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Thread: Lotharingia -- A tale of resurrection

  1. #21
    Zealous Firebrand Snugglie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (Praetorian)
    How'd you do that cool map thing?
    In Gimp. I edited the blank CK-map, filling provinces with colours and such, and then merged the map with a layer of parchment-structure. The rest is just free selction-tool and such

    Quote Originally Posted by Veldmaarschalk
    Since you have Unruoch van Teisterbant, it means you also use some of my modifications


    Nice AAR so far, I will try to follow it. Keep it up !
    Yes sir, definitely do. Once again, kudos to you and the rest of the people modding this great game!
    Stand up, all victims of oppression,
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    Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
    For you have nothing if you have no rights!
    Let racist ignorance be ended,
    For respect makes the empires fall!
    Freedom is merely privilege extended,
    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

  2. #22
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    Chapter III


    The winter of 1067 was a harsh one, and by Christmas a thick layer of snow lay over Andernach and its surroundings. Wolves were rumoured to have been sighted around the big forests and for many persons in Lower Lorraine, as well as in all of the Empire, every day was a battle for survival.

    In the residence of Godfried d’Ardennes, however, fires were roaring in the bigger rooms of the castle, thus dragging most people of the court to gather there to share food, a laugh, anecdotes or just warm themselves.

    Unaware, and happily so, of his surroundings Godfried sat in his beloved library. He had had a fireplace built there a few months before the early snowfall and even thought it was not big, nor in any way decorated, it provided him with warmth enough to remain happy and free from pneumonia.

    Since winter had emerged, he had spent close to all his time here. He had not left the estates of the court at all since emerging as duke and this was not only his own choice; already in the beginning of his time as duke, after the first few ducal councils, his advisors had taken over the power and responsibility invested in him. Not on paper of course, but in practice Godfried was not much more than a puppet in their hands. The only one that had not usurped a part of his power was his wife, Camila.

    ---



    ---


    Godfried let his mind drift away for a while, thinking about his wife. The grand Christmas-celebrations were underway, and guests had already started arriving to the ducal court. Camila had done a very good work with preparing this and arranging lodgement for all the guests – mainly vassals and mighty noble-families – whereas the other advisors almost had worked against her. Theodor was a man of intrigue, although not exceptionally good at it, and never missed the opportunity to spill a word on the chancellor’s incapability of doing her status justice or how she did nothing but run errands for the duke. Old Unruoch, that seemed to get a century older for each moon that passed, had openly refused to grant her extra funds for the preparations of the feast. These differences in budgetary policy were however quickly overcome when Camila had had a private conversation with Unruoch – after this, he had avoided being close to her and when he saw her in the corridors he tended to squeak, terrified, and usually hide in a close-by room. It was clear that Camila had more will and authority than her husband.

    Godfried smiled to himself. He had truly gotten a good wife. In a better world, it would be her and not him that ruled the Duchy.

    He snapped out of his thoughts and was for a few seconds unaware of where he was and what he was doing. Then he looked down into the aged book that lay in front of him; an old Frankish text about the conquests of a man called Charles, born in the rural Liège, as the son of a short man called Pepin. Among the French, Godfried mused, known as Charlemagne.

    As Godfried saw it, Charlemagne was everything that he was not. Authoritarian, a great warrior, by rumour tall, handsome and in every way grand; Godfried had adored his legend since childhood, and when other children were out playing Godfried sat with the monks, eagerly learning how to read and understand, in order to read all the legends himself. Through the books he lived the life he would have wanted as a warrior king of the old days, answering to no one but God and himself.

    He was once again torn from his dreams and thoughts, this time by someone hastily entering the room and slamming the door so that the flames in the fireplace, as if they had been cuffed, burst to the far side of the fireplace only to return after a little while. It was Camila, looking at Godfried with eyes that seemed to burn with an eternal fire and with her will and intent radiating around her like an aura.

    “Godfried, it is time for us to talk.” she said, in a much calmer and welcoming voice than he would have expected on accord of her facial expression.
    “Camila,” he answered, as puzzled as baffled of her sudden intrusion in his day-dreaming. “dearest, what is the matter?”
    “As for now, more or less everything, Godfried. We cannot go on like this, only tip-toeing around each other with polite phrases and customary displays of affection being the closest we ever come to conversation!”
    Godfried had a problem getting any coherent word through his lips.
    “But dearest, Camila, don’t I… don’t I give you enough attention? Is there something you want, something you need?”
    “I need a husband, Godfried! Not someone that cares for me but does not dare to speak to me. What is it that makes you incapable to behave like a real person around me for more than a few moments?” she said, her words coming in a rapid-flowing stream, revealing both her origin and her mood. Godfried hunched away, almost scared of her, but then something snapped in him. Who was she to stand ranting on him like that? He that had given her a high post within the hierarchy of the duchy, let her do what she wanted and indirectly rule the duchy? How dared she!
    “Camila, restrain yourself!” he said, and only said; he did not think he would ever be able to shout at someone. But just by the finalizing tone in his voice and his words, Camila grew silent, looking at him intently.
    “Every time I talk to you I am only able to do so for a short while, before you look away and then leave. Why, Godfried?” she demanded. “It might be in vanity, but I do not believe it is because of me, but because of you. Why?”

    If Godfried was sure of himself a few seconds earlier, he now felt like a wreck in the area of confidence.
    “Well… I, I guess I…” he tried to start. He felt the blood rush to his head, warming his cheeks and forehead, and looked away. But when he tried to do so, he felt two hands firmly turning his head back to its original position. They looked into each other’s eyes; hers determined and set on getting an answer, his avoiding and excusing.
    “Not this time Godfried. Why are you embarrassed by talking to me? Why are you embarrassed of yourself?”

    He found it hard to say something; the words seemed to stick to the walls of his throat.
    “Dearest, I… yes, you are my dearest!” he answered her, the latter being a remark at her doubtful gaze as soon as he called her ‘dearest’. “I just can’t see why anyone like you – I mean you are, you are beautiful! – would ever talk to someone like me, a God’s miscreant. I am not worthy of…”
    “You are worthy of whatever care I decide to give you!” she bellowed at him, sounding more furious than she looked. Somehow, her voice seemed to avoid being in correspondence with her face. “You are my husband Godfried, and whether I – or you for that part! – want it or not, we are bound to be together for the rest of our lives. And I will not have half a lifetime of avoidance, excuses and you being miserable over yourself!”

    Godfried felt something pulse in his forehead. He had been taunted; he had been laughed at; words had been said behind his back; but he had never had anyone shout at him, actually being angry.
    “You’d better be careful with what you say!” he shouted, unable to control himself. His assumption that he would never be able to shout at someone was long forgotten. “It is easy for you, a good-looking maid, to say this, but put yourself in my situation. I have had a life of people telling other people, all behind my back, of how useless and hopeless I am. Of what a pity it was that I survived. Of what an outrageous thing it is that I am now leading the duchy! You put yourself in that situation, and then we can talk about not being miserable!”

    He stood up, he noticed. He breathed heavily, and Camila watched him with a face he could not decipher. Was it pity? Respect? Was she mad at him for his outburst?”
    “Camila, I… I’m sorry –” he started, but was quickly cut off.
    “Oh no you are not!” she said, and the fire in her eyes had returned with the extinguishing of his. “All your life you have been told this – why not tell the ones that say that what you just said to me? Let them hear, and let them know who is in charge and who the duke actually is. And if they would oppose you, then to hell with them.”

    She said it with such conviction that Godfried was speechless. He looked at her, studying her features and wonder what divine power sent this woman to his castle. He thought back at the times in his childhood, when his back had begun to grow in the wrong direction and other children laughed or got scared whenever they saw him. He heard in his mind how his father, talking to a courtier, call Godfried a useless little creature. He remembered the nights of weeping, the days of hopelessness and the evenings of grief. All mixed in his mind into a catatonic symphony that made his head feel like it would burst.

