Posted by Powee Celdran
DISCLAIMER: Although this is almost entirely a work of fiction, it is based on true events and characters. This story alters events that transpired in the 4th century using real historical figures but having a totally different story altogether.
Welcome to another spin-off chapter to the 12-part Byzantine Alternate history series by the Byzantium Blogger! This chapter now is the sequel to the first spin-off story I made some months ago which in itself was the spin-off sequel to chapter I of the Byzantine Alternate History series, therefore making this story here the third and final instalment to the Byzantine Alternate History chapter I trilogy. Other chapters in the entire series that got their own spin-off sequel stories were chapters II, III, and XII while chapter IX got its own Lego film adaptation being House Komnenos: A Byzantine Epic which just released at my channel No Budget Films not too long ago! However, since chapter I’s story was the most colorful especially in terms of getting a follow-up, I decided to give it not only one follow up story but two, thus making it an entire trilogy which will thus be the only chapter of the series to end up becoming one. Now since these spin-off stories were continuations to alternate history chapters in which all altered the course of history, their spin-off stories which followed them up therefore were definitely fictional ones based on possible events that could have happened if a particular event in history was altered. Therefore, since this story is not the first follow-up sequel to its alternate history chapter but the second, it will be very much entirely fictional with a large number of fantasy elements except for the fact that it is set in a real historical period being the late 4th century with real historical places and people. Since chapter I discussed the alternate history scenario of a Roman victory over the invading Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 wherein the Romans actually lost in real history, its sequel then focused on the aftermath of that battle with a Roman victory and the slow return of the Goths that had been defeated, thus this one will discuss the final part of this story arc wherein now that the Goths as a major power fully invaded the Roman Empire and how the Romans and all their allies will strike back. As it may already be implied that you as readers would know what happened in chapter I of Byzantine Alternate History and in its sequel, this story will just discuss the fictional scenario and not the real historical events of this time anymore, but if you do not know yet what happened in chapter I and in its sequel then the link is just right above! Also keep in mind, that this article is not based on any research but just my own theories and hypotheses if events in the 4th century history of Rome were altered, so if you are not familiar with this era, then I have to warn you all that these events are almost entirely fictional. Lastly, this article will be the LAST fan fiction story I will be writing as a whole, so enjoy and savor it!
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Note: Since this story is set in the 4th century before the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Byzantine characters will be referred to as Romans, not Byzantines.
Chapter I of Byzantine Alternate History focused on the fictional scenario of the Romans victorious over a massive army of Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 unlike in real history where the Romans lost a humiliating defeat with the crisis of the invading Goths only to be resolved a couple of years later. Since chapter I ended with a fictional scenario that altered the events of history, its sequel had discussed a chain-reaction of events if history were altered wherein the Romans won this major battle and the Goths retreating back to where they came from north across the Roman Empire’s Danube River border. In the previous story, with the Romans emerging victorious and the Goths defeated, over the course of the next few years the Goths began rebuilding their strength and learning to fight the Roman way in order to beat the Romans while the Romans on the other hand began growing divided over political and religious issues as the Goths were regaining their power. In the climax of the previous story, the Goths now building a massive empire covering most of Eastern Europe once again invaded Roman territory in 395 with the intention to fully conquer and replace it as the superpower Gothic Empire. The previous story then ended with the Goths destroying much of the Roman army and invading the western half of the Roman Empire leaving only the eastern half surviving, thus still keeping the last remnants of the Romans alive to resist against the growing power of the Goths. In this story now which will begin in the year 395 where the last one ended, it will begin where the last one left off wherein the massive army of the Goths together with their allies including Alans, Sarmatians, Huns, Slavs, and more led by the Gothic king Athanaric invade the Roman Empire and pour into Western Roman territory while the last of the Romans have survived in the eastern half, wherein Constantinople was its capital. Here, as Western Roman territory in Germania, Gaul, Italy, and Hispania falls to the ever-expanding Gothic Empire of Athanaric, the Romans from the eastern half and other parts that had not yet fallen to the Goths such as Britain and the provinces of North Africa would mount a resistance and strike back also allying with an old enemy, their eastern neighbor being the Sassanid Persian Empire. The whole plot of this story thus will be the counter-attack against Athanaric and his Goths and the war to fully destroy the evil of the Goths and their barbarian allies, thus overall making it a kind of “good vs evil” story, hence the title “The Battle for the Fate of the World”. This story will then be one with lots of action, adventure, uncovering mysteries, drama, blood and gore, and will culminate with an epic battle for the ages to destroy the power of the Goths once and for all. Therefore, the whole premise of this story would be one which begins wherein its heroes or protagonists being the Romans are in such a bad phase but still have hope to reverse everything and will thus keep getting exciting as the story progresses, although in this case it will still be one with a lot of “plot-armor”. On the other hand, despite this story being set in a real historical period using real nations such as the Romans, Goths, and more as well as historical figures of this time, it is plainly a historical fiction story as with the events of the Battle of Adrianople in 378 being almost entirely altered, what had followed it was all made-up based on my own theories. As for the historical figures of this time that will be in this story namely the sibling Roman emperors Gratian and Valentinian II, Theodosius the Younger, Magnus Maximus, Alaric, the Gothic king Athanaric, and a lot of others, their stories will be modified to fit into this story while at the same time this story will also include other new characters who were also historical figures from this time but with a different story arc as this story is overall a fictional one that evolved from a historical one. Since this will be the last instalment in the trilogy of Byzantine Alternate History chapter I, it will obviously have a happy ending and also a highly climactic story. Before we move on to the main story itself, this story will first begin with a quick recap of what happened in the previous story but no longer discussing anymore what happened in real history as by the time where this story takes place, everything has already become fictional, then afterwards we proceed to the main story itself. Additionally, I’d like to give a shoutout to the artists whose work featuring Late Roman era characters and scenes which will be included in this story and these artists include Giuseppe Rava, Youngcavalier, Corbax Studio, Thehoundofulster, LordMatini, Amelianvs, Giulia Valentini, and Amdanielito.
The Leading Characters (Recurring Characters from the Previous 2 Stories):
Theodosius the Younger- Roman general turned Goth turned Roman again
Flavius Stilicho- Eastern Roman general
*Valdis- Gothic commander and wife of Theodosius (fictional character for this story)
Athanaric- King of the Thervingi Goths and Emperor of the Gothic Empire
Gratian- Western Roman emperor in hiding
Valentinian II- Eastern Roman emperor and half-brother of Gratian
Richomeres- Western Roman general
Alaric- Goth commander
Magnus Maximus- Roman general turned Goth commander
Flavius Anthemius- Eastern Roman general and Prefect of Constantinople
Rufinus- Eastern Roman general
New Leading Characters Introduced for this Story:
Yazdegerd- Sassanid Persian prince
Fravitta- Roman general turned Goth commander
Gainas- Goth commander
Mascezel- Roman-Berber warlord of North Africa
Gildo- Roman governor of North Africa and brother of Mascezel
Recap of the Roman-Gothic War Spin-off story
Following the Roman victory over the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378, the victorious Roman emperor Valens would continue to rule the eastern half from Constantinople while the western half went to his nephew Gratian as Valens’ older brother and Gratian’s father Valentinian I had died in the events of the battle. The defeated Goths meanwhile fled north back to where they came from across the Danube River and had assembled in the abandoned Roman settlement of Sarmizegetusa in Dacia together with one Roman general turned traitor Theodosius the Younger who decided to join the Goths and train them to fight in the more superior ways of fighting the Romans used so that they could one day strike back against the Romans. Back in the Roman Empire, both eastern and western halves have been doing their own thing until discovering that the Goths were regaining their power when other Germanic barbarian tribes being the Alemanni and Vandals attacked Western Roman territory revealing that the Goths pushed them that way.
In the meantime, tensions would also rise between the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire over political and religious differences especially with the Western emperor Gratian being a Nicene Orthodox Christian and Valens being a heretical Arian Christian, which was the same religion of most Goths. Eventually, Gratian’s western half of the Roman Empire would enter civil war when the Roman general in Britain Magnus Maximus crossed over to Gaul in order to overthrow Gratian, but Magnus’ ambitions were crushed in this story’s case as his forces were destroyed primarily by Gratian’s lethal weapon, the Goth leader Alatheus who was in this story’s case a Goth commander who defected to the Romans back in 378 at Adrianople. The defeated Magnus however found himself fleeing to the Goths’ base at Sarmizegetusa where he reunited with his old Roman friend Theodosius and together Magnus and Theodosius would upgrade the Goths’ arms and further train them in the Roman ways of fighting. As for the Goths, they soon enough began gaining more power when their two kings Fritigern and Athanaric who were once rivals united with a purpose to together rule a large Gothic empire but in order to grow their empire, they had to temporarily stop giving the Romans trouble much to the disappointment of most of the Goths. However, some of the Goths broke the pact with their kings and attacked Roman territory just to have revenge on their former commander Alatheus for betraying them, and thus they succeeded in capturing and torturing Alatheus who at the end killed himself out of humiliation. At the same time as well, the tension between the Roman co-emperors Valens and his nephew Gratian was at an all-time-high leading to both battling each other in front of everyone in Constantinople’s Hippodrome only for their fight to be stopped when the corpse of Alatheus was brought in, but at the end both emperors just decided to cut ties with each other to the relief of the Goths.
Although rather than striking back at Rome, the Goths under Athanaric and Fritigern instead decided to expand their territory north in order to reclaim what was the homeland of the Goths in Eastern Europe, and so from 389-391 the Goths led by Theodosius and his new Gothic wife Valdis– a fictional character for this story- set off on an expedition north ending up in the shores of the Baltic Sea and from there back down south. As a result of this, the Goths marked their territory and created an empire north to south from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and Danube River and west to east from the Vistula and Tisza Rivers to the Dnieper River and the people within these lands being Goths, Alans, Sarmatians, Slavs, Baltic people, and Huns as their subjects. The Goths after having built a massive empire and adopting Roman administration and military tactics too would then only decide to invade the Roman Empire in 395 when hearing that the eastern emperor Valens had died thus giving them an opportunity to seize the eastern throne in Constantinople, however little did they know that there was already a new eastern emperor which was Gratian’s younger half-brother Valentinian II who Theodosius and the Goths never knew existed. From Sarmizegetusa, one division of the 200,000 strong Gothic army led by Theodosius headed south straight into eastern Roman territory with the intention to march to Constantinople while another division led by the Goths’ kings Fritigern and Athanaric had headed west to attack Western Roman lands. As Fritigern and Athanaric invaded Western Roman lands, they defeated a Roman army led by the general Arbogast who after being tortured revealed to the Goths a way into Italy but shortly after following an intense argument between both kings on how to rule their new empire, Athanaric being tired of having to rule together with Fritigern suddenly killed Fritigern by slitting his throat. In the Balkans meanwhile, the Goths led by Theodosius began gaining ground after they refused the peace proposal of Valentinian II and with a powerful army of Goths and other barbarian allies, Theodosius succeeded in destroying a large number of Roman troops except for the cunning half-Roman half-barbarian general Flavius Stilicho who managed to escape and flee to the Haemus Mountains where Theodosius found him only to end up in an inconclusive duel with him. The Goth invasion of the Eastern Roman Balkans was more or less crushed as the surviving Goths including Magnus and Valdis managed to flee west knowing that their kings were headed that way while Athanaric after killing off Fritigern destroyed the larger Roman army sent to attack his camp in Roman Pannonia led by the Western Roman emperor Gratian himself thus forcing Gratian to escape and Athanaric to make his way into Italy. At the end, Theodosius who had been a traitor to Rome surrendered to Valentinian II while Gratian after being disgraced disappeared as he escaped south by ship possibly to Egypt. Where the previous story ended, the Goths emerged victorious now that they had already invaded the western half of the Roman Empire leaving only the eastern half (which included the Balkans, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt) spared as well as a few Western Roman holdouts being the provinces of North Africa and the island of Britain as the Goths were to control most of Europe.
