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Lets Play / This Is Madness - Story of the Crumbling Europe

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It is the year A.D. 1264, and Christendom is in dire straits. In the East, the pagan hordes of the Mongol Ilkhanate dominate vast swathes of land from the Arctic Wastes in the north to the Persian Gulf in the south, and show no signs of stopping the juggernaut as it rolls onward into Europe. In the West, the various realms of Europe are locked in a state of almost perpetual war, torn asunder by conflict between schismatic Catholics who refuse to acknowledge the deposition of their Pope and even more extreme Cathar heretics who have found refuge under the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire. However, their armies pale in comparison to the titanic invasion force that has just landed all along the Atlantic coast, dispatched by the powerful and bloodthirsty rulers of the Aztec Empire to find new sources of glory and sacrifices for their dark gods.


Caught in the middle of all this is the Basileia Romaion, the last true Christian power remaining in the world. Under the Angeloi dynasty, the Byzantine heirs of Rome's legacy have made it their mission to defend the faithful of Europe and expurgate the heathens, heretics, and schismatics. However, even as they come under attack from the two great powers of the Aztecs and the Ilkhanate, the Empire's own aristocrats jockey for power and position amongst themselves and against the Imperial house, taking advantage of the continuous state of crisis to further their own ambitions. Can Basileia Romaion weather the storm as it has for over a thousand years and reclaim the lands lost to their enemies, or will the arrival of these new twin threats from the east and west finally herald their destruction?


This Is Madness - Story of the Crumbling Europe is an Mega-Campaign After-Action Report in two parts: Part One beginning in Crusader Kings II and Part Two continuing in Europa Universalis IV. The author, CzokletMuss, paints a dark picture of a world gone mad with xenophobia, religious zeal, and lust for power and wealth. Even the leading House Angelos are not immune, striving to whip the Empire's populace into a frenzy against its enemies outside their borders while resorting to draconian measures to preserve political and religious unity within. It takes a number of cues from another similarly dark setting, the Warhammer 40,000 universe, as well.


This fanfic contains examples of:

