"My Lord, our troops are poised to sack the Turkish quarter of the city," said Adrian, walking up behind the young commander as he sat watching the sun rise over the city.
"Only now are they ready?" asked Justinian. He began to collect the various pieces of his uniform and gather them around himself. "God help us if all our assaults take this long to complete." Both men made the sign of the cross on their chests.
"They've been doing anything and everything to force us out of that quarter since the early morning hours. I did not wish to commit to the attack halfheartedly. Rather, I wanted to make sure the soldiers were fully ready to sack it."
"What, then, is the situation?" asked Justinian; he snapped his chest plate on smoothly, having done it thousands of times before. For a moment his finger lingered on the dents and scratches that had never been fully hidden despite the master repair work of the roman blacksmiths.
"It is surrounded, my Lord, by a regiment of soldiers. They are ready to clear it out, all you have to do is give the word."
"Tell them they have my word, and tell them to burn it to the ground," replied Justinian. "Give them orders to accept only those who promise to convert to the one true faith, kill the rest."
"My Lord," replied Adrian without a moments hesitation. Justinian watched from a window as he exited the old, fire scarred house and rode down the dirty streets towards the smoke emanating from the north. Already hundreds more of his soldiers were pouring into the city, reinforcements who had been waiting in the hills in case of an emergency were now flooding the streets, marching happily towards the army camps in the center of town. Justinian let his fingers slip down to his gladius, and gently remove it from its sheath. His hand gripped the stubby handle, wrapping into the grooves gently worn in by years of use by dozens of good Christian soldiers. In the old days it had been the Orthodox men wielding it against the infidels, these days it was the Catholics.
"Ah, My Lord, I was just looking for you," exclaimed a voice behind him. Justinian turned and faced the short, almost stooped looking Priest who had accompanied the army east into the Anatolian plains. Most expedition forces carried a small unit of the holy men along. They served to purposes: firstly to keep the faith strong in the men who so rightly served the Pope and the Christian faith, and secondly to instruct the newly converted in how to properly become part of the flock. Justinian suspected that the Priests provided a third role, spying for the Pope and the Emperor, but as he had nothing to hide from either of them Justinian simply ignored it.
"The magnitude of your devotion to the Church is incredible, My Lord. By your strength the entire city of Angora will be back in the fold. We are lucky that your faith abounds so."
"Tis not my faith, Priest, but my sword that has re christianized these lands from the Turks. My devotion to the Church is the same devotion to the steel that constitutes my blade," he replied running his fingers over the wooden scabbard at his side. The Priest nodded. "That is true, My Lord, but Christ has compelled you to take up the sword for this holiest of crusades against the infidels. Through your weapon you serve the Church."
"You speak the truth now Priest," said Justinian with a smile. "And if you could forgive me, I must make my way towards the Turkish Quarter of the city.
"If it would not be so troublesome, would your Lordship mind If I accompanied him?"
"Not at all Priest, but does the Church look favorably upon their shepherds in armed combat?" He asked handing the robed holy man a short sword. The Priest grabbed the weapon by the hilt and handled it ably. "If John the Baptist could be both a pious monk and a fierce knight, then so can I," the Priest replied.
Justinian smiled at that remark. Apparently the myth of the Christian Kingdom still remained central to the Church teachings. A learned and well traveled soldier gentlemen like himself knew that there were many unknown wonders of the world, but no such Kingdom of good Christians existed anywhere between the gates of Constantinople and the far off trading posts of India. "Well then Priest, let us go see how rightly the hand of God will guide your sword."
The converted were few and far between. Justinian had heard that this was due to the inability of his troops to give the infidels the choice, but the official word was that most had refused the offer of salvation and died in the streets like the dogs they were. Justinian rode down the burning streets of the Turkish quarter with a centuria of heavily armored cataphracts around him. The elite of both the infantry and the cavalry the cataphracts had become the core of the new Roman armies, financed by Charles V and the Papal states.