The Spin-of- The Expansion of the Goths (395-396)
After crushing a large Roman army led by the Western emperor Gratian himself at Roman Pannonia, the victorious Goths under their sole ruler the 64-year-old Athanaric freely rampaged through Pannonia heading south reaching the Alps and into the pass that led to Italy which was revealed to him by Arbogast, the Roman general he previously tortured at his camp in Pannonia. With no more Roman troops to stop the Goths’ advance as most which had previously joined Gratian in his attack on the Goths’ camp in Pannonia were destroyed, Athanaric freely claimed Roman Pannonia as his and after crossing the Alps, he was joined by a Roman army that defected to him led by the general of Goth descent Fravitta. Now in real history, Fravitta who despite being a Goth and Pagan who also lived at this time in history was also loyal to the Roman Empire, but in this story his storyline will be altered as instead he would feel more inclined to join forces with the expanding Gothic empire of Athanaric.
When meeting up, Athanaric then instructed Fravitta to go south and secure the Istrian Peninsula and most of Dalmatia and claim it for the Goths to give the Goths access to the Adriatic Sea in order to one day launch a full invasion of the Roman Empire’s eastern half. Fravitta thus followed Athanaric’s orders and headed south to the coast while Athanaric and his large army rode south directly into Italy first arriving at the coastal city of Aquileia which he attacked and quickly conquered thus claiming it for the Goths, and from there he headed west straight for Milan, the Western Roman capital all while Fravitta declared the region of Dalmatia and the Istrian Peninsula as part of Athanaric’s Gothic Empire. Now in the eastern half, the Romans that survived which included the Eastern emperor Valentinian II, the general Flavius Stilicho, the generals Flavius Anthemius and Rufinus, and Theodosius who had just surrendered to them had regrouped in the city of Thessaloniki where upon arriving, they would already meet up with Gratian’s trusted veteran general Richomeres and Arbogast, the nephew of Richomres who had just been saved from captivity under Athanaric and just recovered from being tortured by Athanaric.
When seeing both Richomeres and Arbogast, Valentinian II had asked them about whatever happened to his half-brother the emperor Gratian, and Richomeres would tell Valentinian II that the Goths were victorious in the west and have already rode into Italy while as they escaped south to the port of Pula in the Istrian Peninsula (today’s Croatia), Gratian separated from them by getting onto another ship as Richomeres and Arbogast headed for Thessaloniki as Gratian instructed them to do so while they saw Gratian getting on to another ship that was headed south in which Richomeres possibly suspected it was heading to Egypt. Both Richomeres and Arbogast now did not know the reason to why Gratian went separate ways from them but they believed that because of his defeat to Athanaric he needed to get away and disappear for some time and that Richomeres and Arbogast chose to head to Thessaloniki and not Constantinople as it was closer and it just so happened that they ran into the Eastern Roman generals and Valentinian II by coincidence there. Valentinian II here was greatly concerned over what could happen to his older half-brother Gratian believing he would never come back which could thus put the Western half he ruled in chaos while Valentinian being still young knew he could not rule both eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire alone if Gratian was believed to be dead especially since the empire was in great chaos as the Goths invaded but Richomeres would tell Valentinian in return that ever since Athanaric invaded there is possibly no more western empire and thus it would be their job to take it back.
A few days after Valentinian II arrived in Thessaloniki and with Theodosius being kept in prison for the meantime as Valentinian was still deciding on what to do with Theodosius for betraying Rome and committing such atrocities, Arbogast who now having fully recovered in one occasion celebrated his recovery by getting drunk and he arrogantly revealed to both his uncle Richomeres and Valentinian II that he revealed to Athanaric the way into Italy as Arbogast simply did it to survive thinking he could one day gain more power under Athanaric. For committing such a crime, Arbogast was tried in public in the following day, proven guilty, and executed by being beheaded at the city’s Hippodrome as ordered by the emperor Valentinian II. Theodosius meanwhile would be kept in Thessaloniki’s prison and would remain there for weeks until Valentinian II came up with the decision to put him on trial, and when tried Theodosius successfully defended himself saying how regretful he was for betraying Rome, joining the Goths, giving the Roman military secrets of their advanced weaponry and battle tactics to the Goths, and how he committed such atrocities on the Roman citizens of Moesia and Thrace earlier that year when the Goths invaded. Theodosius though stated that committing such a brutal genocide on the Roman citizens of Moesia and Thrace was not his idea and that he even condemned it as he did not want that to happen finding it simply too much even for him but simply the Goths under his command did such savage acts out of their own rage. At the end, Valentinian ruled that Theodosius would be proven innocent for the meantime but would only spare Theodosius if Theodosius renounced his loyalty to Athanaric and the Gothic Empire as a whole, and if he did so he would be rewarded with the position he so wanted which was that of Magister Militum or “Master of Soldiers” as well as a full pardon, and to save himself Theodosius did so. However, Valentinian could not yet fully allow Theodosius to go free and be given that rank, thus he ordered that Theodosius be contained in Thessaloniki under heavy watch by the general Stilicho, the same one who Theodosius dueled earlier on during the battle between the Goths and Romans at the Haemus Mountains in the Balkans, and the thought of being watched by the same man that he failed to kill in the duel heavily frustrated Theodosius. As for Valentinian, he wanted to spare Theodosius as he needed someone fierce and ruthless on his side hearing of Theodosius’ fearlessness when battling the Romans earlier, and Valentinian believed that if he could get Theodosius to realize his mistakes and return his loyalties to Rome, then Valentinian would have the ultimate weapon he needs to strike back against the Goths, but in order to make Theodosius return to the light Valentinian believed that keeping him under some kind of house arrest would end up giving him a change of heart. Theodosius would thus be left in Thessaloniki under the watch of Stilicho whereas Valentinian II headed back to the capital Constantinople with Richomeres and Anthemius while the general Rufinus was tasked to hunt down the remaining pillaging Goths including Theodosius’ Gothic wife Valdis. Back in Constantinople, Valentinian II wrote a letter of help which was only for the eyes of Bahram IV, the ruler (shah) of the Sassanid Empire, the Roman Empire’s Eastern neighbor and occasional enemy, but in this letter Valentinian asked Shah Bahram IV to be an ally telling him that the Roman Empire itself is on the verge of extinction now that an unexpected powerful force had invaded from the north being the Goths and have already taken over Western Roman lands.
As the Roman-Gothic war in the Balkan region more or less came to an end with a rather inconclusive result, Theodosius’ wife Valdis who came from the Greuthungi tribe of the Goths after splitting ways with Theodosius following the duel with Stilicho at the Haemus Mountains went her own way from the Haemus Mountains down to the fields of Thrace in what would be today’s Bulgaria and there she would make it down south into what is today Greece.
Eventually, Valdis who would be extremely tired dressed in her gold scale armor would find herself at the main Roman road of the region, the Via Egnatia thus feeling no longer lost, and from there she would head west knowing that going east would lead her into a trap which was Constantinople itself. When travelling west down the Via Egnatia, Valdis would eventually reunite with her Goth companions being the Roman traitor turned Goth commander which was Theodosius’ close friend the Roman-Spanish Magnus Maximus and Alaric, the fearsome Goth commander and killer of innocents who was also the nephew of no other than the King of the Thervingi Goths Athanaric. As the 3 leaders of the Goths met up, both Magnus and Alaric asked Valdis what had ever happened to Theodosius who was their de facto leader here in this mission, and all she told them was that he went his own way and told her to do the same. Alaric and Magnus then did not suspect Theodosius of turning against them but were worried if he had already died, although Magnus here ordered that they must all head west until they reach the Adriatic where they would travel by ship to Italy believing Athanaric as he had told them earlier on had already reached Italy and conquered it from the Romans, however little did Magnus, or Alaric, or Valdis know that Athanaric had killed off their other king Fritigern. After camping along the Via Egnatia for a night, the 3 leaders with the remains of their Gothic troops as well as Slav, Hun, Alan, and Sarmatian allies proceeded west down the road to the point of approaching Thessaloniki but just kilometers east of Thessaloniki, a Roman task force had already spotted them and so began a skirmish with them.
This Roman task force mostly made up of the weaker Limitanei legionnaires or simply border patrol troops that were not even armored but fought instead by throwing javelins was commanded by the same Eastern Roman general Rufinus who Valentinian II tasked to hunt down the remaining Goths. Alaric and Magnus and most of their men that were not killed escaped to the nearby wooded area where they were no longer spotted but Valdis losing her stamina especially when having to swing her heavy two-handed sword dropped to the ground where she was hit in the neck by a dart thrown by one of the Limitanei soldiers who had darts beneath his shield, however the dart was not meant to kill her but to put her to sleep as the order was to capture her alive. The survivors would then make it out alive bypassing Thessaloniki and eventually making their way down the road west without encountering any Roman troops, and after a week they would reach the Adriatic coast. However, the city at the western end of the road being the port city of Dyrrachium was still under Roman control, thus Magnus ordered to lay low and begin moving again at night, and as night fell and the city garrison was asleep, Magnus together with Alaric and the rest of their men boarded a Roman ship, killed its crew and soldiers stationed in it without any resistance, and set sail across the sea heading for Italy. Magnus on the other hand knowing the geography of the land more than the Goths and other barbarians with him did as he was a Roman instructed that they should dock in a discreet location knowing that all of Italy may have not yet completely fallen to Athanaric’s rule.
Valdis meanwhile woke up in a dark and damp cell with tiled floors seeing it as some kind of abandoned baths, and as she tried to move, she could not get any further than 5 steps as her arms were chained to the wall, and when looking down she saw herself wearing rags made of sack cloth which made her come to think that while she was put to sleep by the dart, she was stripped off all her armor and clothes and was dressed with these rags as she did not wear these rags beneath her armor. A few moments later, the same commander Rufinus that captured her earlier came to check on her entering the baths and when approaching her he told her he wanted her as his own slave even attempting to undress her rags but as he tried to do it, Valdis fought back biting his fingers only for Rufinus to punch her face. Valdis after being punched however told him she was Theodosius’ wife and asked Rufinus wherever he is and in return Rufinus told her Theodosius is kept under arrest in the city and that he could be brought to her. Later that day, a very drunk Theodosius with his clothes all loose and unbuttoned was brought into the baths to see his wife Valdis escorted there by Stilicho who was put in charge of keeping Theodosius under watch. When seeing his wife in chains, Theodosius immediately went to her while hugging and kissing her as well, though following that Stilicho had announced only here that the emperor Valentinian II had sent him a new order stating that he would decide to fully pardon Theodosius if Theodosius himself would personally find Gratian and bring him back. When hearing of this deal, Theodosius had definitely agreed to it believing it as a sure way to prove himself and abilities and his renewed loyalty to Rome, but Stilicho told him that Theodosius could only do so only if Stilicho would accompany Theodosius to Egypt or wherever Gratian was as Valentinian instructed it believing that if Theodosius were to do it alone, he would be up to some kind of foolishness. Additionally, Theodosius also did not know the Roman law which stated that no one of powerful status could go to Egypt without the emperor’s permission as Egypt considering how valuable it was to the empire with its grain production and ports along the Red Sea that allowed Romans to trade with lands further east in Asia was basically the emperor’s personal province and was so coveted by anyone in power, and if someone powerful like any senator or general walked into it, it could possibly mean they would take it for themselves and cut the grain supply to the empire. Here, Theodosius only found out about this certain law about entering Egypt when Stilicho told it to him which thus further frustrated him, but to achieve something he reluctantly agreed to have Stilicho watch over him and even humiliate him in this entire journey to come. Stilicho then had Valdis released from her chains and following that Theodosius told her to wash up and get dressed deciding she would join this adventure too.
In the meantime, over in Italy, the remaining Goth, Hun, Alan, Sarmatian, and Slav troops under Alaric and Magnus arrived safely in Roman Italy already discovering that half of it except for the south fell under Athanaric’s rule. There they would meet up with their ruler Athanaric at a swampland near the Roman city of Ariminum (today’s Rimini) in Western Italy which had also surrendered to Athanaric. Here Athanaric would ask whatever happened to Valdis and Theodosius and Magnus being the one to speak would say Valdis was captured by Roman troops and possibly enslaved while Theodosius who they last saw almost an entire month earlier had already possibly died being ambushed by Roman troops or from starvation as he was stranded in the wilderness in the Balkans.