    Tell them what you just said to me. And then to hell with them.

    He looked at her again, and upon doing so, the noise disappeared and was replaced with something alike a tranquil ocean. She smiled at him, encouragingly, and in his mind he now knew and realized that she was right, and had so been all along. He would not avoid being a man anymore; his life could now begin.

    ---



    ---


    The sun was setting in west, and huddled in thick sheep-pelts, Godfried and Camila watched the fields, forests and hills of the castle’s surroundings. He held his arm around her and felt proud, secure of himself, and close to invincible. He had no pain in his back for the moment, and ignored his disfiguring hump completely. He looked at her, the last rays of the sun playing on her forehead and freckled nose, and felt a bolt of trust and something he had not known a year ago – love.

    He leaned towards her and kissed her cheek, feeling his heart melt at her smile. He let a hand stroke her stomach, as if to communicate with the new life growing in there. If his life had ever been perfect, it was now.

    ---


    Thus endeth the third chapter.


    Last edited by Snugglie; 26-06-2008 at 23:07.
    Stand up, all victims of oppression,
    For the tyrants fear your might!
    Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
    For you have nothing if you have no rights!
    Let racist ignorance be ended,
    For respect makes the empires fall!
    Freedom is merely privilege extended,
    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

  3. #23
    Crazy Reactionary crusaderknight's Avatar
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    And so Camila makes a man out of Godfried. And apparently soon she'll make a father out of him, too.

    Very good chapter, Snuggle.
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  4. #24
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    Chapter IV



    Upon starting coughing, Godfried leaned out of bed and let the phlegm escape his throat to instead fall down into the wooden bucket next to his bed. The room was warm, in his opinion a little too warm; he was sweating and felt the heat as pressing and uncomfortable. But as he knew the alternative was icy winds penetrating the not-so-thick walls of his chamber, he stayed with the nauseating heat.
    He had been bed-bound for weeks now; time that he felt would have been much more useful for other things than coughing under a thick bolster. During the last three years Godfried had shown sides of himself that no one would have guessed a few years earlier, and he was aware of this. In many ways, it all came down to Camila and her steady hand guiding him through life and hardships. Without her, he thought, he would still be spending his reign reading books and letting fools like Unruoch and Theodor rule his Duchy.
    Speaking about old fools, old Unruoch died only a year earlier. Godfried could not say that he missed him much in a personal matter, but he had not been able to find a steward as capable this far. Far many more things had happened during the past years though, and Godfried counted on Unruoch being reduced to a vague memory within a few years.
    Once again, Godfried coughed. He went up from bed and staggered over to a close-by cupboard and poured warm water into a tin-beaker. He drank it and felt his throat clear a little; it was a divine feeling, even though he was still not fully capable of breathing and talking as usual. He then stumbled back into bed and the suffocating warmth, and lying there, looking up into the rough wooden ceiling, he thought back on memories of the past years.

    ---


    It had been early November, and Godfried had just returned from a smaller hunting trip out on the estates of the court. The hunting party had been successful, bringing two deer back to the castle; the two prime hunters of the court, two peasants named Udo and Armand, did not say much, nor did they display much intelligence. But upon having seen them in their careful preparations for the hunt, as well as the skill with which they carried it through, Godfried was highly impressed.
    When the party closed in to the castle, a young courtier came running out of the gates. He came to a halt by Godfried’s horse and, breathing heavily, said that Milady Camila was giving birth in the infirmary. Godfried was overwhelmed for a short moment and then spurred his horse. He felt as if he, above everything else, needed to be in the infirmary on time.

    Godfried was walking back and forth in the corridor next to the room in which Camila was giving birth. The old women taking care of her had not allowed him in, and thus he now waited, waited, drank a pint of ale, waited, and kept on with the same procedure. The silence was pressing, and there were not many people around. Her screams through the iron-barred wooden door felt as if they reached into the very depths of his mind and, taking turns, paralyzed him or make him feel as if in the same pain as his wife on the other side of the wall.
    Many pints later, when Godfried’s mind had started getting slightly blurred, a final, piercing shriek made him jump and almost lose his balance. After it, all was quiet. In the end, an elderly woman, grey-haired and with a face as wrinkled as the delta of the Nile, of which Godfried of course never would hear in his whole life. He waited for her to say something, got the more nervous for every part of a second that passed until she, in a frail, crackled voice of age finally said something:
    “It’s a boy!”

    ---


    The birth of Guntram ignited a spark in Godfried. He started looking at life with eyes other than his old ones, and instead of trying to imagine what sort of duchy that he wanted to rule, but what sort of duchy he wanted his son to inherit.
    The power structure of Lower Lorraine could be explained with one word: church. The church had almost all power, with church supremacy ruling and excluding the duke from the appointment of the bishops. There were bigger churches in every surrounding county, and the church earned more in taxes than the nobility in some places.
    Godfried started seeing clearer and clearer, with eyes that felt as if they had gone from those of a content child, to those of an old, complaining man, to those of a fiery reformist in just a year. The church needed to be stripped of its power and thus, without asking the royal council – which still consisted of Unruoch, that still had some time left before he finally died; Camila, whom Godfried asked for advice informally instead of publically; Theodor, whom Godfried would not trust even his socks to and Eckhard, that did not seem to care about anything else than getting a good laugh now and then – Godfried made the decision to reinforce the one group of society that could challenge the church: the nobility.


    ---


    The spring of 1068 Anno Domini saw the start of king Henrik von Franken’s crusade against the Obotries and the other tribes in Northern Germany. For this, a grand mobilization was ordered throughout the Holy Roman state, and as a faithful vassal Godfried sent his men to the war, led by Marshal Eckhard that seemed to think that it would be refreshing with a nice little quarrel with the pagans. It also saw Camila enter pregnancy once again to Godfried’s great joy; there were few things he enjoyed more than watching his son, every day learning new things and with big round eyes explore the big world around him. Even though Godfried never for the remainder of his life would trust himself with the raising of his children, he saw them as his biggest source of inspiration in life.
    In February the next year, a son by the name of Folkhard was born in the residence in Andernach. Completely unrelated to this event, old Unruoch died three weeks later in his sleep.

    ---


    Cursing himself, Godfried drew the thick, woollen blanket closer to his body. The wind was icy and without mercy, as if sent from a colder carnation of Gehenna. The trees around and above him creaked warningly in the storm, and he knew for sure that if he and his followers had not found the cave in which they now lay hidden with not complete, but at least partial, protection against the wind, they would have been beyond hope.
    They had been on their way back from a gathering of all the German dukes in Magnus Billung’s residence in Göttingen, where King Henrik von Franken had held a grand ceremony where he handed out the in the crusade gained territories by the Baltic Sea. Since the troops of Lower Lorraine were not among the most important, thus reflecting the duchy’s standing in the Empire, Godfried did not gain anything new. His honour demanded him to be present though; everything else would have been a grave insult.
    And so, half a day’s ride from Andernach, the storm had surprised them as the temperature drop and the mild rain turned into small, cold, spikes only to finally turn into soft, white flakes. Godfried and the four knights accompanying him had managed to seek refuge, but the cold was still devilish and grim, and not during the whole night did he dare to fall asleep.

