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Thread: Furor Normannicus

  1. #41
    Interlude Two: From R. Champlin’s ‘History of the Normans’.


    The following is an expert from Roger Champlin, ‘History of the Normans in the Mediterranean’, Edinburgh-Palermo 2008. The present editor has chosen to omit most of Champlin’s copious footnotes and annotations to allow for greater ease of reading; only a bare minimum was retained to enable an interested reader to delve more deeply in the subject.


    There can be little doubt that after the capitulation of Palermo on May 23rd 1073, Robert de Hauteville would have liked nothing better than to immediately wage war upon Trapani, the last remaining free Muslim power on Sicily (though this is denied by Momigliano p. 374) and thereby complete his conquest of the isle, but the state of his realm did not allow for such immediate action. Not only had the war effort against Ayyub ibn Ziri depleted the ducal treasury and plunged the Guiscard deeply into the moneylenders’ debt, but he was in addition also facing violent upheaval in Italy. Almost immediately upon the Apulian host’s departure for Sicily, a wandering Greek Orthodox monk by the name of Anastasios had started to preach against Robert de Hauteville, branding his rule as godless and unlawful. Anastasios had seems to have found many supporters in the county of Lecce, where he incited a public riot in which a ducal reeve was lynched by the peasants. An intervention by the Byzantine Emperor seemed possible, and so Robert Guiscard reacted quickly an brutally, despatching a few of his retainers to murder Anastasios. But it was already too late, Anastasios’ seed had taken root and was not that easily uprooted again. Enraged at the murder of Anastasios, the abbot of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Oria in the county of Bari embraced the cause of his slain fellow clergyman and transformed his monastery into a nest of resistance against the rule of the Normans. Duke Robert, still embroiled deeply in the war in Sicily, did once again react decisively and brutally – he had the monastery stormed and all the monks slain. This heavy-handed act did for once cow the blooming Greek resistance against Hauteville domination into submission, even though it is safe to assume that Greek accaptance of the Norman regime reached an all-time low.

    But religiously-fueld Greek resistance was not the only Italian crisis Robert Guiscard had to deal with whilst campaigning in Sicily. The very heart of his own demesne, the county of Apulia, seems to have ben wrecked by a famine, quite possibly a direct result of overtaxation of the region’s resources for the wars of the last decade. Similar problems seem also to have wracked the county of Bari and the county of Lecce, where the situation of the peasants deteriorated to such a degree that many felt evetually forced to abandon their farms and take to the wilderness and lead an existance as poachers and brigands. If one views these events in their entirety, one cannot but come to the conclusion that while Robert de Hauteville was campaigning against the sheik of Palermo, his Italian lands were falling into ruin. Under these circumstances, Duke Robert had little choice but to bring this war to the earliest possible conclusion and return to Apulia, a conclusion endorsed by the scientifiy public at large (for the first time by von Schack 1889).

    Documents show that Duke Robert was back again in Italy as early as June 1073. Here, he met with delegates of the bishoprics, monasteries and towns of his realm, which he had summoned to Cosenza. This assembly can be viewed as a kind of early and still somewhat rudimentary estates general. It was in all probability Herman da Intimiano who had discovered this possible source of revenue (see Ermini p. 422) as a first fiscal measure against the crisis wrecking the ducal demesne. Unfortunately, no records detailing this event are extant, but from the decisive action Robert Guiscard was soon taking to combat famine and sedition in his realm, it cannot be doubted that he forced a considerable contribution to his depleted treasury, even though the exact nature of the concessions he was undoubtedly forced to make to the towns and clergy in return will have to be left entirely to speculation.