Alaric meanwhile asked Athanaric who was his uncle about whatever happened to their other king Fritigern who they saw was not around with Athanaric, and Athanaric here would simply reveal to Alaric and Magnus the truth that he killed the old man Fritigern himself as overall Athanaric being from the royal house of the Goths which was the Balti Dynasty had every right to rule and that Fritigern was just an attention seeking usurper that wanted to corrupt the Goths with the faith of Arian Christianity as Athanaric wanted to the Goths to remain what they really were as Pagans. Magnus not really caring about who was in charge but only to keep his powerful position among the Goths did not seem to care about Fritigern’s murder despite Magnus being not a Pagan but in fact a Nicene Christian while Alaric who although being an Arian Christian did not also care as his loyalty was really with his uncle Athanaric. Now Athanaric had ordered his nephew Alaric to head straight into Rome itself and force the city to surrender to his rule otherwise Alaric should put it to the sword while Athanaric would need Magnus’ help to take over Milan as previously the city refused to surrender to him but by having a Roman on his side which here was Magnus, then perhaps the city would surrender. Alaric would then after 3 days reach the walls of Rome and find the city completely barred by its people refusing to surrender as they already knew Athanaric and his Goths have invaded Italy. Alaric although not exactly laying siege to the city would order his army of Goths, Alans, Sarmatians, Huns, and Slavs to set up camp and by night scout the walls to look for some weak spots.
After some 5 days of surveying Rome’s relatively low and weak Aurelian Walls, a group of Slav (then known as Venedi) warriors under Alaric’s command found a weak spot at the northeast corner of the city’s walls, and following that as Alaric’s Goths placed oil barrels beneath this part of the walls and as the Alans with their flaming arrows fired at these barrels, they exploded creating a large breach in the walls allowing Alaric’s men to violently storm into Rome, the Eternal City. Alaric now having conserved his lifelong hatred towards Rome ordered his men to kill everyone within the walls without mercy as this was in fact the city itself that gave birth to the empire Alaric so hated. The very limited troops defending Rome were thus easily slaughtered like ants by the wild Hun horsemen while civilians whether men, women, children, the sick, and the elderly were all decimated especially by the Goth and Hun troops with the use of their swords and axes. With no resistance in Rome left, Alaric thus ordered that the Roman Forum itself and all historic Roman buildings be razed to the ground to show to the world that the soul of Rome has been destroyed, however Alaric being an Arian Christian ordered his men to at least spare the churches of the city.
Now in real history, Alaric and his Goths really did brutally sack Rome and severely reduce it in 410, however in this story this sack of Rome led by Alaric had taken place 15 years in advance in late 395- the year Alaric in real history began his armed rebellion against Rome- as compared to when it happened in real history. Meanwhile as for Athanaric and Magnus, at around the same time they had come across the walls of Mediolanum (Milan) seeing its people led by the city’s bishop Ambrose still refusing to surrender whereas Ambrose said he would not surrender to a barbarian Goth who much worse was a Pagan referring to Athanaric, however Athanaric coming up with a trick told Magnus to go up to Ambrose and negotiate. When seeing Magnus still dressed in the full Roman general’s uniform beneath Milan’s walls, Ambrose concluding that after all Athanaric had possibly thought of maybe appointing a puppet Roman emperor considering that Gratian had disappeared agreed to get down and negotiate with Magnus.
However, as Ambrose got out of the city’s gate, Magnus had 4 Goth soldiers rush to Ambrose and put him in handcuffs, and here Ambrose was brought directly to Athanaric’s tent just a few kilometers away. Athanaric then kicked the chained Ambrose in the stomach and began telling him continuously to surrender the city of Milan as Athanaric savagely beat the rather old bishop Ambrose by kicking him, punching him, slamming his knee to his face, and tearing his clothes off. Still having some pride, Ambrose still refused to say anything until he fell to the ground severely beaten with bruises and cuts all over his body, and as Ambrose fell to the ground, Athanaric ordered one of his Goth soldiers to gouge out one of Ambrose’s eyes which the soldier did, and only here did Ambrose scream out loud that he would surrender Milan. Athanaric then had Ambrose released but thrown off the camp with force, and thus Athanaric together with Magnus rode into Milan, however the locals threw rotten food and objects at Athanaric and his men not welcoming them into their city but Athanaric in return ordered all people who threw things at them killed and everyone in the city deported to the far-away cold lands of Athanaric’s Gothic Empire along the Baltic Coast. Once the troublemakers were massacred, another one of Athanaric’s Goth commanders which was the large sized man Gainas rounded up the people who were to be deported while Athanaric entered the emperor’s palace in the city and sat on throne in which Gratian and his father Valentinian I before him sat in. A few days later, Alaric who had just conquered Rome for the Goths rode in to Milan to report his success and here Athanaric made an announcement that now since all of Italy had fallen under the Gothic Empire and so did Dalmatia, the land would be divided among co-rulers in which there would be 5 for the meantime over different lands, and in this case Athanaric who would be the most senior ruler would not base himself in Milan but in Gaul which they would later conquer, Magnus Maximus over the entire Iberian Peninsula which was his homeland, Alaric over Italy basing himself in Milan, the Roman general which defected to the Goths being Fravitta over Dalmatia which was the smallest of the territories, and lasty the original massive Goth lands from the Vistula and Tisza Rivers to the Dnieper River and from the Baltic Sea to the Danube and Black Sea under this random commander Gainas for the meantime as this large landmass was supposed to be for Theodosius and Valdis to rule together, however since Theodosius and Valdis were no longer around these lands were temporarily placed under Gainas’ control. Now since there would be 5 co-rulers for Athanaric’s Gothic Empire, all of them were given each by Athanaric small crowns in the form of a ring over their heads to signify they had the authority of a king or rather an emperor.
It is now 396 and in Thessaloniki Stilicho together with Theodosius and Valdis were all set to set sail for Egypt in an imperial ship now also getting permission from the emperor Valentinian II to go there.
A few months now have passed since Theodosius was brought to Thessaloniki and Valdis’ capture and in the few months in between, the expedition to Egypt had been planned. Theodosius now having cut off his long and hair and beard which he had during his time with the Goths returned to his old Roman look with shorter hair and no beard while Valdis had changed her clothes here from her old Gothic look of crude clothes with fur to a long Late Roman style dress with large sleeves and a large belt to hold it together. Stilicho then left the same general Rufinus who captured Valdis earlier to be in charge of protecting Thessaloniki while they were away, and it would be when the group of 3 got into the imperial ship together with a number of soldiers to escort them when Stilicho hearing from intelligence reports from spies in Italy that Fritigern had been killed by Athanaric. Theodosius when hearing this was not devastated as he now wanted to begin forgetting that he had loyally served the Goths and thus start again but Valdis was greatly upset about it especially since Fritigern was more of a mentor to her than Athanaric was and that it was really Fritigern that made her what she was and not so much Athanaric. Hearing of Fritigern’s death and more so that it was done by Athanaric, Valdis here felt that she would no longer want to serve the Goths and would rather choose to serve Rome more so because her husband had now more or less returned his loyalty to Rome as after all the only Gothic ruler Valdis would really serve was Fritigern and by living in Roman Thessaloniki for some time now, she began growing more accustomed to the more sophisticated Roman life that she felt she missed out on in her 40 years of existence. What was even more exciting for Valdis was that this would be the first time in her life wherein she would take a ship across the Mediterranean to a land she never knew existed which was Egypt or more generally the African continent.
Back in Constantinople meanwhile, in early 396 the Sassanid contingent sent by their shah Bahram IV had already arrived and in command of it was the shah’s brother Yazdegerd, and prior to that their father the previous Sassanid shah Shapur III (r. 383-388) had already settled peace with the Romans back in 385 with Stilicho himself traveling to the Sassanid Empire back then to settle the peace- as mentioned in the previous story.
When meeting the Sassanid prince Yazdegerd in Constantinople, the emperor Valentinian II together with the city’s Prefect (Mayor of Constantinople) Anthemius would show him around the capital and host a lavish feast in the palace to entertain him, but Valentinian being a young ruler who is not very much familiar with the rest of the world would make fun of Yazdegerd’s appearance of thick and long curly hair, his loose white Persian robes, and a hat shaped like an egg while Yazdegerd would mock Valentinian for being rather young as a ruler and having the appearance of a child. However, both Yazdegerd and Valentinian despite both making fun of each other would manage to have a conversation wherein Valentinian would tell Yazdegerd about the new danger his empire was facing which was mainly the threat of Athanaric who had now taken over most of the Roman Empire’s west which is why Valentinian asked for Sassanid aid in the first place.
As for Yazdegerd here, the Sassanid Empire which was now under his brother was in a relatively peaceful state except for some Hun raids they have been occasionally facing in their northeast border, thus when arriving in Roman territory with a large Sassanid army of about 6,000 men, Yazdegerd in this dinner with Valentinian said impatiently that he would be ready to kill Athanaric but Valentinian disagreed to it as Athanaric was so many miles away to the west. Yazdegerd on the other hand not knowing the geography of the Roman Empire very well thought that the enemy Athanaric was just nearby yet he did not know how many men Athanaric had with him when invading Roman territory. Valentinian though would also remind his new ally Yazdegerd that he would have to further train his Sassanid troops not only in battle skills but in how to get along with the Roman legions as both forces would together strike against Athanaric, but Yazdegerd would at first arrogantly disagree to it feeling insulted that the Romans would train his men when they were in fact already skilled warriors. Valentinian II would then put an end to conversation and serve Yazdegerd a few more drinks to doze him off. Now Yazdegerd would be given a house within the downtown of Constantinople near the imperial palace for him to stay in for the meantime that he would be in Roman territory while his Sassanid troops would be camped at the city of Chalcedon across the Bosporus from Constantinople, then just 4 days after Yazdegerd’s arrival in Constantinople, Valentinian would get another surprise. This surprise Valentinian got was the arrival of the badly beaten and disfigured bishop of Milan Ambrose and when Valentinian asked whatever happened to him especially seeing that Ambrose was only left with one eye with a patch placed over the missing one, Ambrose replied that Athanaric himself did that to him and that all of Italy including Rome and Milan had fallen under Athanaric’s rule wherein Ambrose failed to stop it, and this threat was to even get worse as Athanaric was now set to take over Roman Gaul, Hispania, and other western lands. Ambrose however told Valentinian that there is still some chance to take back these lands from the Goths by organizing a counter invasion from Britain where Ambrose believed there was still a large enough Roman army there to assemble and march into Gaul. Other than that, Ambrose had also told Valentinian that he was sorry for and had greatly regrated what he did in the past by allowing the Romans to be so divided between the Arian and Nicene Christian faiths and for turning Gratian against his uncle Valens, and that now all this conflict just led to the near extinction of the Roman Empire as Athanaric and his Goths invaded. Valentinian II on the other hand hearing of what could be a possible Roman resistance that could form a counter-invasion from Britain some days later asked to meet with his top general Richomeres who happened to be nearby Constantinople to come over to him, thus Valentinian tasked the now old Richomeres who was here already over 60 to take the long and perilous trip to the island of Britain to see if there was really an entire Roman army there.
The Spin-off- The Hunt for Gratian and the Roman Resistance (396-398)
As for the group of Theodosius, Valdis, and Stilicho, after weeks of sailing down the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, they arrived in their destination, the port of Alexandria which was the Roman capital of Egypt. For all 3 of them, it was their first time to set foot in the African continent and especially for Valdis it was something new as this was the first time that she saw the Mediterranean and to set foot in a very different climate from her original homeland in Eastern Europe as this was a much warmer climate very far from her cold and damp homeland.
