By Harry Turtledove
In a universe during which Constantinople by no means fell, the Byzantine Empire has flourished by means of constructing know-how and spreading its effect yet unearths itself on the mercy of its jealous enemies.
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We’re camped by the water, and we have a week’s worth of food in the wagons. ” The filthiness of the nomads was proverbial. The lieutenant-general chuckled grimly. “Their bugs won’t feed even the Jurchen more than a couple of days. ” So it proved, though the plainsmen persisted a day longer than Hermoniakos had guessed. After scouting parties confirmed that the nomads really had withdrawn, Tekmanios convened an officers’ council in his tent to discuss the Romans’ next move. “It galls me to think of going back to the Danube with my tail between my legs, but the Jurchen—may Constantinople’s patron St.
Having made up the patrol roster, he knew who they would be: Bardanes Philippikos and Alexander the Arab. Justin had been kind to him; both were steady, competent men, though Alexander did have a ferocious temper when he thought himself wronged. It was plain Argyros’s presence made them nervous. Bardanes’s hand twitched in the beginning of a salute before he jerked it down to his side. ” “I’ve wanted to do that for weeks,” Bardanes said. But he spoke without malice, using the feeble joke to try to get rid of the tension he felt.
As smoothly as if it were a drill, men donned mail shirts and plumed helmets; saw to bows and lances, swords and daggers; and took their places for their general’s address and for prayer before going into battle. As was true of so many soldiers, and especially officers, in the Roman army, John Tekmanios was Armenian by blood, though he spoke the Latin-flavored Greek of the army without eastern accent. From long experience, he knew the proper tone to take when speaking to his troops: “Well, lads,” he said, “we’ve beaten these buggers before, on our side of the Danube.