavlios with incredulity.
“If you want your head chopped off and served to your wife, do not pay them. And plus, I believe your daughter would be more than delighted to take the whole regiment home and serve the guards personally,” replied Cantacuzenos, a sarcastic smile spread in the corner of his lips.
Once more laughter roared inside the chancellery but to Manuel's dismay it only served to escalate the tension between the parties, ironies over ironies exchanged in the far corners. He stood up and went to the edge of the table.
“Where is the Venetian ambassador who was supposed to attend our meeting?”
Sphrantzes turned to the emperor. “He is currently with his officers at a party hosted by the Genoese podesta in the honour of the new territories acquired in the Mediterranean.”
“Since when are the Venetians and Genoese such good friends?” sounded Cantacuzenos.
“Since they signed a commercial treaty between them last year,” replied Sphrantzes.
Manuel held up his hand. “Since this point has been reached, I wish to inform you that I have planned an expedition to Venice, Genoa and the French kingdom with the hope of securing foreign aid for our cause. The Imperial triremes will accompany me along with a small company of guards for protection.”
Some of the members of the council seemed uninterested in Manuel's words but they struck a chord where it needed. Kaligas stood up once more. “We seek aid military aid in times of peace? The Ottomans will not like that at all.”
Cantacuzenos threw his hands up in despair. “To hell with those barbaric bastards!”
“Quite a shame if they manage to reach your villa outside Constantinople, would it not be, Demetrios?” countered Pavlios with a ironic smile.
Silence was all he received and silence was given as the ultimate answer when the discussions ended late in the night. Despite the best efforts Manuel's proposal was rejected under heavy opposition from Kaligas, Pavlios and the rest of the factions but he expected that. Manuel knew the answer right from the beginning, he knew it would bog down into meaningless ironies.
Tired and wary, Manuel returned lazily to his chamber, dismissing the servant who collapsed asleep beside the door in a twisted position. His eyes gazed absent in the flicker of the candle on the table where the mirror stood, suddenly reminding himself that dawn and a new day was fast approaching. Despite his tiredness, the bed seemed uninviting and he had no desire for sleep either. He dropped the long silken robe on the bed and remained in his white linen tunic that was damp with sweat from the whole nervousness of the discussions. Manuel knocked on the door of the eunuch who lived just beside his own bedroom and instructed him to call for Sphrantzes.
Minutes later the Byzantine chancellor knocked on the door and entered, holding a rolled parchment and a quill inside his hand, rightly guessing Manuel's morning intentions.
“Could not sleep, my emperor?”
“Not quite, and you can guess why.”
Sphrantzes shrugged. “No need to fret over the discussion we had, we both expected it.”
“I know, and that is what pains me. Kaligas and Pavlios have always led their crusade against me.” Manuel sighed, creating a pressing silence inside the chamber. “Still, that is not the reason why I called you over here at this hour. I am tasking you to prepare two secret diplomatic missions, and I hope you will choose your men rightly for this.”
Sphrantzes smiled. “Somehow, I always do.”
“Now more than ever you need to. We need aid from the western kingdoms, in any form possible, since we refused Murad's proposal.”
“You can override the Senate's decision, my lord.”
“And risk complete separation between the Senate and myself? No.”
Sphrantzes drew a frown. “Perhaps this is far more important than a simple personal issue. I suggest you do it.”
“I refuse to.” Sphrantzes said nothing. “Now, you need to send two diplomats, one to the Pope and the other one, I do not know yet, I will think of a kingdom.”
“Do you wish to prepare the letters by the morning?”
“Yes, do that. And one more thing. Inform our generals with clear allegiances to our cause to prepare our men. I sense a war after Murad wins the throne and I do not want to be caught without our men armed and trained.” Manuel sighed loudly. “Leave, I do not want to keep you more than necessary. Wake me up in the morning when everything is prepared.”
I hope you have enjoyed the first chapter.
Scroll down to read the rest of the chapters!
I am open to feedback - open to comments and suggestions! Thank you!