    The next day, when Godfried returned to awareness of his surroundings, he noticed that two of his followers would not move when he nudged them with his foot. Their eyes were closed and their limbs stiff, and it was clear that they were dead, and so had been for a while. The other two started moving, although they, as Godfried, felt numb and disoriented, and together they started walking. The horses had either frozen to death in the storm or escaped, and even if they barely had any energy, the three men were eager to find a place where they could get food, warmth and get new horses.
    After half a day of walking, they finally reached a small hamlet called Engheim, where they ate in the tavern and managed to get two horses. Not that Godfried did not demand three horses; there were simply only two horses in the village, and Godfried promised that they would be brought back as soon as could be arranged.
    When evening fell, they reached the castle in Andernach. They were frozen, coughed constantly, and each had a few fingers and toes they could not move. Even if they tried not to think of it, they knew that they would be rid of these before the end of next day.

    ---


    And so here he lay, Godfried d’Ardennes, duke of Lower Lorraine. Ill, hunchbacked and with three fingers less than humankind was granted with, but with a spirit and confidence he would have considered impossible five years earlier. And it was here, in his sickbed, that the spirit of Charlemagne entered his mind and took a part in his life.

    ---


    Thus endeth the fourth chapter.
    Last edited by Snugglie; 26-06-2008 at 23:08.
    Stand up, all victims of oppression,
    For the tyrants fear your might!
    Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
    For you have nothing if you have no rights!
    Let racist ignorance be ended,
    For respect makes the empires fall!
    Freedom is merely privilege extended,
    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

  5. #25
    Zealous Firebrand Snugglie's Avatar
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    I assume most readers are in bed by now, and that they during the coming days will do other things than lurk at the forum. So will I the coming days, and this is, without any hint of doubt, the last update before Christmas Eve.

    So, to all you readers, to you who are just clicking around the sight, to you who clicked the link below your favourite AAR and now are movign away from this one, to you that got linked and to you who drop by -- and especially to my wonderful girlfriend that's on vacation in India, just in case she'd drop by --; A merry Christmas to you all. I'll try to have an update before New Year's Eve, but in case I don't; Happy New Year dear readers, forumites and friends.
    Stand up, all victims of oppression,
    For the tyrants fear your might!
    Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
    For you have nothing if you have no rights!
    Let racist ignorance be ended,
    For respect makes the empires fall!
    Freedom is merely privilege extended,
    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

  6. #26
    Crazy Reactionary crusaderknight's Avatar
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    Godfried is ill, this is not good. Though your closing paragraph seems to indicate he will not let this stop him.

    A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, as well!
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  7. #27
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    I agree - that "intense coughing" is ominous. But at least Godfried has an heir to take over from him, if still a little young for the job right now.

    Well, Happy Christmas - and congratulations on being WritAAR of the Week!
    (Just a gentle hint in case, like others before you, you hadn't even noticed... )
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  8. #28
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    Illness is not good, just as Godfried is getting his feet under him. Hopefully the 'spirit of Charlemagne' will indeed invest him.
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  9. #29
    Zealous Firebrand Snugglie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crusaderknight
    Godfried is ill, this is not good. Though your closing paragraph seems to indicate he will not let this stop him.

    A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, as well!
    Well, nothing bad is without a hint of good...

    Tahnk you very much!
    Quote Originally Posted by Farquharson
    I agree - that "intense coughing" is ominous. But at least Godfried has an heir to take over from him, if still a little young for the job right now.

    Well, Happy Christmas - and congratulations on being WritAAR of the Week!
    (Just a gentle hint in case, like others before you, you hadn't even noticed... )
    With the succession secured, I agree that he needn't worry, but instead engage in his reading.

    Yes, I saw so. Great thanks Farq!
    Quote Originally Posted by CatKnight
    Illness is not good, just as Godfried is getting his feet under him. Hopefully the 'spirit of Charlemagne' will indeed invest him.
    As said, nothing bad without a hint of good in it.


    Teaser of Chapter V

    Stand up, all victims of oppression,
    For the tyrants fear your might!
    Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
    For you have nothing if you have no rights!
    Let racist ignorance be ended,
    For respect makes the empires fall!
    Freedom is merely privilege extended,
    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

  10. #30
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    Thats a wonderful looking family tree. You know, that is one of the best things about your AARs, they are not just great to read but pretty to look at too.

  11. #31
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    Chapter V


    Upon knocking at the duke’s door, Elbert heard someone groan from the other side of the door. The duke had not been seen outside of his chambers since two weeks earlier when he and two knights had returned after spending a horrendously cold night out in the snow; he was not only heard of from the monks that tended him. He had had two fingers on the left hand and one on his right amputated to prevent the spread of gangrene and his coughing could be heard echoing in the upper corridors of the castle all day around.

    The duke had ordered a few documents to be brought to him; he spent his days reading, and the bringing of these documents had seemed more urgent than anything earlier requested. Elbert had not taken a look at them himself, but he knew from Brother Umberto – the monk from whom Elbert had gotten the scripts to be delivered – that they were documents concerning none less than Charlemagne, the old Emperor of the Franks.

    A voice called from the other side of the door for him to come in, and when Elbert opened the door a wall of heat hit him; the room was truly warmer than any other in the castle, despite the weather turning a bit brighter as they now entered March. The duke seemed unconcerned by it though where he sat huddled by a table covered with old parchments and scripts as well as a few books. He had his back to the door, but gestured – without looking back – for Elbert to come to the table and put them down. He did so, and then bowed to the duke.

    Duke Godfried d’Ardennes, “the hunchback”, sat huddled in a thick quilt and looked rather content. He was not a warrior, not only because of his crooked back but also because he lacked physique as well as interest; he radiated peace and calm.

    “Thank you, boy” he said and smiled briefly at Elbert.
    “My pleasure, sire” he answered politely and bowed.

    The duke put the scroll on the table and rolled it out to its full width. It was a family tree, with the name Charlemagne written in big letters by the top. Also on it were two coats of arms; one split in two, its lower field red and upper field blue, sprangled with fleur-de-lis; the other one chequered in blue and gold. Elbert noticed that the duke was peering curiously at him.
    “You seem interested, boy” he said with the hint of a smile. “Have you any idea what this is?”
    “Yes sir, it is the family-tree of Emperor Charlemagne,” Elbert answered with steady voice.
    “Very well, but a little more than that. You see, this is newly-written; I ordered a script from the monks tracing every relative of the Emperor known to us,” – Elbert noticed that the duke, when saying the Emperor, meant the since centuries deceased Charlemagne, and not the current Holy Roman Emperor Henrik von Franken – “in order to track down the ones that can be considered his nowadays most prominent heirs.”
    “Very well, sire. May I ask why?”

    The duke laughed. “You very well may! I haven’t spoken to a soul about anything else than diseases for a week!” The duke stopped and coughed for a while, then, with renewed enthusiasm, returned to the scroll. “And as it seems, the monks have found them to be in two branches – the Amiens and the Vermandois. Both close-by counties.”

    “But sire, pardon me for contradicting, but what of the heirs of Charlemagne’s oldest son?”
    “He had none. He died childless at 39 years of age.”
    “Oh,” was the only thing Elbert could say. What he first had seen as a clever point of discussion had now unceremoniously been disarmed with an explanation as logical as obvious. “I am sorry sire, I…”
    “Don’t pardon and sorry so much” the duke said. “There are enough people already doing that.”
    “Thank you sire.”
    “You are very welcome. Now, I shall not keep you any longer; have a nice day, young man.” the duke said with a smile, and thus Elbert walked away again.



    When the door slammed shut, Godfried returned to studying the family-tree. He felt odd at seeing his fears become true; the Amiens and Vermandois were actually the rightful heirs to Charlemagne. But that or not, Godfried was still the lord of the lands were Charlemagne had been conceived and born, as well as where his grandson Lothair has spent the most-part of his life. His son after him, Lothair II, had then been the one who gave the area its name – Lotharingia, from the Latin Lotharii Regnum. Upon pronouncing it to himself, Godfried felt a shiver run through his spine. His lands had been ruled by a grand grandson of Charlemagne, and somewhere in the vicinity of Liège, not far from Andernach, Charlemagne himself had been born. So blood or not, by culture and estate he, Godfried was the heir to both Charlemagne and to Lothair. Lotharingia. Godfriedii Regnum, Godfringia, did not have the same sound to it.