    His coffers once again filled and his realm somewhat stabilized, Robert de Hauteville did in September 1073 assume a new title – Duke of Sicily. This third ducal title did of course on its own add to the Guiscard’s already considerable prestige, but his real ambitions lay elsewhere. Robert de Hauteville had set his sights on kingship, and now the circumstances were favourable. Even though he had achieved power rivalling many kings and proven his mettle as defender of the Christian faith, this alone would not have sufficed to be recognized as king. But at this time, Pope Alexander II. was desperately on the lookout for new and powerful allies, as his quarrels with King Heinrich IV. of Germany had over the course of several years steadily aggravated. It is well known how Heinrich refused to relinquish his assumed privilege to invest the high ranking-clergy of his realm, and how Pope Alexander did in return withhold the Emperorship. In the late 1060s, Heinrich had reached maturity and assumed complete and soon also unchallenged control over his realm, fully exerting his royal prerogatives. Both Pope Alexander II. and King Heinrich IV. were firmly determined to yield the other no ground and to ascertain their superiority over the other, and by 1073, any compromise in this conflict had already become highly unlikely. By allying himself with the powerful and deeply devout Duchess Mathilda of Tuscany, Alexander had recently removed himself somewhat from the direct grasp of Heinrich, but with the duchess still owing fealty to the German sovereign, a number of her barons, most of them of German ancestry themselves, were clearly opposed to siding with the pope against their king. Pope Alexander did therefore cast about for further allies to strengthen his position against King Heinrich, and one his first choices was his powerful and independent southern neighbour Duke Robert. The papal archives hold documents (Vat. W.84.F.38 – Vat. W.84.F.41) mentioning no less than five separate embassies despatched to Robert de Hauteville in 1073. Details of these negotiations do not survive, but there can be little doubt that Robert Guiscard did drive a hard bargain – if the pope wished Norman backing, he had to publicly recognize Norman kingship. The evidence of rich grants of great swaths of land to all monasteries in the Hauteville’s realm coinciding with his eventual coronation seem to suggest that the pope was at first reluctant to grant Duke Robert his wish, and that further incitements were necessary (the first to point out the connections between these grants of land and the coronation was Momigliano. Smallwood on the other hand interprets these grants as spontaneous acts of piety and honest gratitude for the coronation). But with the pope’s need for an alliance with the Normans as pressing as Robert de Hauteville’s need for papal sanctioning of his kingship, a settlement between Rome and Apulia was basically inevitable. So Pope Alexander followed a Norman invitation to Napoli to celebrate Christmas together with the Norman barons, and here, on December 26th 1073, he crowned Robert de Hauteville King of Naples.

    Robert Guiscard had thus reached the ultimate honours. The boost in prestige from the kingship must have been considerable and echoed throughout Europe. An immediate reaction came from Count Gisuld di Salerno, Robert de Hauteville’s brother-in-law and an old friend of the Normans. Following the feast of Epiphany, he visited the Norman court at Naples and offered his fealty to King Robert. This act by the last Lombard lord of Italy has been interpreted varyingly. Some (von Schack) view it as an honest act of reverence, while others (Momigliano and more recently Smallwood) suspect fear as the ultimate motive of Count Gisulf. This second interpretation has much to commend itself. A document dating to November 6th 1073 records the gift of a large tract of land by Count Gisulf to the monastery of Roccadaspide – an act of gratitude, as the document records explicitly, for the pregnancy of the Countess. The gratitude and joy of Gisulf at this late pregnancy, after almost twenty years of marriage still without child, is hardly surprising, but the news of his wife’s state must also have worried the Lombard. Currently, his heir was his nephew Roger Borsa, son to Robert de Hauteville and his sister Sigelgaita, meaning that the county of Salerno would eventually devolve unto the house of Hauteville. The birth of a child would have overthrown this settlement, and in view of the proven rapaciousness of Robert de Hauteville, Count Gisulf had every reason to be worried. The present writer does therefore deem it very likely that Gisulf pledged his fealty not so much out of awe at his brother-in-law’s kingship, but to preserve Salerno for his decendants by subordinating himself to Robert de Hauteville.