When arriving at Alexandria’s harbor, Valdis was in awe seeing a white lighthouse built since Ancient Greek times that was so large and a very large sprawling city with Greek and Roman architecture ahead of them, however as the ship docked a large number of military men approached the ship to inspect it in order to make sure those in it had permission from the emperor considering that this was an imperial ship with soldiers in it. Stilicho was first to get off the ship showing to these soldiers of Alexandria the letter from the emperor Valentinian II himself that permitted them to set foot in Egypt. The group then headed out the ship and into the busy streets of Alexandria and along the way, people from the city were staring at the blonde Goth Valdis seeing her as an unusual sight for they never saw a woman so fair in skin with blonde hair before while soon enough a dark-skinned man with large curly hair approached them, most particularly Stilicho knowing who he was. This man who approached them was Mascezel, a native Berber (Moor) from North Africa who happened to be the brother of the Roman governor of the Province of Africa (today’s Tunisia). Now Mascezel as well as his brother the governor of Africa Gildo were sons of the Berber warlord Nubal who although was loyal to Rome, while Gildo’s and Mascezel’s older brother Firmus had happened to be the leader of a local rebellion in North Africa against Roman rule some 20 years earlier in 375, and this rebellion was crushed by Theodosius’ father the general Theodosius the Elder, and when hearing about this, Theodosius immediately remembered as he remembered that in that time his late father was in North Africa where he destroyed this rebellion wherein its leader Firmus avoided capture by killing himself. Theodosius, Valdis, and Stilicho would then come over to Mascezel’s house as Mascezel’s family happened to have a house in Alexandria and in his house, they would ask him if he knew anything about Gratian’s whereabouts and if Gratian was actually in Alexandria. Mascezel would tell them that he did in fact see Gratian some months ago in Alexandria as Gratian actually came there still wearing his imperial robes and crown, however after staying in Alexandria for some days he left and that his imperial robes and crown was in fact left behind with Mascezel who showed it to Theodosius, Valdis, and Stilicho. Mascezel would then tell them that he remembered Gratian sailing down south the Nile River to the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes as Gratian claimed that he would go there to look for answers like his father the former emperor Valentinian I did many years ago, and here Mascezel told them that if they want to look for Gratian they would have to sail down the Nile at their own risk, but this Berber Mascezel at the same time would only allow the group to leave his house and continue their hunt for Gratian on the condition that if they come back to him after finding Gratian they would have to help Mascezel defeat his brother Gildo in order for Mascezel to take over from his brother as governor of North Africa as apparently in this story’s case, Gildo was paid off by Athanaric to rebel in order to cede North Africa to Athanaric’s empire. Athanaric meanwhile had actually managed to get some information on Gildo’s rule over Roman North Africa as its governor and thus he used this to his advantage by paying off Gildo and supporting him as long as he would give North Africa to Athanaric’s empire knowing that Gildo was highly unpopular as governor for his despotic rule there.
Athanaric now in 396 would happen to be basing himself in the city of Burdigala (today’s Bordeaux) in Western Gaul where as being close to the Atlantic Ocean, he would use it to construct a massive fleet in order to take over the rest of Roman territory such as Britain and North Africa as well as Eastern Roman territory which needed a navy to invade. In Burdigala, Athanaric would meet with his subordinate rulers Magnus Maximus, Alaric, Gainas, and Fravitta over how they will build their navy and invade the Eastern half of the Roman Empire itself wherein all would conclude that it would take some time being a full 3 years to achieve this goal entirely. Athanaric too would confirm it here by telling Magnus, Alaric, Gainas, and Fravitta that he had already paid off Gildo to rebel so that his province of North Africa would be ceded to Athanaric. Back in Alexandria, after staying there for a month and gathering supplies including armor, weapons, food, and more, Theodosius, Valdis, Stilicho and some 40 Roman soldiers boarded another ship that would sail down the Nile to Thebes in order to complete their mission to find Gratian.
Now at some point in 396, after a perilous sea voyage for over 3 months from Constantinople to Britain passing through the Marmara, Aegean, the Mediterranean all the way out through the Strait of Gibraltar, up the Atlantic Ocean through Lusitania (today’s Portugal) and Gaul, Richomeres arrived in the distant island of Britain, a land with such bad climate with unpredictable storms that come and go with sunshine in between.
The old veteran general Richomeres at least arrived safely in Britain’s southern coast with an army of only about 150 heavy infantry troops or the Comitatenses legions, and when arriving they headed straight to the coastal fortress known as Portus Adurni along Britain’s southern coast. When entering the fortress, Richomeres only encountered a few troops stationed in it and thus he asked where everyone else had gone. The soldiers though told him that there are still about 15,000 Roman troops left in Britain but most of them are scattered around the island as again the Saxon pirates from across the North Sea have been doing their usual raids in Britain’s eastern coast while the North was as usual again attacked by the Picts from across Hadrian’s Wall. Richomeres then told the soldiers at the fort that the empire itself was in greater danger more than just the usual Saxon and Pict raids as almost the entire Western half of the Roman Empire had fallen to a new power being the Goths under a mad king which was Athanaric that came out of nowhere. The Roman troops in this fortress in Britain however only agreed to join Richomeres in the fight against the Goths in mainland Europe if Richomeres were to assist them against the Saxons and Picts, which was something the veteran Richomeres easily said yes to as he had encountered more difficult enemies in his lifetime while he also knew that based on recent history that the Picts and Saxons were an easy enemy to beat, especially for a seasoned general like him.
In the meantime, Athanaric who had based himself in the city of Burdigala in Western Gaul would now rule over his now massive empire which now already took over the entire Germania between Gaul and the original Goth lands of Eastern Europe through fear and oppression whereas all his subjects who did not agree with him especially if they were Christian were tortured and put to death and their properties confiscated all while Athanaric acting as the all-powerful ruler of Europe was never visible but instead chose to stay within the walls of his newly built luxurious palace in Burdigala which he built using the ruins of the old Roman buildings there which he broke into pieces and reassembled to build a large palace complex.
All the loot that was taken from Rome previously by Alaric and all the wealth confiscated from those who disagreed with Athanaric’s rule were thus used for the construction of Athanaric’s fleet of 1,000 ships intended to conquer the entire eastern half of the Roman Empire which was being constructed in the Bay of Biscay between Gaul and Hispania. At this point too in 396, as all of Italy, Gaul, and Germania fell under the rule of Athanaric’s Gothic Empire, all of Hispania including Lusitania also ceded to Athanaric’s Empire considering that his lieutenant Magnus Maximus was put in charge of it and so would Dalmatia which was under Athanaric’s other lieutenant Fravitta. Now the Roman citizens that were living under Athanaric’s empire that were happy with his rule and that could thrive were those who were still Pagan as Athanaric declared that all those who practiced any faith that was not Christianity or Judaism were tolerated and would not be persecuted while those who did not would be given a hard time, thus thousands if not even millions of Christians and Jews who were from the Western provinces fled as refugees to lands that were not under Athanaric and these would include Britain, North Africa, or the Eastern provinces which were under the Roman emperor Valentinian II. In order to force all these Christians and Jews that did not agree with Athanaric’s policies out of the western provinces which he now ruled, he together with his subordinate rulers Magnus, Alaric, Fravitta, and Gainas leveled many churches and Jewish synagogues to the ground, however with Magnus still being a Nicene Christian and Alaric being an Arian Christian they secretly kept some churches standing but to prove their loyalty to their boss Athanaric they obeyed and destroyed many churches, although Fravitta who still remained a Pagan Goth eagerly followed Athanaric’s order to destroy all churches in his region which was Dalmatia. On the other hand, those that were Roman subjects loyal to Athanaric which were mostly Pagan began dressing up in the Goth fashion of wearing fur out of pride.
Now by 397, the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire which included Thrace, Greece, most of the Balkans, Asia Minor, Syria, Cyprus, the Aegean islands, and Egypt were flooded with Christians whether Arian or Nicene and Jewish refugees from the Western provinces wherein thousands all poured into Constantinople where there was no more space to put them.
To solve this problem Valentinian II and Constantinople’s prefect Anthemius who was his main advisor had the refugees dispersed across Asia Minor and Syria while Valentinian also asked his new ally the Sassanid prince Yazdegerd who was still in Constantinople at this point to send a number of them over to the Sassanid Empire to seek asylum as after all the Sassanid shah and Yazdegerd’s brother Bahram IV was someone tolerant to Christians. Now, the Arian and Nicene Christians which just recently beat each other up in the streets all of a sudden had begun working with each other especially since they had a common enemy out to destroy them being Athanaric who now brought about a resurgence of the old Pagan faith which suppressed Christianity less than a hundred years earlier. The bishop Ambrose who now was seeking asylum in Constantinople too had suddenly turned from being one that further divided the Arian and Nicene Christians to someone that was making speeches that would unite both Christian sects.
All while both rival Christian sects were beginning to unite, Valentinian II despite ruling an empire in crisis was still enjoying the pleasures of the palace that here being already very close to his new ally the Sassanid Persian prince Yazdegerd, he would invite Yazdegerd to his usual midnight events in a private room in the palace which had walls made of the purple stone porphyry and purple drapes where the nobles of the Roman Empire’s eastern half would drink and feast all night while playing the board game known as tabula where people betted using money and even property, listen to music from a lute and lyre players, and watch women only clothed in something like towel dance a very dynamic dance. Now apparently- in this story’s case only- Valentinian’s uncle and his predecessor the former Eastern emperor Valens already had this tradition of having midnight events in the palace where he would feast and drink with other nobles and leaders, though with Valens it was in these midnight events where he made shady deals especially with Arian bishops as Valens was an Arian Christian emperor. As for Valentinian II, he still continued these midnight events of his uncle as he was still young being still in his 20s and thus wanted to enjoy his time, and to further please his generals he even invited them to it such as Anthemius and Rufinus who happened to enjoy the company of the other people in the event and the entertainment as well. Yazdegerd on the other hand who grew up in a lavish environment in the Sassanid Persian palace in their capital Ctesiphon was definitely used to these nights partying and drinking, therefore he enjoyed these midnight events hosted by Valentinian II in Constantinople’s imperial palace.
Back again in Egypt, after a 2-week cruise down the Nile River and encountering the ancient wonders of Egypt such as the pyramids, sphynx, and obelisks, the team of Theodosius, Valdis, and Stilicho arrived in their destination which was the Ancient Egyptian city they knew as Thebes, known in Egyptian as Waset.
Before getting off the ship, everyone in the expedition had to change into outfits that could blend into Egypt’s desert environment thus the 40 soldiers knowing they would not have to fight heavy battles here removed their armor and changed into yellow-brown tunics with brown pants and brown hats while only keeping their weapons, whereas Stilicho changed into the same yellow-brown tunic and brown hat except with a brown cloak over it while Theodosius changed into a light colored tunic with a green cloak over it and a scale armored vest over it. Valdis on the other hand changed to a rather strange outfit which was a piece of scaled armor which was formerly used by female gladiators and it was simply a strapless top made of metal scales which exposed her shoulders and connected to it was an iron shoulder guard strapped across her chest going beneath the armpit, while at the bottom was a skirt made of leather tassels, and above she wore a gray cloak that doubled as a headscarf, though her outfit was uncomfortable as the armor was placed over her bare skin. With everyone getting off the ship and into the rather half-ruined city of Thebes, half the team searched across the ruins and run-down houses just in case Gratian was around while the leaders Stilicho, Valdis, and Theodosius mounted camels and surveyed the entire perimeter of the ancient city. However, by the end of the day, no one achieved in their goal to find Gratian thus they all set up tents along the perimeter of the city as none of them wanted to stay with anyone in the rather deteriorated houses of the ancient city as over the years Thebes had been neglected allowing the most impoverished people of Roman Egypt to squat in it.
In the next day, the team would continue searching the entire run-down ruined city again but at the end would only find thin and sad faced impoverished native Egyptians with large eyes and long noses and when asking around if they’ve seen a man who doesn’t look like them no one answered as none of them knew Latin, while some soldiers even interrogated these locals by beating them to reveal information but still got nothing in return. However, Theodosius knowing some Greek asked them in Greek if they saw a man with light skin the way Theodosius and Stilicho did, they still did not reply despite these Egyptians knowing the Greek language other than their native Egyptian language, thus these people who didn’t reply too were struck a few times by the soldiers using the bottom of their weapons. Suddenly, one of the 40 soldiers was ambushed from above by a man cloaked in black using a large curved sword known as the Egyptian Khopesh, and this cloaked man leaped from above an Ancient Egyptian column and landed straight at that Roman soldier killing him. The others soldiers tried to fight back and so did Stilicho but it was too late as that man ran like lightning out of Thebes and into the desert. Theodosius then ordered the remaining 39 soldiers as well as Stilicho and Valdis to all mount on any camel or horse they saw in order to chase that man. Everyone thus got on to any horse or camel they saw and galloped out of Thebes and into the desert to the point of eventually catching up with that man as that man without riding anything but ran on foot was able to make it in time for the mounted Romans to reach him. The man however managed to get back to his camp which was a fort in the middle of a canyon with sandstone houses built into the rock, and blocking the canyon was a spiked rope. As the team reached the area, a large number of thugs dressed in the same black cloak as that man went into battle formation with those above the scaffolds firing arrows at them. Due to arrows being fired, 7 of the 39 Roman troops were killed, however Valdis using her large two-handed sword and her flexibility barged into the canyon fort’s entrance killing 2 of the thugs with just one blow of her sword, and one of these 2 men was the man they chased after.
