Byzantium Unfallen is the tentative title of the tenth planned novel in the “Alternate Universes” sub-series of the Shine Cycle, and is set in a world where Constantinople does not fall to the Turks. Today’s post is a brief introduction to this planned work.
In the alternate history of Byzantium Unfallen, the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos is shrewder and wiser than he was in our world, and avoids decisions with disastrous long-term consequences for his empire. He is also more charismatic, inspiring loyalty even in competing factions. Thus, General Alexios Philanthropenos does not attempt to revolt, and Emperor Andronikos is able to not only repeatedly and soundly defeat the Turks without losing popularity, but even regain some lost lands while generally improving international relations.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Unlike most of the alternate histories I have planned for this series, which are set after the point of obvious divergence in a context where a little outside help is needed to forestall a different disaster, in Byzantium Unfallen the most reasonable idea that suggested itself in my initial research was to explore the time in which our Constantinople did fall.
The Quester arrives in one of the towns around Constantinople somewhere around or before the turn of the twelfth century and, as usual, asks questions and moves around the area to learn the context into which he has been brought, then seeks to earn a place, at first as an advisor to some of the Emperor’s advisors. Once he has their ear, he earns their trust by advising against some decisions that cost, or would have cost, the Empire far more than it could have gained.
The Byzantine army begins a major recruiting effort, expecting to see action soon, and the Quester joins the army. The regiment he joins is sent at first to reinforce Anatolia against Turkish attacks. After gaining some experience there, and when more recruits are ready to replace them, they march for the western frontiers, beginning a campaign to retake areas of Greece that are still held by the Western armies that had until recently held Constantinople itself.
The Quester and his comrades return to the eastern frontier when the Turks invade in force. He distinguishes himself in battle, and through gallantry, courage, and the good strategy and unity of the Byzantine generals the invasion is defeated—but not as decisively as they would have liked.
After the Quester returns, on leave, to the Imperial court in Constantinople, he is sent with some envoys to potential allies in the West. While there are some hard feelings over Byzantine reoccupation of its lands in Greece, imperial restraint (the army did not go further than lands Byzantium had formerly held) and conciliatory attitude, and the pressing concern of the ongoing war against the Turks win them at least nominal support in nearly all the courts they visit, and a few firm promises of troops and materiel.
After returning to Constantinople, the Quester rejoins the Byzantine army. Once the first allied troops arrive to reinforce them, his regiment marches toward territory held by the Turks, quickly moving to take as many strategically-important positions, and as much territory in general, as they are likely to be able to hold.
Once the Turkish forces holding those areas have been put to flight, the Quester joins the engineering teams building permanent defensive structures throughout the newly-taken areas. And then once things are going smoothly, he takes his leave, and rides off to wherever he will next be needed.
The principal characters of Byzantium Unfallen will likely be the Quester and the Byzantine political and military leaders, with the leaders of the empire’s neighbors being important but not so central.
Do you have any thoughts about my plans for Byzantium Unfallen?