Of course there was almost no need in dispatching even a centuria of the elite soldiers into the Turkish Quarter, the fighting had already ended by the time Justinian had arrived. He had found Adrian pouring over maps of the quarter and directing squads of soldiers too and fro. A thick cloud of heavy black smoke hung over the entire area, in some parts it blocked out the sun from view; ash seemed to rain down from heavens, blotting out the twisting roads only feet in front of the oncoming soldiers.
Adrian had smiled wolfishly when Justinian had asked about the progress of the assault. "You can feel free to inspect the progress yourself, my Lord. There are no longer any resistors." And Adrian had been true to his word, what was left of those who had tried to fight lay in bloodied piles on the city streets. Soldiers, Roman soldiers, marched and laughed together, kicking the mutilated bodies out of their way as they strolled victoriously down the streets. Justinian could still hear the cries of women in the distance, but he chose to ignore them. They were, after all, infidels. In a few months those who would survive would give birth to sturdy, Christian babies of Greek stock.
Most of the houses had been burnt to the ground, a few still sent up smoke in the background. While Justinian had laid down for a few hours rest the night before he had instructed Adrian to occupy the troops by launching barrels of Greek fire into the fortified Turkish Quarter. By the time he had risen out of bed this morning much of the twisting streets lined with hovels and homesteads had been razed to the ground. There inhabitants, for the large party, had gone to ash with their homes. Justinian would not miss them.
"My Lord the converts have been herded towards the rear of the ruins!" shouted a soldier riding alongside the Centurion. Justinian nodded and spurred his horse forward, not wishing to view more of the carnage that seemed to line the streets. He sought to remember to have the inhabitants of the city clean the filth up before disease followed. So many bodies lying out in the sun would put of a stench that would repel even the scavengers from Angora.
The ride was not a long one. Within minutes Justinian passed through a thin line of grim, but happy looking pike men surrounding a cluster of scared and harried looking women and their children. Most of them sat huddled in the ruins of a former mosque, now it was nothing but rubble. Justinian noted that there stood no man among them, likewise no boy over the age of ten either. All who would or could pick up the sword against the Romans lay in butchered piles.
"I have brought you a Priest to lead you in converting to the one true faith, the Roman faith, the Catholic faith. He will instruct you on how to best leave behind the religion of the infidels." Justinian spoke openly to the cluster. He watched as they admired his ornate chest plate and the crimson crux that adorned it. He smiled as they shuddered at the sight of his great sword, emblazoned with Christian imagery and icons. Truly, he was the hand of God.
"What have you done to our husbands, to our boys?" screeched one of the women in halting Greek. "They are all dead and what did they do to you?" She marched straight up to Justinian, coming to chest level with him and spat on his chest. He glanced down and watched the phlegm slowly slide down his chest plate with a disinterest expression on his face.
"That is what I think of your God," said the hag and she spat again on his crux. For a moment the entire scene froze. The Roman soldiers had an expression of anger and loathing etched into their faces, the survivors fear and shock. Justinian kept his own face even and expressionless. Until he raised a hand up and slapped the hag across the face with all his might. She reeled backwards from the hit and the sound of his knuckles dragging across her old cheeks echoed in the ruins of the former mosque. With all the skill and speed of a professional soldier he pulled the sword from its scabbard, uttered a short prayer under his breath and cut through the air in a wicked down stroke upon the hag.
As he wiped his sword clean of the crimson blood Justinian stepped backwards to avoid staining his leather riding boots with the lifeblood of the hag. He bent down and cut a rag from some of her clothing, using it to wipe her spit from his chest plate. There was silence from the assembled crowd as he worked, even the Priest had nothing to say. After a moment he straightened up and turned to the Priest. "They are yours now, my friend, ready to be converted." He looked over at the grim faced Captain. "Dispose of this body; there should be no distractions from their return to the true faith." The soldier saluted and barked at two or three of the younger men. Together the hauled, first the top half, then the bottom, of the hag over to the piles of carcasses. Justinian smiled cruelly at the survivors. "Welcome back to the fold."