Theodosius and Stilicho then stormed in killing the rest of the thugs with their own swords and by throwing the spears of their fallen soldiers at them. Eventually, all 25 of these black cloaked thugs wielding khopesh swords were all slain while the Romans lost 10 more soldiers, and once the fighting was done the team searched all the sandstone houses. Stilicho meanwhile kicked down the door of one house and found a rather fat man with a messy beard and messy hair with fair skin wearing a white tunic thus concluding it was Gratian, however this man recognizing Stilicho’s face kicked Stilicho into the clay jars thus shattering it. Theodosius then approached him but he being strong and athletic fought back leading to a fierce fight involving punching and kicking between him and Theodosius, which ended with Theodosius pinning him down and placing his foot over his chest while Valdis pulled out her large sword pointing it at his neck. Stilicho then got up and looked at him and thus concluded that it was Gratian who here was in his late 30s- the same age as Stilicho- but not recognizable with his messy hair and beard. When seeing him, both Theodosius and Valdis introduced themselves telling Gratian that they had shifted their loyalties to Rome and want him back as he is after all the emperor and the west which he ruled has no more emperor and thus it had fallen to the Goth king Athanaric. Gratian replying to them told them that he knows all about it as he witnessed a crushing defeat to Athanaric’s forces in Pannonia almost 2 years earlier which thus forced him to flee to Egypt as he wanted to disappear believing he could do nothing anymore to save the empire he ruled. Stilicho then tried to convince Gratian telling him that Rome is in such a dire situation and his younger half-brother Valentinian II is still too young and inexperienced to run an empire in this kind of crisis and that Gratian is the more able one there is considering that his more able father Valentinian I and uncle Valens were both already dead.
Gratian however still declined to return to serving as emperor but he asked to be brought back to Thebes as these cloaked men kidnapped him some days ago for some unknown reason but most likely because they knew there was something different about him. The remaining soldiers together with Theodosius, Valdis, and Stilicho thus headed back to Thebes together with Gratian who mounted one of the camels earlier on used by one of the slain soldiers. Back in Thebes, Gratian returned to his small shack house where he had been living in for almost a year now and when back in Thebes Gratian told Stilicho, Theodosius, and Valdis that he chose to stay there as a long time ago when Gratian was still a very small child in around the year 362, his father Valentinian who was not yet the emperor had for some reason been sent in a kind of exile to Thebes as it was a very distant place yet still part of the Roman Empire. The time Valentinian had been in Thebes was during the reign of the emperor Julian (r. 361-363) who was the last emperor of the previous Constantinian Dynasty, however Valentinian in 363 was called back to imperial service when Julian launched his campaign against the Sassanid Empire only resulting in Julian being killed in Sassanid territory by a flying spear that came out of nowhere thrown by a Sassanid soldier. Valentinian however survived this expedition and returned home to Roman territory with the newly elected emperor, the uninspiring and unambitious officer Jovian who just 8 months later in 364 died after suffocating on toxic fumes when sleeping before even making it back to Constantinople.
Following that, Valentinian was elected as the new emperor by the army and when returning to Constantinople, the empire was divided between east and west with Valentinian ruling the west and his younger brother Valens ruling the east, while to prevent a succession crisis, Jovian’s very young son was blinded by Valentinian’s and Valens’ orders, and the rest is history. Now Gratian chose to remain in Thebes to contemplate and find meaning as when his father was in Thebes more than 30 years earlier, he found more purpose and meaning in life while being alone in distant Thebes with the ruins of a long-gone civilization that was so mysterious yet so great, which was the Ancient Egyptian civilization. Gratian although said to Stilicho and company that he would sooner or later return to serving the empire but that they must go ahead and leave Thebes and report to Mascezel that Gratian is still alive, as true enough when encountering Gratian, it was Stilicho that told him that they encountered Mascezel in Alexandria who knew Gratian went to Egypt, thus Gratian also told Stilicho to tell Mascezel too that it will have to be Mascezel to be the one to go to Thebes and bring Gratian back. The remaining soldiers together with Stilicho, Theodosius, and Valdis then returned to their ship and sailed back up the Nile to Alexandria while Gratian at the dock in Thebes waved at them goodbye before returning to his modest house among the ruins. Moments later, Gratian when alone somewhat encountered his father the former emperor Valentinian I, however it was just an apparition of him as Valentinian had already been dead for almost 20 years, and here Valentinian told Gratian to not give up on the empire as the empire really needs him as Gratian was basically the most powerful man in Rome and the only one left having his father’s strength as his younger half-brother Valentinian II was not as strong as his father was. Valentinian I’s apparition then disappeared leaving Gratian with some mixed feeling now on whether to return to running the empire or not.
Athanaric on the other hand had already been living so comfortably in his newly built massive palace complex in Burdigala and there he would enjoy himself drinking and feasting while watching those who opposed him- mainly political enemies like Roman senators and bishops- being eaten by bears, lions, or tigers in his own private arena. From time to time, Athanaric would inspect the construction of his 1,000-ship navy together with Magnus Maximus who Athanaric here put in charge as the commander of this entire fleet when the time comes for it to be launched and invade all Roman lands. The next thing Athanaric would then do was to plot the abduction of Valentinian II and Gratian who Athanaric had no clue wherever he was, thus he summoned both Alaric from Italy and Fravitta from Dalmatia to come to him in Burdigala to plan the abduction of both emperors and bring them there to Burdigala as a way to break the Romans’ morale as Athanaric knew that with no emperor in charge, the Roman state will have a freefall into chaos.
Back in Egypt, Stilicho, Theodosius, and Valdis returned to Alexandria and they would thus settle there for many months for most of the year of 397 as after all, they all needed a time to slow down after all these years of being in action fighting wars and travelling to such distant places. Valdis would be the one to really enjoy herself here in Egypt by seeing a desert for the first time in her life and she also realized that this was the life she missed out on for over 40 years of being in a hard and cold place, and here in Egypt she had everything she had missed out on for the longest time such as good food and wine, warm climate, and an easy life of walking around the city and swimming in the sea.
Another thing Valdis also enjoyed doing in Alexandria was using the bathhouses where she was able to really cleanse all her skin from all the dirt accumulated over the years for the first time, however when she was in the baths one time, Mascezel suddenly approached her forcing her to immediately grab a towel and cover herself up. Apparently, Mascezel had already approached both Theodosius and Stilicho before approaching her, and here Mascezel told Valdis that she would now have to join in the mission to now fully subdue the Athanaric sponsored rebellion of Mascezel’s brother Gildo in the province of Africa, and in return for that, Mascezel will bring Gratian back from Thebes. Valdis then returned to her villa where she and Theodosius lived, packed their supplies including weapons and armor, and thus Stilicho, Valdis, and Theodosius got on to the same ship they took down the Nile to Thebes but this time with Mascezel and instead of going south they would head west out of Alexandria through the Mediterranean into Carthage.
Over in Constantinople meanwhile, the bishop of Milan Ambrose had already died in 397- same date as his death in real history- and by this point the rival Arian and Nicene Christians have begun setting aside their differences now that they would have to fight together against a common enemy.
By this point, Valentinian II asked Yazdegerd who was still with him to ask his brother the Sassanid shah Bahram IV to provide him an additional 2,000 men as Valentinian knew Athanaric’s threat was still getting larger. By this point too, Yazdegerd’s Sassanid troops stationed in Chalcedon had already been getting more and more used to being alongside Roman troops while Yazdegerd and Valentinian II continued growing closer to each especially through Valentinian’s secret midnight events in the palace. The Prefect of Constantinople Anthemius at this time had also got a letter sent from Stilicho in Alexandria before the latter left asking for additional troops from the capital which would be needed to assist Mascezel with the pro-Athanaric rebellion of Gildo in North Africa. Now over in North Africa now already being the year 398, the ship carrying Stilicho, Theodosius, Valdis, and Mascezel arrived not in its capital Carthage but in a port nearby while following their arrival, they had discovered that the 1,000 men Stilicho asked from the capital had already arrived and met up with them. That night, as the troops camped before they would set off for Carthage, Mascezel had a rather strange dream and here the late bishop Ambrose of Milan spoke to him assuring him of a victory over his brother. On the following day, the team headed west to the walls of Carthage where Mascezel came face-to-face with his brother Gildo who stood above the walls. Gildo then gave his brother an ultimatum saying that its either Mascezel surrenders or Gildo will execute Mascezel’s two sons who were kept within Carthage. Mascezel who not wanting to give up refused to surrender and so Gildo ordered Mascezel’s sons executed by having their heads chopped off and a few hours later their heads were shown to their father Mascezel who then declared war, though Gildo only agreed to battle against his brother’s forces and the Roman reinforcements from Constantinople if they would clash in a camp west of Carthage in the middle of the desert.
The team of Mascezel including his own troops from North Africa, reinforcements from Constantinople, Stilicho, Theodosius, and Valdis then headed west eventually coming across the camp of Gildo in the desert right next to the Mediterranean shore where at sunrise they attacked the camp by surprise as Gildo’s troops mostly consisting of native Berbers of North Africa were just getting out of bed and putting their armor on. A large number of Gildo’s troops however managed to get their armor on and arm themselves with spears, bows, swords, and slings but were still no match against the more disciplined and equipped forces of Mascezel and their Eastern Roman reinforcements while Stilicho himself using his strategic ways in war ordered the heavily armed Eastern Roman Comitatenses troops to all march in a straight horizontal line with their spears forward which thus scared Gildo’s men. Stilicho now charged into battle himself personally slaying Gildo’s men while Theodosius using the same savage ways he fought when serving the Goths killed off Gildo’s men like ants, and Valdis who dressed in the same armor she was wearing in Egypt earlier on spun her large two-handed sword around without stopping thus killing many of Gildo’s men.
Gildo meanwhile when seeing so many of his men slain like ants and his brother Mascezel emerging victorious, he ran quickly to the dock of the camp getting on to a small fishing boat with a small sail which he paddled so swiftly out into the sea. When noticing Gildo escaping by that boat, Theodosius threw off his armor as well as his shirt inside it and thus jumped into the sea shirtless and swam to reach the boat of Gildo which he was able to grab. Valdis on the other hand grabbed a bow and after lighting the arrow she was using on fire, she fired it directly hitting the wooden boat Gildo was on leading to the boat burning forcing Gildo to also jump into the sea. Theodosius then grabbed Gildo while both were on the water, and Theodosius being the better swimmer than Gildo put his arms around Gildo’s neck strangling him, and within a few minutes due to the pressure on his neck from Theodosius’ arm and drowning in the water, Gildo had died and thus his body was left to float in the sea.
As Theodosius swam back to the camp, the surviving troops of Gildo surrendered and defected to Mascezel, and thus Mascezel was proclaimed as the new Roman governor of North Africa, and therefore freeing the region from Athanaric’s influence. Mascezel was then asked by Stilicho if Gratian would now be finally brought back, and Mascezel here agreed to it as long as Stilicho, Theodosius, and Valdis would go over to Sicily and stay in another of Mascezel’s family’s villas there, and there Mascezel would meet them with Gratian himself as after all Stilicho, Theodosius, and Valdis fulfilled their end of the deal in helping Mascezel destroy his brother Gildo. Meanwhile, Athanaric back in his new base at Burdigala now already very close to completing his 1,000-ship fleet had just heard of his ally Gildo being destroyed and was greatly upset with it. However, Magnus Maximus who was here with Athanaric advised Athanaric to now get Mascezel to his side by paying him off as Magnus knowing of Mascezel from before when both served in the Roman army that Mascezel did not really care about loyalty but the money, and he would do anything just for the pay. Athanaric now agreed to paying off Mascezel with a large amount of gold but on the condition too that Mascezel would bring Gratian to Athanaric as Athanaric had already knew from Gildo that Mascezel knew Gratian’s whereabouts. Other than that, Athanaric also asked Fravitta who was also here in Burdigala to be the one in charge of brining Valentinian II to him, and Fravitta despite being far away from Constantinople knew he could get the job done as he did in fact still have contacts in Constantinople that once served him before when he was a general in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire.