  • Alien Space Bats: 13th century Mesoamericans suddenly having both the society and the technology to mount a massive invasion of Europe's Atlantic coast.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The story is rife with both direct quotes and allusions to The Bible, as befits a story where religion plays such a central part in the narrative.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: There are no clear-cut heroes in this story. Even the protagonists engage in their share of violence and cruelty as a means to both discourage attacks against them and to quell internal unrest.
    • One could argue Evil Versus Evil as well: One the one side, there's the Xenoi, who just seem to want to conquer and sacrifice, and on the other side there's the Imperium, which... just seems to want to conquer and purge. All sides seem to be rather evil.
  • Bookends: The first chapter of the main narrative for the Crusader Kings 2 segment is titled "World Without End"; the last chapter is titled "War Without End." Both chapters focus on conflicts involving the Aztec invaders and the Teutonic Knights, and both reigning emperors at the time are named Markos.
  • Comet of Doom: One of these makes an appearance in the final chapter of the backstory -it ends up being named Wormwood. Over the next decade, it's followed by famine, strife, and disease, culminating in the great Sunset Invasion that kicks off the main plot.
  • Crapsack World: This is not a happy setting. The known world is largely divided amongst three (later four) great powers that regularly fight one another and even more often attempt to cause and exploit strife within their enemies' realms. Life in this setting is often nasty, brutish, and short.
  • Decadent Court: The inner court of the Byzantine Empire is no less immune to power plays than the aristocracy as a whole, and their schemes against one another are perhaps all the more vicious because they don't involve armies in overt conflict.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The morality of the setting as a whole is a very medieval one, with violence in the name of God and the rulers both expected and (in some cases) explicitly condoned by all sides involved.
  • The Emperor: The story follows the Angelos dynasty of "Roman" emperors to survive the attacks of Pagans and Heretics.
    • There is a lot of implied overlap with The Caligula: While most of the emperors are remembered as kind and just, they murder their wifes, execute half their councils, and purge half of the officer corps from time to time.
  • God-Emperor: "Only the Angeloi protect" and "Saint Markos protect!" come quite close to just proclaiming the Angeloi gods.
  • The Heretic: Basileia Romaion see all non-Orthodox Christains as this, but Kaiser Eudes IV's conversion to the Cathar heresy in the backstory led to Western Europe in perpetual war, while Niketas the Cruel nearly extinguished the Angeloi bloodline.
  • Hopeless War: Reading between the lines and not taking everything at face value may lead one to believe that for all the Roman Empire's heroic efforts to preserve themselves and their fellow Christians, they've been gradually losing ground over the centuries since the Aztec invasions. On the other hand, they've also had some success in consolidating the Christian resistance against both the Aztecs and the Mongols, so (as of this writing) the final outcome is by no means obvious.
  • Hordes from the East: The Golden Horde and the Ilkhanate both serve as this early on, though the latter absorbs the former fairly soon after their appearance. Later, the Timurids get in on the act as well.
  • Human Sacrifice: Practiced by the Aztec invaders, naturally enough. By their beliefs, a steady flow of sacrifices is necessary to keep the sun rising every morning.
  • In Medias Res: The AAR begins in 1264 proper, although the author began with a 1066 start. The events of the two prior centuries are frequently alluded to and eventually covered in a series of interludes.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Being a deeply pious society, the Romans see their rulers as empowered by God Himself and their enemies as agents of some greater Ruinous Power. However, aside from the original point of divergence itself, there's nothing a skeptical outsider with modern knowledge couldn't write off as being an unnatural occurrence.
    • The entirety of the Aztec vision chapter. The descriptions are of cosmic horror and suggest that the Aztecs really are literally serving the Chaos Gods, but the narrator is very high on psychoactive mushrooms and attempting a religious experience, so it could all be nothing more than a hallucination.
  • Messianic Archetype: Markos II "Isapostolos"Trans.  is given a special place of reverence in the Angeloi-ruled Byzantine Empire that's practically just a step down from the Holy Trinity itself. Ironically, his greatest achievement (the forcible mending of the Great Schism between Catholicism and Orthodoxy) grew out of a failed attempt at peaceful reconciliation.
  • Moral Myopia: Eventually, the Roman authorities explicitly declare the Aztecs to be non-human mockeries of mankind so as to justify their own oppressive measures.
  • The Plague: An especially severe plague hits Europe in the decade preceding the arrival of the Aztecs, ensuring that even the Byzantines are weakened and unprepared for what's to come. In-universe speculation abounds of it being a Mystical Plague, as not only does it appear shortly after the Wormwood Comet, but the Aztecs themselves seem to be immune to its effects.
  • Scrapbook Story: Several chapters, particularly most of those that flesh out the background and setting details, are presented as excerpts from in-universe Fictional Documents.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Innumerable references to Warhammer 40,000, of which the Imperial motto / battle cry "The Angeloi protect!" is just the tip of the iceberg.
      Despotes Kyriakos Palaiologos: As you know, most of our themata forces are stationed in Sicilia, prepared to embark dromonoi to make amphibious landing near our camp! Our perimeter has been prepared in the event that xenoi should be so bold and so foolish! We have placed numerous war banners and messengers, allowing our forces for multiple simultaneous and devastating defensive deep strikes. Strategikon names this maneuver "Water Kontos."
    • One of the books sequestered in the prohibited section of the Pandidakterionnote  is the Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred.
    • A scene from one of the interlude chapters quotes dialogue from the scene in Return of the Jedi where Darth Vader arrives at the Death Star to "put [the project] back on schedule."
  • Signs of the End Times: The last chapter of the Chronicles of the Angeloi (and of the first part as a whole) explicitly connects the disasters immediately preceding the Sunset Invasion to the Apocalypse foretold in the Book of Revelation.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Much of the story is presented in the form of in-universe contemporary chronicles. There are moments where the narrative as told obviously does not match the reality presented by the in-game screenshots, which further reinforces the idea that the Angeloi have some dark skeletons in their closet that they don't want getting out.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The periodic civil wars provoked by the aristocracy for privilege (or, in some cases, by would-be usurpers to the Imperial throne) are perhaps more dangerous to the Byzantine Empire's survival than even invasion by external invaders. It's especially ironic considering the fact that dangerous revolts are actually more common in times of relative peace, when no xenoi are beating at the gates (at least initially).
  • Wham Chapter: VAE VICTIS. The epilogue to the CKII portion of the game and the transition into Europa Universalis IV had the following:
  • Wham Line: