In the final hours of the siege of Constantinople the old church bells began to ring, echoing across the ancient walls, through the decrepit cathedrals and off of the Roman aqueducts. The soldiers of the empire, paleface and exhausted looked to the skies for some sign of what the commotion was. Smoke rose from a dozen different spots throughout the city and along the four mile stretch of wall facing the Turkish hordes the sounds of battle rose. More terrifying the far off cannons sounded as war drums as they pummeled the city walls again and again, reducing the old stone and marble to rubble as the Roman soldiers waiting anxiously for the end.

What then, was this noise of jubilation that rose men from the depths of despair to the heights of happiness? The old gates reopened on the European side and through marched the thousands of soldiers sent by the Pope, through marched hope for victory, and through those gates marched salvation. Fifty thousand men, longbow men from England, mercenaries from Italy, knights from France, foot soldiers from the German states, conquistadors from Spain and cannons from Flanders; fifty thousand men on the last crusade called by the Roman Pope.

Outside the walls, from the Turkish side, bellowed the horns that preceded every attack, calling the warriors to the breaches in the fortifications. From the western side there rose a sweeter sound, the trumpets of the Europeans sounded, the sides clashing with music long before they did with weapons and with that culmination of noise the siege began in earnest.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Justinian brought his soldiers, most of them Greek, but a few Latin's thrown in among them, to the heights of Ankara, renamed by the Turkish infidels. Though night had fallen, there was still plenty of light to see the way of the passage through the woods that had grown in the years since the barbarians had swept through the Greek land. A bright, full moon, coupled with the fires burning in the city below illuminated the path well enough for the regiments of soldiers to march along.

"They've turned the old towers into minarets," said Adrian of the V Legion, pointing towards the dark shadows rising into the sky. No doubt they had been abandoned as the riots inside the city had begun earlier that day. Such things were symbols for the Turkish occupation of the old lands and would have galvanized the Greek population further than the authorities wanted.

"No scouts?" asked Justinian glancing towards the offensive buildings with a twisted face. His father had fought against these men, as had his fathers father and though the last three generations had been born and raised in the high walls of the Roman capital in Constantinople, this was their ancestral home. Justinian had heard the story often, of their families sudden flight from the city generations before in the last hours before the Turks took it by force. How his own namesake, younger than Justinian was now, died in the plains below in a desperate attempt to give the people of the city an opportunity to flee the infidel invaders. Now another army was poised to sack the city, much different from the one that had burnt the cathedrals over a century before.

"None, but that may be due to their attempts to put down the rioting," replied Adrian in Greek. Justinian made the sign of the cross on his chest. "May the Lord grant they not correct their error." Adrian nodded and looked back at the vast string of soldiers marching three by three behind them. Most wore the simple red garb of the legionnaire covered by a metal chest plate. They carried pikes for the most part, but further behind came the men carrying the muskets newly issued to the men. Artisans and merchants in Greece churned out the weapons for the new armies of Emperor Hadrian III and now Justinian had under his control some of the finest musket men in all of the western world. Of course, Justinian only had one portion of that corps of soldiers. There were three armies moving against the Turks all throughout the Anatolian plains. Of those, Justinian's was the smallest, only around ten thousand men, but he had taken special pride in being chosen as the man who lead the Greeks into Ankara.

The continuous clinking and clanking of armored men moving in close file was enough that it should have given their position away to the Turkish forces still in Ankara. Should have, and Justinian knew they had been damn lucky to have the sort of distraction they had now. For three weeks his army had sat outside of Ankara and for three weeks he had sent raiding parties into Ankara as well as conducting any number of feints in the territory around the city. At the same time he had conducted talks with leaders of the Greek orthodox church inside the city.

It had been arranged, by no small matter of Byzantine ingenuity, that the Greek population would revolt by the last day of the third week and at some point the Roman armies would march into the city, beset by internal strife, a vast starving population and God willing, open revolts in the city streets. And now the moment had come, the Greek Orthodox had remained true to its word and Justinian would do likewise.

"The south gate is wide open my lord," said Adrian after speaking candidly with a scout. "He says Greeks are in control of that section of the city and for the most part the Turks are cornered by fire and the mobs in the north quarter." Justinian nodded. "Dispatch a centuria of men to secure the gates and tell them to raise our flag when they have them secured under their own control." Adrian nodded, whispering into the ear of another aide and watched as the man rode back towards the end of the line. Moments later around a hundred and fifty pike bearing men jogged forward in precise steps. They passed Justinian, bowing their heads slightly in deference to their leader as they went.

"That leaves but a few details for you to wrap up, my Lord," said Adrian after a few more moments march. By now the smell of smoke was becoming more and more noticeable in the air. Justinian imagined that he could feel the ash of the burning infidels on his face as they fell from the heavens. "Such as?" he asked.

"What if the Orthodox refuse to accept the Roman Pope?" asked Adrian. He was not the first to ask it and the ramifications of the reunion of the once split church continued to echo into the sixteenth century after the death of Christ. In Smyrna the Greeks had only been too happy to swear allegiance to a Roman Pope and renounce their Orthodox traditions in favor of the more scholarly western faction of the religion. As Roman soldiers worked their way further and further into once Turkish territory they had come across more and more fervent followers of the faith. So fervent that they had refused to embrace the one true church and the one true Pope.

This had not been uncommon in the Empire until just a half century before. The sudden church unification, on the eve of disaster in 1453, had led many to refuse the new teachings. In gratitude to the Pope and his Fifth Crusade Constantine XI had pledged himself to the Roman Catholic Church and pledged his people as well. Justinian's own grandfather had never spoken well of the Roman church and his father had always expressed reservations of the sudden conversion of the Empire. Justinian, on the other hand, the heir of the men who had kept the Turks at bay long enough to restore the Empire to its previous glory, zealously pledged himself to the church. Emblazoned on his chest was the cross of his Lord and he used it as a shield against the enemies of the one true church.

"They will see the logic in joining the united church, or they will see our swords," he said quietly; patting his short gladius, handed down from generations before him, confidently.