The spin-off’s Climax- The Final Battle of the Ages (398-399)
Over in the distant land of Britain in 398, the veteran general Richomeres who was sent there by Valentinian II to gather up a resistance first had to do his part of the deal to get the troops of Britain to join him, and this was in helping them defeat the Saxon pirates raiding Britain’s eastern coast and the Picts up in the north.
The Saxon pirates were thus easily subdued by Richomeres that by the beginning of 398 the entire eastern coast of Britain was safe from Saxon raids whereas some of the defeated Saxons even promised to ally with the Romans by providing ships to strike against Athanaric. With the Saxons taken care off, Richomeres as well as the remaining Romano-British troops in Britain headed north to Hadrian’s Wall to deal with the Pict attacks. The painted and drugged Picts as usual charged and broke into the broken parts of the wall in such a wild frenzy that scared the Roman troops defending the wall. Richomeres however who had seen so many wars and enemies over the decades knew that defeating the Picts was not a hard task, and so he ordered the troops to all stay in formation as the Picts charged at them. True enough this tactic suggested by Richomeres was a success, and thus the Roman troops moved in a single formation pushing the Picts back across the wall.
Once the Picts were fully repelled, Richomeres ordered that the cracks in Hadrian’s Wall which for the longest time had not been repaired be repaired and strengthened. Once the wall was repaired, the Romano-British troops then agreed that they will join Richomeres in attacking Athanaric, and apparently some of the Romano-British troops knew Athanaric was in Gaul as true enough some Romans from Gaul wanting to escape Athanaric fled to Britain and thus told these soldiers. Over in Sicily meanwhile, Theodosius and Valdis had been staying in Mascezel’s villa for a couple months and again Valdis enjoyed its much warmer climate the same way she enjoyed the climate of Egypt as again Sicily was still so much different from the cold climate of her homeland in Eastern Europe while Theodosius too enjoyed Sicily as it very much had the same climate and landscape as his native land Hispania, while Stilicho had been living in another house but also part of Mascezel’s family’s estate. Eventually, Mascezel returned to them, this time to give them updates on the situation, however Theodosius, Valdis, and Stilicho all put on their armor believing something suspicious was about to happen. True enough, there was something suspicious as beside Mascezel was Fravitta and no other than Alaric who was put in charge of Italy by his uncle Athanaric, and here it certainly showed Mascezel was really up to no good. For the past years now, Athanaric and even Magnus and Alaric had thought both Theodosius and Valdis had disappeared for good, however here Alaric when seeing both Theodosius and Valdis again were greatly shocked especially at the fact that they turned against Athanaric and joined the Romans. Theodosius however answered back to Alaric telling him that he no longer wants to serve the Goths especially because of how Alaric savagely killed innocents while Valdis shouted at Alaric that she is done serving the Goths especially due to all the backstabbing and murder in which she certainly referred to Athanaric killing Fritigern.
Valdis too angrily asked Mascezel about what he did to Gratian while Mascezel told her that he had already taken care of Gratian by sending him off to Athanaric in chains, then following this the exchange of angry words led to a small skirmish breaking out whereas Theodosius and Valdis threw Fravitta at the exterior wall of the house where they both continued to torture him by slamming his head which was although protected by a helmet against the wall whereas Alaric using sneaky tactics hid beneath some of the haystacks in the villa while Mascezel ran way to the bridge while Stilicho ran after him. This bridge apparently was a high one and beneath it was a shallow river which had more rocks than water, and in this bridge Stilicho and Mascezel got into a fierce fistfight where Stilicho had gained more ground to the point of holding Mascezel by the neck, and out of anger for Mascezel betraying them, Stilicho simply threw Mascezel off the bridge to his death as Mascezel fell off the high bridge breaking his bones on the rocks below. In the villa, Theodosius when smashing Fravitta against the wall continuously asked where Athanaric is at, and after some 30 hits against the wall which thus shattered his helmet, the badly beaten Fravitta revealed the location only saying Gaul, and by this time Stilicho returned and he too continued beating Fravitta and thus Fravitta revealed that Athanaric was amassing a very massive fleet in the western coast of Gaul.
Following this, Valdis with one blow of her large sword cut Fravitta creating such a clean cut that cut the helmet in half and went all the way down to his neck. As Fravitta dropped dead on the floor, Alaric suddenly jumped from beneath the haystack grabbing both Theodosius and Valdis at the legs telling them that they will be brought over to Athanaric to pay for their betrayal, however Stilicho tried to fight back only for him to get pushed away by Alaric’s Goth bodyguards. Alaric then put bags over the heads of both Theodosius and Valdis and had them loaded at the back of a wagon which was to be brought to the port of Sicily where a ship would take them to Athanaric’s palace whereas Stilicho fled the villa in fear but knew where to go which was Dalmatia knowing that with Fravitta already dead, his lands could already be retaken by the Romans. Back in Constantinople in the latter part of 398, as Valentinian II was again having his usual midnight events in the palace together with Yazdegerd, Anthemius, and Rufinus, Valentinian II happened to get the most drunk but this was done on purpose as apparently it was one of the dancers dressed in the revealing rough towel dress simply wrapped around the body that served Valentinian his wine, and once he passed out she told him she’s sorry she did that but her boss saying the name Fravitta instructed her to do it however not knowing that Fravitta had already died.
At first, the people with Valentinian at this midnight event were not aware of what happened but simply dismissed it as Valentinian getting drunk and having to be brought back to his room, though little did they know that this dancer dragged his body out of the private room for the guards who were actually Fravitta’s men to load him into a ship in the harbor. It was thus only in the next day when they discovered that Valentinian went missing, therefore leading to the whole city to panic as now not only was there no more Western emperor but there was no more Eastern emperor too, thus no emperor at all to lead the Roman Empire. As the people of Constantinople were in a great panic, Anthemius as the city’s prefect reassured them all that things will all be fine and that they will find Valentinian. On the other hand, a large number of people whether Arian or Nicene Christians had joined forces together telling Anthemius that they are agreeing to volunteer in the fight against Athanaric. By this time as well, Rufinus got word from Stilicho which he presented to Anthemius that they must all meet up in Dalmatia where Stilicho was at already, and there they would regroup and plan their full counter-attack against Athanaric in Gaul. Before leaving for Dalmatia, Anthemius with the absence of Valentinian II being the de facto leader of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire as he was the head of Constantinople permitted the Roman people very much angry with the Goths to carry out a massacre of the Gothic population of Constantinople and in other parts still under Roman rule.
Now in early 399, a large number of Eastern Roman troops with Anthemius, Rufinus, the Arian and Nicene Christian volunteers, and even Yazdegerd and a total of 8,000 Sassanid troops which included infantry, cavalry lancers and archers whether on horses or camels, and infantry archers arrived in the city of Pula in Dalmatia- the same port Gratian set off from for Egypt back in 395- meeting up with Stilicho and the last remains of the Western Roman troops. As Stilicho was inspiring everyone there to all fight back against Athanaric, the two Eastern Roman leaders Anthemius and Rufinus were hesitant as they did not really trust Stilicho in commanding them and would only do so if Richomeres, the most senior general was there to lead them, however Richomeres was still in Britain and none of them got word from him. Here, it was only the Sassanid prince Yazdegerd that was willing to side with Stilicho and fight back as Yazdegerd only came into Roman territory with the purpose to kill Athanaric and his Goths.
Stilicho thus would recall the Battle of Adrianople in 378 more than 20 years earlier which he witnessed himself when he was much younger then, and he would tell all his troops in which some of them there at the moment were even surviving veterans of that battle that they almost lost that battle to fear but since they stood united and overcame that fear, now they can apply that same principle and they could once again defeat the Goths that way. Anthemius who also remembering the events of the Battle of Adrianople which he saw for himself too would now finally agree to Stilicho in joining forces against the Goths, while Rufinus who was not present at Adrianople would agree as well since Anthemius said so, and usually he agreed to whatever Anthemius said. In the following day, everyone stationed in Pula thus began the long and treacherous march west to Gaul to finally face-off the dark lord Athanaric. Meanwhile in Gaul, Alaric in his ship had arrived in Burdigala brining Theodosius and Valdis with him, and only in the throne room of Athanaric were the bags removed form Theodosius’ and Valdis’ heads where they saw their former master Athanaric in thick fur robes with his white hair tied up in a ponytail in the throne right in front of them, and across Theodosius and Valdis from this large marble dining table were no other than Gratian still with his beard and messy hair and Valentinian II, and in front of them a large variety of food to feast on, and all over a room made of the purple stone porphyry. Athanaric then thanked his nephew Alaric for bringing Theodosius and Valdis to him and thus he sent Alaric to return to the fleet as he together with Magnus Maximus were to command it for it was already going to be launched. The reason now to why Athanaric kept both Gratian and Valentinian II in his palace was to make them seem powerless to save their empires from his invasion as they here could get all the luxury they wanted but could never leave while Theodosius and Valdis were brought here as Athanaric at this time was still thinking of ways to punish them for their betrayal. Theodosius on the other hand had thought that this was all a trap as Athanaric wanted to stuff them all for them to have the best meal of their lives before they are all killed as true enough Theodosius having been with Athanaric for many years until he defected back to Rome in 395 definitely knew Athanaric had so many tricks up his sleeves.
In the meantime, the united remains of the Roman army with their dragon banners have arrived in Western Gaul together with their Sassanid allies, and when seeing Athanaric’s massive fleet docked in the sea from above an elevated area, none of them believed they could take them down altogether, thus the generals of the attack being Stilicho, Anthemius, Rufinus, and Yazdegerd settled down on a strategy to divide themselves into 4 divisions whereas Stilicho’s would find a secret way to get to the ships bypassing the land army on the shore, the Sassanids under Yazdegerd which mostly consisted of cavalry was to charge straight at the land army while Anthemius and his division of Roman troops were to attack the land army at the left side and Rufinus and his division from the right. The Sassanid cavalry thus marched down the slope to the land army with the Sassanid infantry spearmen behind them as reinforcements, and when getting to the bottom of the slope they saw that the enemy land army also mostly consisting of cavalry troops of Huns, Alans, and Sarmatian cavalry warriors which the latter were mostly female.
The Sassanids having many horse archers with them thus simultaneously shot arrows at the enemy cavalry taking down many but it was not enough as the enemy cavalry charged straight at them with such fury. This then made the Sassanid horse archers fall back allowing the Sassanid heavy armored cataphract cavalry lancers to charge at the enemy cavalry, and with their speed and strength, the horsemen with their long and heavy lances took down a large number of the enemy, especially the Alan cavalry. However, even the heavy Sassanid cavalry at the end was no match for the fury of the Hun cavalry who then routed a large number of the Sassanid forces with their speed and by taking down so many Sassanid horsemen from their horses by the use of their lassos, and as the Sassanid horsemen fell on the ground and got up, the Huns slaughtered them with their swords and axes. Seeing the Sassanids being slaughtered by the Hun, Alan, and Sarmatian cavalry, both Anthemius and Rufinus then ordered their divisions consisting of Roman Limitanei and Comitatenses troops to attack the enemy on opposite sides from behind knowing that this was the perfect time to distract them as they were focused their attention on slaying the Sassanids.
Meanwhile, Stilicho with his troops including Iberian (Georgian) and Armenian mercenary archers and the local Berbers of North Africa once under the traitor Mascezel’s command reached the shore a few kilometers south of where the battle was being fought and there, they saw a number of boats they could use to get to one of the ships. Stilicho with a few mercenary archers got onto the small boats which they used to get into one of the boats as the strategy Stilicho came up with was to capture one of the 1,000 enemy ships which he would then use to sail to the shore and pick up the rest of his army. When on these small boats, the archers were able to burn down one of the enemy ships by firing an arrow directly at an oil vase which scattered oil to the point of reaching the ship’s brazier, therefore causing this ship to burn and its mostly Goth crew to jump into the sea. Stilicho on the other hand was able to board one of the enemy ships, and once on the ship, he and his men killed off the crew and took control of the ship, which they then used to pick up their remaining men on the shore.