    If this is the case, Gisulf di Salerno miscalculated. He took his oath of fealty on January 10th 1074, and already for January 29th 1074 documents of the cathedral of Salerno record his death – and the ascension of Roger Borsa de Hauteville, at the time thirteen years old, as new Count of Salerno. No records as to the fate of Count Gisulf’s widow survive, and nothing is known about their still unborn child; at any rate, they did not play any role in the further history of the county, even if they survived. The house of Hauteville moved with speed to take possession of Salerno, and there can be little doubt that Robert Guiscard had had his brother-in-law Gisulf murdered (the only authority to even deny the possibility of foul play is von Schack 1889, in keeping with his general apologetic tendency of the house of Hauteville). The sudden death of Gisulf di Salerno less than three weeks after pledging fealty and the complete disappearance from the records of his pregnant wife are just too convenient for Robert de Hauteville to suggest mere coincidence.

    Sometime in February or early March at the latest, King Robert must have also created his son Roger Duke of Campania – on the earliest extant document mentioning Roger Borsa’s lordship, the record of his ascension, he is merely addressed as “Comes Salernis”, whereas the chronologically next one, a document from March 12th 1074, does already address him as “Comes Salernis et Dux Campaniae”. Without a doubt this measure of Robert de Hauteville had been taken to increase Roger Borsa’s dignity and thus strengthen his position as heir to the young kingdom. It was a very clear message. Being a duke, Roger Borsa de Hauteville now outranked all other Normans in Italy – save his father, the king. Where Robert de Hauteville had formerly ruled over many lesser Norman lords of comparable standing, there was now a new lord to outrank all other vassals – Duke Roger Borsa. His eventual succession was thus cemented.

    Here, Champlin inserts an excursion pertaining to the major nobles of the new Kingdom of Naples. At this point we shall for now leave Champlin to instead take a look on the the Guiscard’s further foreign policy. But before that a short recapitulation of the crisis wracking Apulia during the war with Palermo, the conclusion of said war, the formation of the Kingdom of Naples and the ascent of Roger Borsa to the dukedom of Salerno:






  2. #42
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Thou dies the last lombard, and a new kingdom arose.

    Nice!

  3. #43
    phargle: Yes, the whole thing with the advances is a bit od nuisance; still, I wanted to use the picture of the Normans on foot while at the same time not going outright against the advances. So I devised a situation where the Normans did not dismount for tactical reasons but were absolutely forced to do so by the local topography. The idiocy of the AI actually inspired me to the solution. For months, the Muslim army travelled ceaselessly to and fro between the sieges of Agrigento and Palermo, with Serlo in hot pursuit and a lot of 0-casualty-battles. This gave me the idea to interpret this highly mobile way of waging a war as guerilla warfare; Sicily’s rugged interior is very conductive to this kind of warfare anyway.

    Enewald: Yes, the end of Gisulf of Salerno turned out very nice, and in a way underscoring the ruthlessness of Robert de Hauteville. First he usurps the dukedom belonging to his nephew, then he deposes one of his brothers-in-law, and when his other brother-in-law and faithful ally pleges fealty of his own free will, he has him (and probably also his wife and unborn child) murdered to ensure the succession of his own son. Sweet.

  4. #44
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    Wow... I just finished reading all the updates to the present, and this is another amazing AAR from a new writer! The_Guiscard, I have to say, I absolutely love your graphics, especially the campaign maps for the Sicilian campaign (as well as the "frescoed" graphics... they fit in nicely with the tale overall)!

    Now Robert has his Kingship... obviously Trapani is on his list, but where will the Furor Normanicus strike next? Its too late to take the Byzantine Empire from within by becoming a vassal, but maybe it can be taken by without (assuming the Byz undergo their usual meltdown during this period)? I'm not sure Robert has the power to challenge that North African powerhouse yet, but soon...
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  5. #45
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    The idiocy of the AI actually inspired me to the solution.
    God bless the AI.