    Suddenly, he snapped out of his thoughts. He had spent the last weeks doing nothing but reading and reading more about the story of the great Emperor of the Franks. Camila had told him that he was becoming manic. She did not say it in a malicious way though; she said it with a smile, and then, before leaving, kissed his forehead with the words: “But at least you are my little maniac!” He felt warm when thinking back to it. She was truly his blessing.

    He stood up and walked over to the window. He saw the river, glittering in the distance in the sharp sunlight of early March. He saw the forest, stretching far and away to the southwest. He saw and felt his lands with all his senses, and asked himself, not for the first time during his information: why is all this to ultimately be ruled by an incompetent schemer far away, rather than the heir to the lands of the father of the modern world?

    ---


    When Guntram had reached the age of two, Godfried had taken the decision to let maids at the court raise him. The alternatives where to send him to church – an instance Godfried tried to fight off as peacefully and discreetly as possible –, a noble of the big families of Andernach – of which Godfried trusted none – or to keep him and bring Guntram up himself. Convinced of his own incapability, the slyness of the nobility and the corruption of the church, Godfried had chosen to leave him with the maidens.

    The result was that Guntram had turned selfish and spoiled, used to get his will through. This made Godfried disappointed, for he had thought better of both his son and the maidens’ capability. This led to Godfried, choosing the least out of four evils, to decide to bring Folkhard up himself, with the guidance of Camila.

    In December that year, 1070, and old man with white beard and a crutch came walking towards the castle gates. When reaching it, speaking in a distinct Friesian dialect, he asked to meet with the duke. The young guard laughed and told the old man to leave the same way as he came; the duke was ill and did not take audiences. The old man shrugged and walked past the guard that, when ceasing to laugh, assumed that the old man simply had run off.

    The old man walked through castle-corridors as empty as possible to avoid detection. He only stopped once to ask for the way to the duke’s chambers, asking a maid by the kitchen that looked too stressed to be suspicious. When he reached the door behind which duke Godfried resided, he was surprised at the lack of security. The duke indeed trusted his court. The old man banged his fist on the door three times and heard a tired voice tell him to come in.

    When Godfried turned, he inevitably jumped a little in his chair upon seeing the stranger in the doorway.

    “And who in the name of all saints and sons of Charlemagne are you!” he blurted, frightened and irritated at the same time.
    “Me,” the old man said, “call me Eckbert, milord.”
    “Okay, Eckbert, now give me a good reason not to yell my lungs out to get the guards here in order to remove you from the premises. Who are you, and what do you want?”

    The old man shrugged with a distant smile. “Oh, I heard that the duke was ill. Judging by yer coughing, I guess ye are. I just happened to have my lifeline pass by here, and so I decided that I could help ye, sire.”

    Godfried thought about it for a moment. The thought of calling for the guards was still very tempting. “And what would you want in exchange for that?”
    “Nothing more than a few golden coins, sire. I need it to get bread see, I am as skinny as any peasant.” he gestured towards his chest, where his ribs would be hinted even through the old tunic he wore.

    The temptation of calling the guards had been fuelled with his fright, and as it subsided Godfried felt his curiosity take the upper hand and thus gestured to the man to go on. Eckbert walked towards him and took out a bottle that he put down heavily on the table.

    “Ten golden coins sire. That’s all I ask from ye, and it won’t hurt yer purse too much.”
    “Hold your horses, old man. What is this?”
    “What it is, you do not need to know, but it will cure ye. Cure ye good, mind ye. Will be painful though, horribly painful in the beginning. But it’ll get yer health back on track sire, I promise ye.” Eckbert said in a continuous stream of words, a few words enhancing his dialect severely.
    “I am afraid your word will not be enough, Eckbert. What is there that says that you will not just take the money, leave, and have me die a horrible death at the hands of your poison?” Godfried asked. Something in him said that the man was truthful, but had he followed every instinct of his, he would not have lasted long in a world of plotting and intrigues.

    Eckbert shrugged. “Keep me here over the night then. I don’t care, since I don’t have any place to go to anyway. And if ye’d die, then let your soldiers torture me ‘til there’s not a whole limb in my body.”

    Godfried, struck by the man’s frankness and confidence in his potion, shook Eckbert’s hand and called for a servant to get him a room somewhere in the castle.

    ---


    Godfried did not get a moment of sleep during the night. His stomach twisted in cramps, accorded by the demons that danced around him, piercing his skin with pitchforks only to be replaced with angels, watching him solemnly as if he was dead. He felt ants under his skin and his throat burned as during a steppe-fire. When he finally managed to close his eyes, it was of exhaustion, and he damned himself for having trusted the old, white-bearded oaf from Friesland. He was convinced that his time had come, and that he now was going to die.

    ---


    His first thought upon waking was to note that heaven – or hell for that part, maybe his tries to reduce the power of the church had gotten him into trouble in the after-life – looked incredulously dull and grey. His next was to curse and decide to haunt Eckbert during his last hours and, when he joined him in death, hunt him with a pitchfork for eternity.

    His third was that strangely enough, it was his own room he was sitting in, materialized and whole, and with a throat free from the chunks of phlegm. The old fart had done it – he had cured the duke of Lower Lorraine, the heir apparent to Charlemagne himself!

    Godfried ran around in the room, jumping – as close to jumping as his body allowed – in happiness. He then got dressed and ordered, as soon as he entered the hall, that a feast was to be held by evening in the honour of his guest, the Friesian healer Eckbert. Most people around him looked at him as if he was crazy, but when he repeated it with grave eyes, the court understood him to be completely sane and apparently healthy, and thus the ones with work in association with the upcoming feast ran off to their duties.

    ---



    ---


    With only four days left of the year 1070, Godfried the Elder – finally, in the opinion of some – died at his residence in the county of Breda. Godfried, as the only son, inherited both the title and the treasury and in honour of his father – as it was called officially, since Godfried in fact had not even been remotely close to his father – proclaimed himself the duke of Limburg, i.e. the counties of Jülich and Loon. Later in March, he also claimed the title Duke of Gelre.

    ---

    On Christmas Eve 1072 the snow was lying as a carpet over all of Andernach, just as it had done during his previous five Christmases as duke. The nobility of all of the country had gathered in Andernach and Camila had a difficult task getting each of the guests a place to stay for the night. Through the lack of accommodation the d’Ardennes inevitably insulted a few nobles that had to sleep in stables and outhouses; not out of spite, but since there simply was not enough room in the castle and they thus had to prioritize.

    Among the arrived guests were nobility from the county of Breda, which Godfried had inherited from his father. Among these were mostly von Brunesheim’s, but also a few von Sponheim’s. For Godfried, it was especially vital to keep them happy and content; he needed the nobility to trust him, both in order for him to be able to rule Breda at all, but also so that he would be able to keep on fighting his silent war with the church.


    The grand hall – and upon hearing it being called “the grand hall”, a few guests from Camila’s home, Bourges, started smiling jeeringly – was decorated with garlands of green and gold and three large tables were added to the regular one. By evening-time, when food was served – once again the guests from Bourges seemed a little perplexed, although now seemingly at the barbarity and ferocity with which the nobles drank their ale and ate their meat – the hall was filled with around one-hundred and twenty guests, coming from all over the Duchy.