Now, back in Athanaric’s palace in Burdigala, Theodosius, Valdis, Valentinian II, and Gratian continued feasting with Athanaric watching them who still kept on talking about that he will succeed in destroy the Roman civilization now that he has their two emperors kept with him.
Gratian being as brave and quick tempered like his father Valentinian I then told Athanaric that if he wants to destroy the Roman civilization then he has to test the strength of all 4 of them first, and Gratian with his arrogance too told Athanaric that he will be a very tough enemy to face for whatever is thrown at him. Athanaric now who already had a plan to destroy them then got off his throne and entered a door on the side of the room which led to a terrace above this room wherein Athanaric had another throne above, and the moment Athanaric got upstairs, he had his bodyguards shut all entrances to the room as that was the surprise for his 4 captives. Back in the battle, the Roman Limitanei and Comitatenses troops of both Anthemius’ and Rufinus’ divisions were able to push back the enemy Hun, Alan, and Sarmatian horsemen and take down many of them with their spears, but many Roman troops were still taken down by the Huns’ lassos and afterwards slaughtered as they fell to the ground.
The Sassanids on the other hand after losing so many cavalrymen had to fall back to where their leader Yazdegerd was, and not wanting to sacrifice their elite cavalry forces, Yazdegerd sent his infantry spearmen to take the place of the cavalry and attack the enemy horsemen, especially the savage Huns as Yazdegerd did not really mind sacrificing his weaker troops. Stilicho meanwhile had managed to capture 5 more ships as the troops under his command jumped from one ship to another and by leaping from ship to ship by surprise, the Goth and Slav troops that were on these ships were either easily slaughtered by Roman swords and spears or had jumped into the sea and drowned to death. By the use of the mercenary archers who by firing flaming arrows, they were able to destroy 10 more enemy ships further away by fire that had a difficult time reaching them.
Back in the palace, the surprise came as the main door was opened releasing 4 hungry wolves that became even more savage as there was a lot of leftover food on the table, and the worst part for the 4 captives was that they did not have weapons to take them down.
Valentinian II rushed to all the doors but realized none, whether the door to the stairs leading to the terrace where Athanaric was or even the main door had been sealed while Theodosius with the use of a knife injured one of the wolves by cutting its leg as the wolf had already taken him down and already about to eat him. With this wolf injured, Gratian being very athletic ran very fast jumping on the table and onto the wolf which he wrestled with and was able to kill by stabbing its head with another knife on the table. Valentinian II meanwhile took down another wolf by throwing a torch at it thus burning the wolf to the point of weakening it allowing Theodosius to kill it by using a hammer that was available in the room. Theodosius then threw the hammer at Valdis who then struck down another wolf with it and managed to kill it by hitting it in the head with it. The 4th wolf was then taken down by Gratian who smashed a large glass vase and used a large shard from it to stab the wolf in the chest. Athanaric on the terrace above feasting on grapes and wine was greatly impressed with how the 4 killed all 4 wolves without weapons, thus he ordered his guards to open the main door so that they would be given their weapons, and here Valdis got back her large two-handed sword, Theodosius his longsword known as a Spatha with a shield, while Gratian was given a large spear, and Valentinian II a Frankish axe, and following that would be another surprise for them to fight. Back in the main battle, the Roman troops of Anthemius and Rufinus had soon enough become no match for the savage Hun cavalry and thus more and more were slaughtered especially by the Huns while the weaker Sassanid spearmen were almost entirely obliterated. What was even more shocking to the Roman and Sassanid troops battling in the shore was that Gainas, one of Athanaric’s generals charged at them riding his horse while wielding a large spiked club killing a number of Roman and Sassanid troops so easily with it. Back in Athanaric’s palace, the new surprise came which were 4 savage and hungry lions, and as the door was opened to let them into the dining hall, Gratian in his usual attitude of striking first charged at one lion with his spear, however the spear only slightly stabbed the lion while Gratian was pushed aside by the lion with its massive paw. Valentinian II however wounded this lion that attacked his brother by slashing its back leg with his axe, and afterwards Valentinian who was the weakest of the 4 was the one able to kill this lion by stabbing it at the back of its neck with his axe, although it was a rather long process to kill it leading to Valentinian himself being injured as the lion scratched his chest and his arms but luckily, he had leather armor protecting him, but the armor was still scratched. The other lion meanwhile was injured by Valdis who slashed its front leg and side; however, the lion was able to stand and scratch Valdis at the back, and this scratch was a severe one as Valdis’ back was exposed as the armor she wore was only up until her upper chest, therefore exposing her back. As Valdis fell to the ground due to her injury, Theodosius was the one who managed to kill this lion by throwing his sword right at the lion’s head. With the group of 4 defeating the lions, Athanaric was once again greatly impressed that he laughed so hard, therefore he now ordered 8 of his guards which were fully armed and armored to now be the ones to attack the 4 of them to see if they are still a match to them.
Back in the sea, although Stilicho had captured a large number of ships from the Goths, he soon enough ran out of men to capture and board ships as the Gothic fleet was simply too many in number compared to Stilicho’s men. Soon enough, Stilicho encountered Alaric himself who here jumped from ship to ship that were captured by Stilicho and his men, and as he jumped from ship-to-ship Alaric mercilessly slaughtered all of Stilicho’s men with his blades or by ripping their arms and legs off by himself.
Eventually, Alaric came face-to-face with Stilicho aboard one of the ships and both battled each other with their blades. At the end, Alaric who wielding two weapons being an axe and a sword was able to overpower Stilicho by pushing him down, and following that Alaric kicked Stilicho off the ship into the sea, however Stilicho who knew how to swim well still survived. In the land battle on the other hand, Gainas riding his horse and wielding a large spiked club continued taking down many Romans and Sassanids with it until a Roman comitatenses legionnaire with his spear managed to stab the horse causing Gainas to fall. Gainas although got up on his feet and picked up his spiked club which he then used against Rufinus killing him with it as he struck the spiked club at Rufinus’ head, and the spikes of this club was true enough able to penetrate his helmet. In the palace meanwhile, 8 of Athanaric’s guards with 4 being from the Thervingi Goth tribe which he was the king of and the other 8 from the Greuthungi tribe which Valdis was from came into the hall all dressed in thick scale armor and wielding large weapons including large two-handed axes, spears, two-handed swords, spiked clubs, and large hammers ready to attack Theodosius, Valdis, Gratian, and Valentinian II. Gratian being the most energized of the 4 charged first as usual with his spear killing one of the Goths by stabbing him in the stomach, and following that Gratian grabbed this slain Goth’s axe which he threw at another Goth straight at his face killing him, however the 3rd Goth using the other end of his spear used it against Gratian by tossing him across the room with it.
Theodosius on the other hand using his Spatha longsword dueled the Goth wielding the large two-handed sword with it, and when seeing an opening in this Goth’s chest as he raised his arms with this heavy sword, Theodosius stabbed him in the chest thus killing him. Valdis here although wounded from the lion’s scratch still managed to fight with her large two-handed sword, although lacking in energy, but at the end she was able to take down one of the Goths by slashing his legs with her sword, and when he was down, she decapitated his head with her sword. Now half of Athanaric’s guards were slain, and thus the 5th one was killed by Valentinian II who struck this Goth’s arm with his small axe, and following that as this Goth was down, Valentinian struck his face down with his axe. However, the same Goth wielding a spear that took Gratian down also took Valentinian down by hitting him hard in the stomach with the bottom of his spear but just right before this Goth was about to stab Valentinian with his spear, Theodosius intervened by stabbing this Goth in the neck.
Theodosius then ended up wrestling with the 7th Goth to the point that both disarmed each other of their weapons, and using the same strangling technique he used on Gildo in the sea, here he used it on this Goth killing him. The last Goth was then slain by Valdis who grabbed the other slain Goth’s large axe by slashing his legs with it, and after that she used her sword by cutting him from the collarbone down to his waist with one strong blow. Although all 8 heavily armored and armed Goths were slain, Theodosius collapsed as a result of using all his energy in wrestling one of the Goths while Valdis who was still recovering from her wound from the lion’s scratch and also using all her energy on battling the Goths also fell whereas Gratian and Valentinian II were already taken down and almost unconscious. Seeing all 4 of them down, Athanaric in the throne in the terrace above laughed believing that the time was now right to kill all 4 of them.
In the meantime, the Romans and their Sassanid allies seemed to be losing the battle both in the shore and in the sea, and as Stilicho jumped into the sea, the rest of his men were so easily slaughtered by Alaric and his Goth and Slav warriors. In the land battle, Gainas with his large club continued slaying both Romans and Sassanids while the Sassanid cavalry out of fear from the savage Hun cavalry retreated in panic. However, Stilicho after a time managed to get back up to one of the ships which his men still held, and when looking across the sea, he saw more ships headed their way believing it was now the end as Athanaric probably sent reinforcements. Surprisingly though, about a thousand flaming arrows came firing from these ships being shot at Athanaric’s navy. As these ships came closer, they happened to be the ships of the Saxon pirates of the North Sea that now assisted the Romans, and as they came closer a few ships with the mark of Christ the chi-rho (Px) on its sails appeared, and apparently these were Roman ships containing the troops from Britain led by the veteran general Richomeres.
Meanwhile, as Theodosius, Valdis, Gratian, and Valentinian II were down on the ground, they began hearing voices of people from the past and these included the voices of Valens, Valentinian I, the previous emperors Julian, Constantius II, and Constantine I the Great as well as the fallen Roman heroes of the past and in Valdis’ case she even heard the voice of Fritigern, the late Gothic king and co-ruler of Athanaric, and all these voices were telling them the same thing, which was to get back up and therefore giving all of them courage to rise up and face whatever comes at them whereas Theodosius looking at some pieces of amber he had with him all the way from the Baltic gained strength as he remembered his late mother. When all 4 of them got back up on their feet, Athanaric after laughing as usual ordered them to face the final challenge which would surely mean the end for all of them. The remains of Athanaric’s guards then opened the main door to the hall, and out came two large bears in armor which were surely very difficult to fight as not only were they almost completely covered in armor but they were hungry and would not hesitate to eat anything in their way. Gratian when seeing these bears knew that Athanaric was doing it to mock them too as Gratian’s father Valentinian I when he was emperors used bears to execute his political enemies by having them eat them, thus Gratian thought Athanaric had learned of this kind of practice done by the late Valentinian I.
Back in the sea, as hundreds of Saxon ships with a few Roman ones approached the Goth fleet, Magnus Maximus in the command ship of Athanaric’s fleet being distracted ordered the remaining ships of their fleet to switch direction and attack the incoming Roman and Saxon ships head-on. The winds though happened to come north and were thus on the side of the incoming ships, and due to the winds, the Roman and Saxon ships were able to crash into Athanaric’s ships. Hundreds of Saxon pirates then boarded the Goth ships and were the ones now to jump from ship-to-ship wiping out the Goth and Slav warriors within them. In the land meanwhile, as the army of Goths, Huns, Alans, and Sarmatians looked back and saw their ships under attack, they too panicked, and Anthemius who was here took advantage of the situation and led what was left of his Roman legionnaires to charge at the enemy cavalry while the Sassanids did the same too with Yazadegerd himself leading them from the front. In this part of the battle, a Sassanid lancer mounted on a camel managed to stab Gainas with his spear, and as the large Goth Gainas fell to the ground, Anthemius was the one to give him the death blow with his spatha sword by decapitating him with it.
Following that, the female Sarmatian horse warriors still put up a fight but were at the end routed by the Sassanid lancers. Back in the palace, as the two large armored bears had entered the hall, Gratian, Valentinian II, Theodosius, and Valdis stood side-by-side with each other with their weapons drawn as if they were about to be killed by these bears, however Theodosius thought of a strategy to distract the bears, and thus he threw the leftover food still on the table being the remains of a large roast duck to the other side of the room causing one of the bears to rush that way, and as the bear went to that side of the room, Theodosius grabbed the spear of one of the slain Goth guards from the ground and threw it at that bear, however it hardly hit it as its armor was too strong. Gratian on the other hand came up with a strategy to injure the bear by lighting his spearhead on fire, and so he ripped a part of his clothes and wrapped it around his spear’s tip which he thus set on fire by placing it over a torch in the room, and using his flaming spear he charged straight at one of the bears and did in fact hurt it by stabbing it in the mouth with it.
However, the bear was ever more savage when injured that it charged at Gratian pushing him to the other side of the room, but before this bear was about to eat Gratian, Valdis and Valentinian II came to his aid by stabbing this bear’s exposed stomach from underneath whereas Valdis used her large sword and Valentinian II using a spear he picked up from another of the slain Goth guards. This bear thus fell to the ground, and as it was down Gratian stabbed it right at its mouth with his spear killing it. However, the other bear was still left standing which Theodosius ended up wrestling with it himself to the point that Theodosius was badly injured as the bear scratched him several times and even bit his lower leg, though Gratian came to the rescue and was the one now to wrestle this bear. Now back in the main battle, the Romans and Sassanids had now been emerging victorious in the land battle as with Gainas slain, a large number of the enemy troops on the ground fled in a panic, including the fearsome Hun horsemen. In the sea, Alaric still continued slaughtering the Romans and now Saxons until he encountered both Richomeres and Stilicho who now reunited in one of the ships, and together both generals agreed to take down Alaric together.
In the palace again, seeing no way to take down the second bear with their pure strength, Valdis as well as Valentinian II were the ones here to come up with a plan to burn the hall using the hanging oil lamps above them, and thus this could allow the sealed doors to break, and from there they can all head upstairs. Valentinian II then threw his axe at one hanging oil lamp while Gratian threw one of the spears at the other, and thus both lamps fell creating an explosion of fire in the ground which therefore stalled the bear from moving. Theodosius then ordered them all to head to the side of the room, and eventually the fire spread to that door going beneath it and thus burning off the wooden bar that sealed it.
Meanwhile, in the sea, both Richomeres and Stilicho battled Alaric themselves yet they were still no match for Alaric wielding two weapons who had so much energy. Alaric thus managed to strike Richomeres down to the floor, however Richomeres crawled to reach a bow of one of the fallen Roman archers in the ship’s deck, and when grabbing it and an arrow, he fired the arrow which then hit Alaric straight at the eye. Although being shot in the eye, Alaric savagely swung both weapons but this time without control as he was injured, and using this to his advantage, Stilicho threw his longsword straight at Alaric thus stabbing him.
Following this, Stilicho ordered Richomeres to jump to the next ship where they will fire a flaming bolt at the ship Alaric was on. As they jumped to the next ship, it fortunately had a siege weapon being a ballista, and before firing it, Stilicho set the bolt that it was to shoot on fire, and thus Richomeres when operating it shot the bolt straight at the ship Alaric was on, and within minutes the ship burned killing Alaric in the process too. Over in the palace again, as the door opened up due to the flame, Valdis, Gratian, and Valentinian II rushed into the door and to the stairs going up to the terrace while Theodosius who was still in the hall saw Athanaric above attempting to flee as his hall was burning. Theodosius here using Gratian’s spear threw it at Athanaric and was thus successful hitting Athanaric in the hand with it. Athanaric then fell to the ground injured and ordered the last of his guards to attack the 4 but as the guards came in, Valdis and Valentinian II killed all of them in a frenzy. Eventually, all 4 of them reached Athanaric, and as Athanaric was down on the ground injured, he told the 4 of them what he really aimed to do and why he wanted to conquer the Roman Empire. Apparently, the barbarian Athanaric had a true purpose which was that he was tired of the world being so divided among different people being Romans, Goths, other Germanic barbarians, Scythians, Celts, Sassanid Persians, Huns, and a lot more, and thus he wanted to break this whole reality and create a new one where all races live under one empire with no more borders. Gratian however replied to Athanaric that this can never happen as no one no matter how powerful can rule an empire this big with so many races, and this was true in this case as the Romans once thought they could do it but at the end it was the massive size of their empire that made it so difficult for them to survive. Theodosius and Valdis too proved Athanaric wrong and both here said that they will never serve a mad barbarian ruler like him anymore, and as the room continued burning below, Theodosius, Valdis, Gratian, and Valentinian II all grabbed Athanaric and pushed him off the terrace into the burning hall. The bear meanwhile was still standing below, and as Athanaric fell into the burning hall, the bear devoured the 68-year-old Athanaric to death, but a few minutes later the bear was killed as well by the flames. Soon enough, the whole palace would burn, thus the group of 4 rushed with such speed out of the palace eventually coming out in the river that flowed through the city of Burdigala.
In the meantime, the land battle at the shore was already over whereas the Hun, Alan, Sarmatian, and Goth cavalry either surrendered to the Romans or Sassanids or had escaped, but in the sea the battle was still raging and it had already been over 24 hours since the battle began, however the small Saxon ships now surrounded the capital ship where Magnus Maximus was. Eventually, Gratian, Valentinian II, Theodosius, and Valdis after taking a boat up the river into the sea, they found some horses and managed to make it right in time to the shore to meet up with the Roman and Sassanid troops that had won. Yazdegerd thus noticed Valentinian and was happy that he was after all alive while Gratian here now reuniting with his fellow Romans then ordered a group of soldiers to go out to the sea and send word to their fellow troops fighting there that Athanaric is dead. After more hours of fighting with the capital ship of Magnus still being surrounded, this group delivering the message approached both Stilicho and Richomeres informing them of Athanaric’s death. Seeing Magnus in the ship in front of them, Stilicho shouted at him telling him to surrender as Athanaric was dead.
Magnus here not knowing how to react ordered his ship to break the Saxon ships surrounding him but it was too late as the Saxons boarded his ship and took him away, and as ordered by Stilicho, they pushed Magnus into the sea, and with Magnus in full armor here, he drowned to death. The battle was at last over with Athanaric and his Gothic Empire over in just 4 years after it was formed. The surviving men of Athanaric all surrendered as they were leaderless as not only was Athanaric dead but all his subordinate leaders too. With the battle over, everyone who survived including Stilicho, Richomeres, Anthemius, Yazdegerd, Valentinian II, Gratian, Valdis, and Theodosius returned to the shore where the land battle was fought, and thus they celebrated their victory there.
The Aftermath and Conclusion
With this epic battle in the coast of Gaul over and Athanaric now dead, the Gothic Empire that Athanaric put all his life into making just crumbled in the blink of an eye as not only did Athanaric die without an heir as he true enough had no children throughout his life, while his immediate successor which was his nephew Alaric was killed in this battle too and so were his other subordinate leaders of his empire being Magnus Maximus, Gainas, and Fravitta. All of Athanaric’s men that survived the battle but lost whether Goths, Franks, Vandals, other Germanic people, Slavs, Alans, Sarmatians, or Huns were either forced to surrender to the Romans and be settled into the Roman Empire as allied troops or Foederati or if not, they were to be all executed or sent back to their lands, and here it was both Gratian and his younger half-brother Valentinian II that issued this order on the defeated troops. Gratian now returned to ruling the empire’s western half from Milan which he had repaired as it was badly damaged and depopulated when it was under Athanaric’s rule through the savage Alaric who based himself there, and in Milan Gratian now age 40 reunited with his wife the empress Laeta once again. Valentinian II meanwhile returned to Constantinople together with both Theodosius and Valdis while Rome which Alaric badly damaged 4 years earlier was to be restored. In the meantime, due to Athanaric’s death, his massive Gothic empire that almost covered all of Europe from all the way up north in the Baltic Sea down south to the Black Sea and Danube River and from Germania all the way east to the Dnieper River simply disintegrated from one central state to becoming once again lands under different scattered tribal leaders like it was not too long ago. The Western half of the Roman Empire which was for the past 4 years temporarily under Athanaric- except for Britain and the provinces of North Africa- had returned to having its same borders as usual, except that the only part that had to be given up was the entire island of Britain, as due to the Saxons assisting the Romans against Athanaric, Gratian agreed to give up the entire island to them as the Romans now believed Britain had become too difficult to manage due to its distance and the lack of soldiers to further protect it. The Eastern half of the Roman Empire meanwhile kept its same old borders as throughout this whole time, nothing really changed in its geography except that its population increased when many fled the western provinces escaping Athanaric’s rule, but with Athanaric dead, the refugees who fled to the eastern provinces returned home. Later in 399, a large number of people came to Constantinople and this included Gratian and his wife Laeta, Theodosius and Valdis, Anthemius, Richomeres, Stilicho, and Yazdegerd, and the occasion was a grand wedding for the now 28-year-old Valentinian II to a fictitious Sassanid princess who was a younger sister of Yazdegerd and of the ruling Sassanid shah Bahram IV, and this was to now show that both Roman and Sassanid Empires have become full allies.
Following this grand wedding, Valentinian II announced that the 52-year-old Theodosius would be given a full pardon for all his crimes against Rome in the past as he proved himself in his actions by finding Gratian, taking down the evil Athanaric, and fully returning his loyalty to Rome, and thus Theodosius was given the rank he so wanted which was that of “Magister Militum” and he was to be the Magister Militum of the entire Western Roman army under Gratian, while Theodosius’ Gothic wife Valdis for willing to betray her own Gothic people and serving the Romans too was given Roman citizenship by both Valentinian II and Gratian, and even more given the special privilege of a patrician status especially since she bravely protected both Valentinian II and Gratian when Athanaric was going to execute them in his palace. Richomeres now had retired from military service due to his old age and serving in so many wars for over 30 years while Theodosius took his place as the Magister Militum in the west and in the east, Stilicho was made the new Magister Militum whereas Anthemius still kept his position as Prefect of Constantinople. It also happened in 399 too that Yazdegerd after doing his part in assisting the Romans defeat the ultimate threat of Athanaric returned home to the Sassanid Empire as apparently it was also in 399 when his older brother the shah Bahram IV died- just like in real history too- and since his brother died without children, Yazdegerd was crowned as the new Sassanid shah. The Romans of both eastern and western halves of the empire would thus live at peace even more so now that the Nicene and Arian Christians had mostly put aside their differences, and since both co-rulers Gratian and Valentinian II were still quite young, they would have many years ahead of them to rule and create a succession plan, and thus for the Romans they would have more less the happy ending they would deserve, but what would happen next would be a totally different story.
And now this is all for this story and for the entire trilogy of Byzantine Alternate History chapter I! At first, I really thought chapter I itself would be its own standalone story, but since it ended with such a cliffhanger and since I was so engaged with the story and fascinated with the Late Roman era as well, I decided to follow-up the story with its own sequel story which was therefore the first Byzantine alternate history spin-off I made. However, the follow-up to chapter I was not yet enough as it was a kind of story that had to be expanded more, and thus I thought of making an entire trilogy out of chapter I of Byzantine Alternate History. However, there would no longer be any follow-up for this story, as I completely envisioned this to only be 3 parts like most stories do, therefore there had to be a complete happy ever after ending to this one. Overall, this story was actually a fun one to create and write especially when it came to more about exploring parts of the Roman Empire including Egypt, Britain and North Africa which were not part of chapter I and its first follow-up story. On the other hand, since this story was more and more getting fictional due to events being altered ever since history was altered with a Roman victory over the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople I n 378, things here were so heavily based on fantasy, but whatever the fantasy here, it is just something only limited to this story as of course all these events here with battles like this and people travelling all over the Roman Empire in one go and all the “plot armor” it included is something that I would even think is pure historical fantasy. Therefore, this story was all based on hypothesis and no longer on any historical sources, so for those who are not familiar with this time in history, I would just like to let you know that almost entirely none of these events in this story happened in real history. Of course, these fan fiction stories were all based on my imaginations and how history would be different if certain events in history were altered, but of course others may think differently of how history would be different if certain events had a different outcome. However, for giving me inspiration to write stories like this which greatly change the course of history and add a lot of fantasy to it, I would have to thank other history related channels like Dovahhatty, Kings and Generals, and so much more for giving me great visuals in order to reimagine history, while I would also like to thank the artists whose works were included in this story which thus further visualized this time in history. Anyway, this is all for this epic finale story of the trilogy of the 4th century Byzantine story and at the same time the end of my journey in writing fan fiction stories since I believe there is not much left to write about in terms of fan fiction stories, but spending a year and a half writing them from the 12 chapter Byzantine Alternate History series and its following spin-offs was overall a fascinating but at time tiring and frustrating journey, though at the end it was still very much deserving. Now, this is Powee Celdran the Byzantine Time Traveler… Thank you for your time!