    You did a good job drawing an authentic history-book feel from those screenshots. About halfway through, I started thinking to myself about the gameplay mechanics of it - when Salerno died - and it meshed together well.

  6. #46
    phargle: Thanks. I try to remain as close as possible to the actual gameplay. With the fate of Gisulf of Salerno, this was especially easy. It was a mere six months from Robert’s coronation to the ascension of his son Roger as Duke of Campania, and all the facts did really mesh together very well.

    By the way, I am currently catching up with the Knýtlings – quite an undertaking at over hundred pages, but entertaining every minute of it.

    General_BT: Thanks for the kind words. I have myself read bits and pieces of Rome AARisen and am looking forward to tackle its entirety.

    Speaking of Byzantium, and your presumptions about it, my current game has surprised me. The Peloponessos and two adjactent provinces on the Adriatic coast broke free almost immediately as a single state of its own and has remained free and unchabged ever since, but apart from that, absolutely nothing happened to Byzantium in Europe. In Asia, it had by 1070 lost three quarters of its provinces, two quarters of them to the Turks and one quarter to rebellions. But then Byzantium started to pull itself together. It reconquered all of their wayward Asiatic vassals and then started to slowly turn the tide on the Turks, pushing them back. Byzantium eventually regained almost half of the lands lost to them.

    Germany similiarly surprised me. It held together very well for about a decade, but then one of the king’s major vassals raised claims to the title and marched on him. After years of war, the german king was dead, and the usurper was king in his stead. The drawn-out war had caused many more vasslas to go their own way, and this tendency continued for a long time. The new dynasty had to constantly fight for dominance. At first, they seemed to loose, but now, they are actually pulling their realm back together. I am intrigued to see where this is going.

    Russia remains fractured and Poland conquered a lot of lands over there, Georgia was crushed by the Turks, Croatia and Hungary remained largely static, and the British Isles, Normandy and Brittany completely so. The Scandinavian kingdoms grew to a respectable size and then arrested any further development. The Baltic remains fractured. France is still completely unchanged, save for a third of its lands being inherited by the Consul of Venice, who has moved his seat to Bordeaux, which is the only weird thing, really. The Spanish Christians started out developing slowly but respectably, but then where completely crushed by the Muslims, who have erected a single unified realm encompassing all of the peninsula and being probably the most powerful kingdom in all of Europe; in cause of a crusade into Spain, they are ging to cause the crusaders some major grief. The Fatimids held on to all of their lands for quite a long time, until foolishly letting themselves being drawn into a war with the Seljuk Turks, who are the greatest existing power.

  7. #47
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    World seems to very interesting.

    In my game Germany actually reconquered the areas held by charlemagne.

    King of Germany, Burgundy, Italy, Bohemia, France. And then somehow Wales and Hungary are a part of their realm too.

    Nice AI sometimes.

  8. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Guiscard
    phargle: Thanks. I try to remain as close as possible to the actual gameplay. With the fate of Gisulf of Salerno, this was especially easy. It was a mere six months from Robert’s coronation to the ascension of his son Roger as Duke of Campania, and all the facts did really mesh together very well.

    By the way, I am currently catching up with the Knýtlings – quite an undertaking at over hundred pages, but entertaining every minute of it.
    I've found that the game engine is good enough that the stories it produces are authentic all by themselves, apart from the occasional sheikdom of Praha. BTW, I've been playing an Italian minor myself - Jacob Orsini of Orvieto - and the de Hautevilles play a pretty prominent role in that story, which I think I will post to tide myself over.

    The Knýtlings are a pretty light read, most of the time. Whenever I had to reread it to get in the mood to do an update, it would take 2-3 days. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

  9. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by The_Guiscard
    It was a mere six months from Robert’s coronation to the ascension of his son Roger as Duke of Campania.
    Oops, did I really write this? I meant to say six weeks, which then amounts to a rather plausible chain of cause and event. Really obliging of the game.