    By the head-seat of the main table sat Godfried with Camila at his side, the stewardess Ida van Glymes and marshal Eckhard von Blankenheim opposite to them. Theodor was sitting further away by the table with the motivations that there were nobles that needed to sit close to the duke in order not to be insulted, as well as that as spy master, he was supposed to be in the background and lure in order to catch the sly fishes luring to assault the duke.

    He was of course beyond his mind with rage, but was clever enough to show it, even when Eckhard made one or two sarcastic comments about Theodor’s banishment from the place of power.

    After two hours of food and ale the hall was a cacophony of people talking, screaming, arguing, laughing and snoring; it had turned out so that a few of the Bourges-guests had a problem holding their ale and thus fell asleep as they sat.

    Godfried threw a glance at Camila. She looked beautiful; the red hair put up and dressed in a blue dress that clearly hinted her curves and forms. She was a temptress indeed, but Godfried was well aware that she was his, and no one else’s. Under the table, where no one could see, he grabbed her hand tightly and looked her in the eyes as she laughed at the surprising touch.

    Her eyes glittered when she laughed, he noted for close to the thousandth time. They looked each other in the eyes, the roar of the feast drifting away as they drowned in each other’s gazes. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear; “Merry Christmas, my love.” Once again they looked deep into each other’s eyes, and so remained for the rest of the evening, all until when the feast ended due to people walking to their quarters, or being carried there for that part. Another Christmas feast was at an end.

    ---


    Thus endeth the fifth chapter.

    ---

    Merry Christmas, says the author,
    thanks for sticking with Godfried this far!

    Last edited by Snugglie; 26-06-2008 at 23:09.
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    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

  12. #32
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    Merry Christmas, and congrats on another great chapter!
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    Merry Christmas, Snugglie! And Merry Christmas to the Duke and Duchess, Godfried and Camila!

    Glad to see Godfried's illness recovered.
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    Chapter VI


    Castle Thüringen, December 31 1072 A.D.

    The noise from the grand hall of Duke Ludwig of Thuringia’s castle in Thüringen was snapped off when the door to the small, round room was closed. He breathed out in relief; he had never liked these grand – and in his opinion, all too grand – parties and gatherings. He turned around and looked at the other two men sitting in the room. One was Magnus Billung, duke of Saxony, sly-looking and already at 28 slightly grey-haired. The other one was Thiedric Gerulfing, tall, wide and the very picture of a proud, Germanic warrior. Ludwig, and many others for that part, were however of the opinion that no matter how strong and intimidating he might be, he lacked wits and intelligence. He was here tonight though, and this much due to his power.

    The three duchies of Thüringen, Saxony and Holland were, apart from Lower Lorraine, the mightiest both in manpower and area in the north-western part of the empire. Except for the troops of the Emperor, Henrik von Franken, and this man was a part of the problem the three dukes had gathered to discuss.

    “By my word and my honour, this wine is of a quality I could not even decently dream about in Holland.” Thiedric moaned silently, offering himself another glass of wine.
    “I know; I acquired it,” Ludwig said coldly. No matter how hard he could have tried – and he did not, for he felt that it would be a waste of time and energy – he would not have been able to be very fond of Thiedric Gerulfing; the man was a savage, more schooled in drinking, eating and fighting rather than reading or speaking. Ludwig himself, as well as Magnus Billung, were schooled as courtiers, not warriors, and would therefore be able to speak in front of a crowd without drawing unintentional laughter or glee from them. “Anyhow, to leave the wine for the evening –” Thiedric pretended not to hear this, and thus poured himself another beaker full. “– I suggest we get to the matter for which we have gathered here, in this cold tower, rather than down at the feast.”
    “Well spoken, friend.” Magnus Billung and Ludwig had known each other since childhood and had both been fostered at the Imperial court. Through this, they also knew the soon-to-be unlucky Henrik von Franken. “Let us get this matter over with as soon as possible, so that we can return downstairs without causing too much commotion.”

    Through the inside of his cloak, Ludwig took forward a map that he unrolled on the table.


    “To strike Franken will be hard, but it is not impossible. Indeed, it would be ideal if an attack on his authority could wait until another war might keep him busy – say Poland, or even better; Hungary – but we cannot wait for a war like that to show up out of nowhere.” Ludwig said, whilst speaking he let his finger follow his words. Magnus listened carefully, Thiedric was still drinking.
    “By the love of God, you brute!” Ludwig banged his fist on the table. Thiedric seemed only a little startled. “This is not a tea-party we are planning you imbecile, and it is you that we have to rely on for command – God help us – so listen, or I will have you thrown in the dungeons!” Ludwig regretted his words as they came. He had no authority over the duke of Holland, and throwing him in the dungeons – no matter how much he deserved it – would be diplomatic and reputational suicide. Thiedric seemed to get the hint though, and sullenly leaned over the map.
    “To go back to where we started, it will be hard defeating Franken. The one way we can do it, is to attack the Franken heartlands as fast as possible and catch Henrik himself. We almost surround those counties, so it should not be impossible.”
    “Save one factor,” Magnus said with thought put behind his words. “What about duke Godfried of Lorraine? He might appear a gimp, but he is both bright and – curiously enough – loyal to Franken.”

    Ludwig thought of his friend’s words with irritation. The irritation was not aimed at Magnus however, but towards the not present Godfried. The man appeared completely useless, but he did command one of the biggest duchies in the Empire. That could not be taken out of consideration. Convincing him, however, would be close to impossible and very risky. It was vital that the Emperor did not get to know of the conspiracy against him.


    Usi Nad Labem, early July 1073 A.D.

    Bohemia was as Ludwig had expected. Short of people, but with a good lot of mountains. It was here, in a sunny glen, that he was going to meet Vratislav, the Bohemian duke. Ludwig raised his right hand to signal halt to the twenty knights that followed him as his escort, and then un-mounted. He walked over to a rock where he sat down, took off his helmet and wiped the sweat off his forehead. He waved for a skin of water, and drank heavily.

    “Damn the heat of July…” he muttered.

    After waiting about two hours, duke Vratislav and his honorary guard arrived. The duke was tall and broad shouldered, giving an impression similar to the one of Thiedric. He had short, blonde hair and a large beard; his eyes were watchful, but did not reflect any significant intelligence.

    “Ah, duke Vratislav!” Ludwig smiled and, panting, he rose to bow for the duke. The duke, marking that it was his lands where they were meeting, studied Ludwig for a few seconds and then bowed briefly. Ludwig ignored the insolence of the duke and decided to get to the point; the duke was needed for the Cause.
    “Duke, I have called you to this meeting for an offer that I hardly believe you would be able to refuse,” Ludwig bit his lip. He did not mean to mention the duke as incapable; some nobles had an outrageously bad temper when it came to people not paying them the respect they thought that they deserved. Vratislav only looked at Ludwig with the same expression as before though.
    “My sources tell me that you have been rumoured to scorn the Emperor, Henrik von Franken,” The duke flinched a little and again, his eyes became watchful. “Do not worry; I am not against you in the matter. Henrik von Franken is incapable of his epithet and a disgrace to the Roman heritage.” Studying the duke’s face, Ludwig could see that he was not a man that would disagree in this, nor be hard to convince. “I and a few other men of honour and justice have decided to do something about this. Therefore I ask you, duke, are you with us or are you against us?”

    Duke Vratislav peered at Ludwig, and after a short while, he smiled. “von Franken is a dog, and I am tired of living in his pen. I am on your side in this cause.” he said, and bowed.

    Ludwig went back to his horse, picked forward a bag and walked back to Vratislav, handing him the bag.

    “Inside it is three-hundred gold-coins, duke Vratislav.” He saw the duke’s eyes widen. This was likely to be more than he had ever heard of. “With this you will, at September 1, proclaim Bohemia independent and declare war upon the bastard Franken. The thirteenth, I and the two other dukes will follow. God be with you.”

    They bowed to each other again, and then walked back to their escorts. When they rode away, one of the knights asked Ludwig; “My liege, is it finished now? Is the fate of Henrik von Franken sealed?”

    “Yes, Otto, I believe it is. The Southern duchies are far away and will take time to mobilize; Henrik von Franken will not know what hit him. As long as we can get Lower Lorraine out of our path one way or the other, we will be fine. All fine.” He smiled, and looked at the surroundings. Bohemia was rather beautiful, after all.

    Last edited by Snugglie; 26-06-2008 at 23:09.
    Stand up, all victims of oppression,
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    Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
    For you have nothing if you have no rights!
    Let racist ignorance be ended,
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    Freedom is merely privilege extended,
    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

  15. #35
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    The conspiracy is planned, let's see if it's carried to fruition and von Franken is toppled! Nice writing, Snugglie.

  16. #36
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    Sounds like bad news for Godfried. His loyalty is admirable, but will he be able to withstand the might of Holland, Thuringia, and Saxony?
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  17. #37
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    Interesting. I foresee an opportunity for Godfried to grab some lands from these rebellious fellow-vassals - good luck!
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  18. #38
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    Chapter VII


    The big buzz of the court in Franken was the issue of the Bohemian duke Vratislav’s declaration of independence. Most courtiers seemed perplexed, as if wondering how someone would dare to defy the emperor himself. Others, however, and mostly warriors, secretly admired the courage of the duke to take on an enemy as powerful as Henrik von Franken.


    Udo lacked an opinion in the matter; it was not his work to think or have opinions. The bag in his pocket gave a slight, metallic sound as he walked as the coins in it moved. Around him moved maids and servants, knights and courtiers, nobles and beggars; the marketplace by castle Franken was a lively place at all times, and especially so soon after the harvest.

    He walked over the marketplace to a block of houses and went in through a door placed under a sign saying “Kopf des Löwes” – “head of the lion”. Upon closing the door, he was in another world. The sunlight and the murmur of the crowd in the market was gone, and was replaced with a smug room that smelled of urine and ale and a noise as if one had entered a battlefield. He made his way through the mass of patrons over to a table placed in a far-off corner where two men sat. One had a thin moustache, long, black hair and clothes worthy of a noble. The other was a man that bore the look of a dog that had gotten kicked so many times that if it would happen again, he would bite the attacker’s head off. The former was called Bernard, the latter Reinhardt.

    “Friends, it has certainly been a while!” Udo said as he seated himself. Bernard greeted him merrily; Reinhardt only made an acknowledging nod and then once again turned his attention to his pint. “I have called you here for a reason.”
    “You better have,” Reinhardt snorted. “Getting away from Bavaria was not as easy as it sounds, when you’ve got three ducal soldiers watching you day and night.”
    “So how did you escape the surveillance of duke Otto?”

    Reinhardt shrugged. “I threw one in the river, cut the throat a second and refurnished the third’s face. The nutter of a duke had put recruits to survey me, not trained soldiers.” He let out a short, joyless laugh. “He deserved the headache that ought to have followed my escape.”
    “You say?” Bernard said, showing little interest. Doubtlessly, he had heard this before. “So now, Herr Udo; your errand?”
    “Thank you,” Udo smiled. “I have got a work for you both. A work of utter importance that might have such significance to the future of the Empire that our names, if successful, will forever be written in the scrolls of history.”
    “So it is finally time to get rid of the git?” Reinhardt said with fresh interest. He was of course talking about Henrik von Franken.
    “Indeed, my friend, correctly guessed! Henrik von Franken,” he realized that incapable or not, the Emperor was likely to have spies everywhere, and thus he lowered his voice. “Henrik von Franken has disgraced the Imperial title for long enough. It is time that someone takes action, and my employers have decided to do so.”
    “And so who is your employer, Udo? Who are we going to do this favour to?” Bernard asked.
    “I cannot say that, of course. It would be most unfortunate if the Emperor got to know that prematurely and thus it is the more safe the less people that know about it. But,” he picked up the bag from his pocket and opened it only so little that his two companions could see what was in it. Reinhardt’s eyes widened, Bernard raised an eyebrow in sincere interest. “ – maybe this will help you forgive my rudeness?”
    “With that amount of gold, I would forgive you for making my daughter pregnant and running away with my wife.” Bernard stated, eyes fixed at the content of the bag.
    “You’re married?”
    “Of course not, but it is the principle.”
    “You can count me in as well, Udo. I don’t have anything left to lose as of know.” Reinhardt stated firmly.

    Udo smiled. “Marvellous. Then, gentlemen, here is the plan…”

    The plan was simple. First thing, von Franken’s spy mistress, a Saxon woman called Sofia von Querfort, had to be taken out of the way. With that done, the conspirators would have a brief possibility to get von Franken himself out of the way. If they managed to assassinate him, the throne would be inherited by his seven-year-old son Martin, leaving the road free for an invasion.

    “So,” Udo said and rubbed his palms together in order to try to exorcise the intense arousal he felt as they made up plans that would affect the Empire’s future so much. “What do you think?”
    “It is as simple as it can be, and not harder than it has to be. As excellent as it gets.” Bernard commented, nodding. “I myself would like to go after Franken.”
    “Nut or not, he’s hard one to crack.”
    “So may it be, but I appreciate a challenge.” Bernard smiled.

    Udo nodded at their words, content. The closer details of the plan were discussed, and then he left the pub and went out into the crowd by the market once again. Up on a scaffold, a man was being forced down onto his knees by two soldiers dressed in regal robes. The man wore the remains of clothes that seemed as if they were made out of silk, and he looked as if he had spent a night or two in the feared dungeons of castle Franken. One of the soldiers next to him stepped back; the other one drew a sword. The man put together his hands, as though in prayer, and as he raised his face towards the sky, a defiant expression marking his features, the sword fell and separated his head from his body. A fountain of blood pulsed out from his neck to the gleeful roar of the crowd as his head rolled along the edge of the scaffold.

    The executioner stopped the rolling head with his foot, lifted it up in the air using the man’s blonde scalp as handle, and raised his voice:

    “And so ends He who opposes the Emperor!” The executioner’s voice was deep and rough, and the crowd kept on jeering insults at the head.

    Udo shivered. He hoped it wasn’t an omen, for if so, it could hardly be a good one.

    ---


    When he hit the ground it felt as if he had run into a brick wall. He lost his breath and the lower left hand part of his chest was throbbing; it felt as if he had broken a rib, or maybe two.

    Getting into the castle had been easier than he thought. With the market-days there were a lot of people circulating in Franken, and thus there were also more visitors than usual at the castle. This did not mean that it was unguarded, however; it was rather the other way around. There were many beggars and thieves that tried to sneak into the castle in the general commotion to get themselves a silver-coin, a piece of bread, or whatever they would stumble across.

    For nobles it was easier though. The guards were generally careful when it came to people that walked, looked, and spoke like nobles, and they could impossibly keep track of who was actually invited to stay at the castle or not. So after acquiring a cape, hat and clothes of finest cloth, Reinhardt had made his way to the castle gates. He was nervous, his heart beating with a sound that to him resembled a galloping horse. He went over the drawbridge and into the mass of people gathered at the courtyard, and then steered his steps towards the entrance to the residences of the court.
    “Halt, sire!” a short, but rather wide, guard said. “What errand do you have in Castle Franken?”
    “How dare you!” Reinhardt roared at the guard. “I ought to have you reported to the Emperor for your insolence!” he cuffed the guard, feeling his heart almost jumping out of his chest. If this did not work out, it would be he that hang upside down in the dungeon.

    The guard seemed to get the hint though. “Sorry sire, so sorry, please pass, just go on –” he said in a fast-flowing, nervous stream of words. Reinhardt strode past him into the castle and breathed out heavily when far enough away from the guard.

    ---


    Bernard had managed to enter the castle in a similar way, although instead of screaming he politely told the guards that he was invited by none other than the Empress herself, and that he – “Good grief, don’t you recognize me yet!” – had been living in the castle since a week past.

    When entering, Bernard thought to himself that it was close to too easy. But then again, he had yet to reach the Emperor himself.

    ---


    In the evening, just as darkness fell, there was a banquet held in a large room decorated with banners, shields and other regalia of the court. Reinhardt and Bernard had localized each other, but stayed far apart; they did not want any visible link in between themselves. Reinhardt had found Sofia von Querfort to be sitting by the honorary table, just two places left of the large von Franken. Poisoning her would not do; the Emperor had guards close to him, and they were very likely to be cleverer than the recruits by the gate. He would have to bide his time.

    When the banquet started drawing towards a close, the spy mistress rose from her place by the honorary table, said something to the Emperor that Reinhardt could not hear, curtsied, and left. One of the guards followed with her. Reinhardt caught Bernard’s glance, made a movement with his hand that indicated his upcoming action, and then followed the spy mistress and her escort. He followed on a distance long enough for him to not be noticed by the two, and when they finally stopped their determined stride and stopped outside of a door, he seized the opportunity. Quickly, he ran forward, dodged the guard’s blow with his pike, and jammed his knife into the guard’s throat. The guard sagged down to the floor, hands clutching his throat, unable to scream for help.

    Reinhardt quickly seized his dagger again, pushed the stunned spy mistress into an enclosing room and closed the door. No one would hear her scream now. He stood panting, looking at her, and by now she seemed to have returned to reality.

    “So this is it, and here we are.” she said, her tone surrendered. “I do not even know who you are or who sent you, and nor do you know anything about me. And yet you are to end my life.”

    Reinhardt swore to himself. Never ever let a subject talk, it just makes things harder.

    “Madam, I wish I would not have to do this –” he started, but was cut off.
    “So why do it then? I am a person as well; I have a husband and friends. Why shall I die, more than to give you an income?” she asked, the look in her eyes enraged.

    Reinhardt remained silent, suddenly ashamed of himself. It was not the first time, and if he kept on in his profession, it would not be the last. Who was he to take lives; he was not God. Who had entitled him with the right, more than his frequent, always unknown and well-paying employers? This was one of the reasons he spent his time with the bottle and the pint.

    “Some things are above the heads of us mortals.” he said. “And if I don’t finish you now, it will be me that one day is outmanoeuvred with a life worth less than a dime.”

    She seemed to resign to the fact that he was not to change his set course; he had a shell that had hardened after decades of killing, both on battlefield and on mission. “Then do what you must. But I ask you, please, let it be as merciful as possible.” Tears now trickled down her cheeks. She seemed to fully realize what was going to happen to her.

    Reinhardt weighed the knife in his hand. He had planned to simply cut her throat and make sure she was dead, and then leave, but he knew he would not be able to now. He took forward a small bottle that he handed to her.

    “This will have you dead within half a minute. It is just like falling asleep. But I beg you, please; no tricks.”

    She took the bottle and kneeled next to her bed. She said a prayer to Saint Mary about preserving her husband and make sure revenge was taken on her enemies – by that part, Reinhardt twisted uncomfortably as he stood – and then she dragged out the cork and drank the potion. She turned as if to speak to Reinhardt, but no words came out of her mouth. Her hands reached for her throat, scratching it frantically, before power ran out of her and she sank down on the bed, still twisting. Reinhardt hated having to see this, and when she finally stopped moving it was a relief to notice that her pulse was
    still.

    He opened the door slowly and looked out. No one seemed to have passed the corridor, seeing as the guard still lay on the floor. Reinhardt dragged him into the room and hastily wiped some of the blood up with a curtain he had ripped down. This would keep the court unaware of the deed at least a little longer. To make it even harder he, when he had entered the room again, dragged a large chest to stand in front of the door, blocking it.

    He walked over to the window and looked down. It was about four meters with unsure vegetation, but with his clothes drenched in the blood of the guard he could not go any other way. He hauled himself out of the window, held on to the edge and lowered himself down as far as he could, and then dropped.

    And here he now laid, content at a job well done. Now it was up to Bernard to fully finish it, but for Reinhardt it did not matter whether his companion was successful or not. They were only loose acquaintances, and the political effects of the murders would not affect a low-life as him. He ran away in the night and swam over the moat. He decided to visit the tavern; he would need a large pint this evening.

    ---


    As Reinhardt left, Bernard knew his companion would be successful. One guard was hardly a match, and in a little while, the spy mistress would be dead. With her out of the way, it would be a lot easier covering the traces of the Emperor’s soon-to-be killer.

    He looked up towards von Franken, who right now laughed so that his round cheeks jumped up and down. Soon, he thought, that smile will be wiped off your face. Soon it is my time to shine. Soon, very soon, as soon as you have entered your room your worst nightmare will be over you.

    Bernard smiled maliciously as he saw that the Emperor stood up, bowed to the people by the table, and started walking away together with his escort. Now was the time.


    ---


    Thus endeth the seventh chapter.


    Last edited by Snugglie; 26-06-2008 at 23:11.
    Stand up, all victims of oppression,
    For the tyrants fear your might!
    Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
    For you have nothing if you have no rights!
    Let racist ignorance be ended,
    For respect makes the empires fall!
    Freedom is merely privilege extended,
    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

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    So the spymistress is dead. Will the Emperor follow? Or is Bernard in for surprise?
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    Chapter VIII



    The Emperor resided in a tower and had the door to his room guarded by three rough-looking soldiers from his personal guard. Bernard quickly out ruled the possibility of getting into the room that way; he would have to find an alternative.

    Pretending that he had had more than a few pints too much on the banquet, he stumbled past the guards, singing an old folk song in a shrill voice. The guards ignored him, stating to themselves that he was just another drunken Junker that would not be able to keep a conversation anyway. And thus Bernard, when out of sight, ran up the stairs to the floor above Henrik von Franken’s room. He went into the room to his right, the room that ought to be right above. The room was empty, but by the bed there was a large coffer placed; it was not uninhabited. He briskly walked over to the window and looked down, immediately gaining a headache as he saw that the ground was about fifteen meters down. von Franken’s window was not even right below the one form the room where Bernard now stood, and he felt hope slip away, gradually being replaced with panic.

    He quickly calmed his senses. This would not do. He had been given a mission, and he would pursue it. He went over to the bed and felt the sheets. They were strong and seemed very expensive, and above all; there were loads of them. He took a few and rolled them, also making occasional knots. He then tied two of them together, using a third as a link between his new, custom-made rope and the bed, the steadiest piece of furniture in the whole room.

    As he threw the rope out of the window, he started to regret his choice. A slip of the hands – and at that thought, he gained hand sweat rapidly – and he would fall to a crunchy death. But if he did not complete his task, he would instead be pursued by peers that had the mission to liquidate himself. That would not do.

    Carefully, he climbed over the edge of the window, falling for a fraction of a second before gripping one of the knots he had made on the rope of sheets. He made his way downwards slowly and carefully until he was level with the Emperor’s window. Now came the tricky part. He used his feet as a rudder against the wall and tried to gain a pendulum movement, and succeeded with this easier than he had thought.

    Then, blamage.

    He heard someone scream from inside the room above him, followed by a thump as the owner of the voice landed on the floor.

    “In the name of the devil and God!” it roared. “Why are you pushing me?”
    “Sire, I…” the voice was noticeably lighter than the one of the previous. “I am not even close to you, I… you have to have tripped.”
    “Tripped?” the other voice screamed. “There is a supposedly open space where I am standing! Are you accusing me of being clumsy?” the voice added. It sounded more like a threat than a question, and Bernard became very eager to escape into the Emperor’s chambers as soon as possible.
    “But sire, look.” Bernard heard the owner of the light voice walk. “Someone has tied a rope… wait, this is not a rope, it is sheets!”
    “Verdammt!” The first voice had still not stopped roaring. Seconds later, a round, red face showed up in the window above Bernard. He recognized it as duke Otto von Nordheim of Bavaria, the duke whose dungeons Reinhardt had escaped from. The duke did not wear any shirt, and next to him appeared a boy that seems to be in his mid-teens, dressed only in a thin tunic. Apparently Bernard had accidentally interrupted the duke’s plans of sodomy for the evening. This was not all that uncommon these days, especially not in combination with a lot of fermented beverage.
    “You, down there! What in the burning whores of Babylon do you think you are doing!” the duke roared, spit flying from his mouth as he shouted. Bernard increased his pendulum, fighting panic as it tried to take control of his brain. “You, boy, alert the guards. Now!” The young boy disappeared from sight. Finally Bernard managed to swing all the way to von Franken’s window, and in a jump as valiant as non-fearing and foolish, he managed to get a grip of the edges. He mustered every ounce of strength in his body and hauled himself in, tumbling onto the floor as he drew his dagger to finish off his victim as soon as possible.

    Sadly, he was too late. Henrik von Franken stood behind two grim-looking guards, smiling maliciously. Either the commotion had made itself heard and the Emperor had gotten alarmed, or duke Otto’s warning had reached its recipient in time. For Bernard, it did not matter; he knew that he was finished. He would not be rotting away in the dungeon, they would never allow that. He would suffer a horrible and painful death, his every joint being crushed and his every nail drawn out. That was what happened with traitors and plotters, and as the guards slowly closed in on him, he made his decision.

    “And thus another pawn falls from the board of the king and his court.” he muttered to himself, reciting a story he had been told in his childhood by a local bard and at the same time fulfilling a life-long dream of dying with a catchy last-phrase. The bard’s reward for his satiric tales about the noble classes had him first made a cripple, when they cut his legs off, and then food for the crows, when they two years later pursued with his head.

    And with the conviction that his other alternative was worse Bernard abruptly turned and threw himself out of the window. Strangely, the ground did not approach as fast as he had thought; it felt like the fall took a lot of time. He heard the Emperor’s surprised screams from inside the room and the guards when they finally reached the window. Bernard looked back down again. The ground on this side of the castle was rocky, and he knew that within moments – moments that strangely seemed to be a lot longer than they logically should be – he would have gone from a walking, talking and living man to a red splatter on the pointy rocks by the Emperor’s castle.

    The next second he landed.

    ---


    Ludwig swore so loudly and furiously that he scared one of his children to crying. For the moment indifferent to this, despite the angry gaze his wife sent his, he felt a familiar headache emerging. He had, as everyone else in the vicinity, heard of what had happened at castle Franken two nights earlier. The spy mistress was dead, yes, but the attempt on the Emperor’s life had failed and the assassin had fallen to his death. Ludwig cursed again. He and his fellow conspirators would have no choice but to follow their plan as intended; it would eventually be known who hired the assassin’s anyway.

    This did not go completely as planned. With the Emperor still on live and additionally at guard, things would be made much harder. But the quitter never wins, Ludwig thought and called for his chancellor. It was time to send the Emperor a message.

    ---


    ---


    Godfried sat on the western rampart, lost in thoughts. There would be a royal council in less than half an hour, and he felt that he, before that, needed to gather his thoughts and prepare himself for what was to come; nothing less than his first opportunity, or challenge, as a duke. And, as it might turn out, his first battle and war. He did not look forward to the prospect – he was no warrior. He was unfit and hunchbacked and could not even run. He could manoeuvre a sword with his left hand, but in else he was about as harmless as a racoon. But even with this, he felt a savage, almost perverse fascination for the upcoming war; kingdoms had been created and razed through wars, men made immortal and tales into legends. War was the mean of power that to the greatest extent mattered in the real world, and if Godfried was ever to achieve his goals of recreating the kingdom of King Lothair, he would have to utilize it.
    When he got up and walked over to the council room, he felt content with the happenings. This had played him right in the hands, and if it was not for the overhanging threat of Saxony and Holland attacking Lorraine at the same time, he would have been dancing a merry jig. It was now time for the council, but ultimately him, to decide what to do in this war.

    ---

    The atmosphere in the chamber was tense. A few of the council’s members sat looking at nothing, turned inwards; others were noticeably irritated and distressed. When Godfried entered the room not all eyes were turned towards him – whether this was a sign of some members not noticing his arrival or if they were simply ignoring him, he could not decide – but Godfried felt that there were more pressing matters to attend to than to argue about something as insignificant as manners.

    “Lords, ladies,” he started. “You all know why I have summoned you here. War is rising by the horizon, and before it has arisen more we need to decide where we stand in this battle. Are we with the Emperor, or are we against him?”

    Silence fell as soon as Godfried stopped talking. He looked around the room at his council, consisting of six persons only, sitting three at each side of a rectangular table with Godfried at the end furthest away from the door. To his left sat Camila, his wife and chancellor. She looked troubled, and had a problem meeting his gaze. Next to her sat Theodor, his eyes closed and his head resting on his elbow at the table. He looked worn-out, much due to having been up throughout the whole night managing his spies and agents. Next to Theodor, furthest away from Godfried, sat one of the nobles that had arrived at his court from his late father’s in Breda, Richwara von Sponheim. She was one of the two in the council without a special position, but against this Godfried neither could or wanted to do something. Was she a man, she would have been an excellent bishop. Being a woman, she was inappropriate.

    Opposite to the three sat the rest of the council. Closest to Godfried was Eckhard von Blankenheim, the marshal. Well renowned as one of the most competent military leaders in Lorraine, he kept his calm even at this for the Empire decisive moment, and gazed out of the window behind Theodor. Next to Eckhard sat Ida von Glymes that had replaced old Unruoch as steward of the realm. She generally did not voice her opinion on the councils, and now sat looking down at the table. And next to her sat the final member, Arnulf van Brunesheim from Breda. He was tall and had curly, raven hair and had the rumour of a great swordsman. If it was not for Eckhard, he would be the marshal of Lower Lorraine, but as of now he had to be content with being the second most high-ranking commander in the duchy.

    “Very well then,” Godfried said, clearing his throat. “If none of you wish to say something on this, I think that our course of action ought to be clear.”

    Godfried had thought it all over many times. During his walks his thoughts had been fixed at the stories of the grand Charlemagne, and of the king that Godfried felt was closer to him; Lothair II of Lotharingia. Squeezed in between two of the great kingdoms of the Earth, France and the Holy Roman Empire, Lotharingia would have a hard time emerging. But force shall with force be fought, and with force would Charlemagne’s glory be restored by hordes fighting under a blue-white banner. The civil war was the first step on the way to the creation of a New Empire, and now, with the blood of enemies and friends soiling the ground they would seize the opportunity.

    “We will support the Emperor.”

    ---


    Thus endeth the eighth chapter.


    Last edited by Snugglie; 26-06-2008 at 23:14.
    Stand up, all victims of oppression,
    For the tyrants fear your might!
    Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
    For you have nothing if you have no rights!
    Let racist ignorance be ended,
    For respect makes the empires fall!
    Freedom is merely privilege extended,
    Unless enjoyed by one and all.

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