    But anyway, a new chapter will be up soon, picking up no three months after these events, in April 1074.

  10. #50
    Chapter Seven: In Which A Marshall Is Discharged


    “He offered how much?”, Bohemond asked incredulously.

    “You heard me alright”, his uncle answered. Count Roger de Hauteville cut himself a large slice of the roast pork sitting on a wooden platter in the table’s center and continued: “Ninethousand Byzantine gold solidi for peace. Serlo and me couldn’t quite believe it ourselves – I mean, blessed virgin, who would have thought the heathen dog this wealthy? Back in Normandy, I have known entire counties worth less than that. Hell, that’s like almost two years’ revenue from my own counties – and you know that Reggio and Messina are rich lands.”



    “That much, and an offer to swear fealty, too – don’t you think that the King would not have wanted you to accept?”, Bohemond asked. Like always, he did not refer to Robert Guiscard as father but used his formal title instead.

    His mouth stuffed full of roast pork, Roger de Hauteville could only grunt and shake his head, and so Serlo answered in his stead: “No, Bohemond. If King Robert accepted a Muhammadan as vassal, it might anger the pope, and your father will not risk a falling out with the Holy See. And besides, we can easily defeat Ibn al-Halwas, and then his riches and his lands belong to the King all the same.”

    “And”, interjected Count Roger, “we will once again have proven our strength to the world. Your father must at all times display strength. If he does not, our enemies might think us weak and get funny ideas. No, better to take by force what is offered on conditions, no matter how minor these conditions may be.”

    The three descendants of Tancrede de Hauteville were sitting on stools around a rickety table in the single room of a small peasant hut. Marshall Serlo de Hauteville and his uncle Count Roger, joint commanders of the host of over 3500 men encamped all around the hut, had seized the humble building as accomodation and were now having dinner together with King Robert’s bastard son Bohemond. Two months ago, King Robert had assigned Bohemond to the care of Serlo. ‘You understand warfare as few other men do’, the Guiscard had said. ‘Take Bohemond along with you into Sicily so that he can learn a thing or two. But don’t treat him anything special, mind you’.

    And Serlo had done his liege’s bidding. He had involved Bohemond in all the tedious details of planning the campaign against the Sheikdom of Trapani, and he had found him to have quick wits and an almost instinctive understanding of war – he was clearly the Guiscard’s flesh and blood. At seventeen years of age, the youth was now fully grown, standing as exceedingly tall as his father, although of less broad build. There was also the same resoluteness of manner, and the same determined cut of the chin, but where King Robert was forthright, Bohemond was reserved and guarded. Serlo thought to perceive an-ever present anger seething behind his young cousin’s sullen brow, and at times he had the suspicion that Bohemond regarded the entire world as a mortal enemy – even himself and Count Roger, who were both free and easy in their dealings with their relative. But then Serlo did not wonder at these suppressed sentiments of Bohemond, and he even sympathized with the plight of one who had been robbed of his birthright. It had been less than three months since his younger half-brother Roger had been made a duke, wheras he, the firstborn, did not have an acre of land to his own.



    But then King Robert wasn’t exactly famed for his generosity, Serlo knew. After the hardships of the drawn-out campaign against the Sheikdom of Palermo, Serlo had had high hopes that his uncle would reward his many years of faithful service by granting him the lordship of Agrigento, but once again, the Guiscard had kept all the conquests to himself. With the crisis back in Italy, not even much riches from the booty had been heaped upon Serlo and the King’s other followers. Serlo had been disgruntled, and his uncle seems to have sensed it. At any rate, over the past winter he had negotiated a marriage for Serlo, winning the consent of the influential Byzantine noble family Triphyllios from southern Greece to marry one of their daughters to a nephew of the Norman King. Serlo was well aware that his uncle’s ultimate ambitions lay with the Byzantine Empire and that on offspring of an Hauteville and a Byzantine princess was exactly what the Robert Guiscard needed for his long-term plans, and he had also been quite thrilled at such a prestigious bride with a dowry as large as her’s, but the prospect of marrying a hag of almost 25 years wasn’t much to his liking. When a woman that old was still unmarried, something had to be wrong with her, but Serlo had not yet had the opportunity to find out exactly what it was. When his bride arrived less than a month ago in Palermo, Serlo had been right in the middle of preparing the campaign against Trapani, and so he had not had much time for her. Still, much to his surprise Helene Triphyllios had turned out to be a singularly lovely, fair-haired beauty, and certainly willing enough, even though still a virgin, as promised.




    Helene Triphyllios, wife to Serlo de Hauteville, on the morning after her wedding night


    “Hey, Serlo, man”, Count Roger roused his nephew from his thoughts. “Now look at our fine Marshall here, his head all in the clouds. Thinking of your new wife, eh? But who’s to blame you? With such a pretty one, instead of riding off to war, I also would have much rather stayed in Palermo and ridden her!”

    Count Roger roared with good-natured mirth, and both of his nephews tuned in. Slapping Serlo on the shoulder, the Guiscard’s brother then continued: “No, but in earnest, Bohemond was asking of you wether you would give him some command of his own in the siege.”

    To gain himself some time, Serlo used the back of his hand to wipe grease and gravy from the pork off his lips and took a draught of wine. Bohemond was bright, sure enough, and he displayed his father’s instinctive grasp for warfare, and he had proven his valour in the initial battle with Ibn al-Halwas much inferior troops. In fact, he had astounded Serlo, who still remembered how deathly afraid he himself had been before his first battle, with the calm with which he had prepared for combat. But still, his cousin lacked actual experience, and he was disliked by most of the Normans, who would be upset at having to follow him. After some deliberation, Serlo rocked his head gently from side to side and answered: “Not immediately, no. You are already bloodied in battle and have proven your mettle, but you need some more experience in practical warfare before you can have a command of your own. For the time being, you will stay close to me and Roger and learn how a campaign is conducted. If the siege draws on, you can eventually have a command.”

    “I understand”, Bohemond said merely and turned his attention to the roast pork set before him on the thick slab of bread used instead of a platter. Serlo thought to discern a hateful gleam in his cousin’s eyes, but Count Roger seemed to notice nothing out of the ordinary. He said lightly: “Someday, you will have your own command, don’t worry. Christ, when I was your age, I didn’t even have a proper charger of my own! Your father has provided for me, and when he sees your worth and your faithful service, he will provide for you, too.”

    “Nobody your age has a command of his own”, Serlo tried to appease, but as soon as the words had left his mouth, the newly-created duke Roger Borsa came to the Marshall’s mind and he wished he would have never uttered them. He quickly changed the topic to matters of the siege, but the cheerful and easy air in which the evening had begun was lost.

    * * *


    Less than six weeks after this conversation, by late May 1074, Trapani had fallen and Sheik ibn al-Halwas was dead. When the fall of the town had seemed imminent, King Robert had come in person form Palermo, now one of his favourite residences, to command the assault. Trapani had been defended valiantly, but there had never been any hope or it, apart maybe from help arriving from Africa – which did never come. The Normans had stormed the town and looted it brutally. Ibn al-Halwas had proven more valorous than anybody would have thought and had holed himself up in his palatial residence, but after just a single day had been deserted by what few retainers he had had left, and murdered by one of them. The Norman barons had set up residence in the most luxurious townhouses of Trapani, and King Robert had held a victory feast in the former sheik’s residence. During this celebration, which marked the very end of Muslim power in Sicily, Robert de Hauteville had given away presents out of the booty to his followers – but the land he had once again kept for himself.



    Having once again not received a lordship, Serlo was now seriously disappointed. He had hoped that he would - at long last - receive a reward, and Trapani, as the most backwater and least prosperous region of Sicily had seemed to him as a county his uncle would certainly give away. And was he not the only adult descendant of Tancrede de Hauteville – apart rom Bohemond, of course – who did not hold a lordship?

    And it was not just that, there was also a certain estrangement between himself and his uncle. In some mystical way, the kingship had set the former duke apart from other men, even his closest retainers and relatives. Somehow, there really had to be something sacred about kingship, and everybody could feel it, Robert Guiscard himself no less than the people around him. Gone was the easy camraderie Duke Robert had formerly shared with his barons and officers, washed away by the sacred oil with which the pope had anointed Robert de Hauteville.

    These were Serlo’s thoughts as he sat at his uncle’s high table during one more feast. The King’s one surviving brother and close confidant Count Roger had, as usual, been given the place of honour to the sovereign’s right, but Serlo occupied the next most prestigious seat, immediately to his uncle’s left. Out of the corner of his eyes, the Marshall watched his liege. Robert de Hauteville was 55 years of age, and his hair, and no less his beard, was all grey now, but it was still full. The King’s movements were sure and his grip still powerful, and he held his tall frame erect, in a truly kingly bearing. His shoulders were still broad, but Serlo didn’t fail to notice their slight droop, and that underneath the courtly cotte of embroidered silk a beginning slight paunch showed. The King was still vigorous and of hale and strong mind, true, but he was an old man anyhow. How many more years? And what kind of King would Roger become?

    King Robert turned his leonine grey head away rom his brother, with whom he had conversed, and towards Serlo. For the repeated time, Serlo couldn’t help but feel in awe at the very – kingliness of his uncle. Somehow, Robert de Hauteville looked exactly the way a king was supposed to look – determined, powerful, stern, wise, and, well, kingly.

    “Roger has just been talking of you to me. He sings your high praises”, King Robert addressed his Marshall.

    “The count is too kind, my lord uncle”, Serlo retorted, thinking of how he formerly had used to address his uncle simply as such. “His own part in besieging Trapani is at least as great as mine. And your own son was also no small help.”

    “Ah, yes, Bohemond”, said Robert de Hauteville and tossed a barely half-eaten mutton leg from the feast laid on the high table to the dogs on the rushes-strewn floor, who immediately started to quarrel over it. “You have both had good things to say of him – things I would like to believe, but find hard to.”

    Swivelling in his high-backed chair, the Guiscard turned all the way towards Serlo and fixed him with his intense gaze: “You have never given me reason to think you in the least untrue, but still I must ask you this. Don’t go easy on me and don’t flatter me, Serlo – so many do already. Tell me the truth, from one man to the other. What kind of man has he become?”

    As Bohemond did never refer to the Guiscard as his father, so did the latter only ever use ‘he’ or ‘Bohemond’ when speaking o his eldest, which he did seldom enough anyway. Never had Serlo actually heard his liege talk of Bohemond as his son. After only an instant of hesitation, the Marshall said: “I had no problems with him, but still, Bohemond isn’t much liked by the men, and I doubt that he himself really likes many people. But my oath on it, my lord, he is a great warrior, both in the midst of the fray, where he is without fear and fights with skill and strength, and also when making plans. As you instructed me, I have since right from the beginning involved him in planning every detail of the campaign, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody catch on as quickly. Many things he grasped instantly, and the others needed only brief explanations. Just a bit more of practical experience, and he will be a warlord second to few – if any at all.”

    King Robert had listened intently: “And what with you, Serlo? You are yourself a fine warlord. For almost a decade you have served as my Marshall – and served me well. The wars are not yet at an end, and the kingdom has need of men like you. Do you still feel like serving me? Or do you feel ill rewarded for your services?”

    Serlo felt how the blood shot into his face – was he really that transparent? Anyhow, he hastened to declare: “My lord uncle, I am not ill rewarded. You have given me lands and a castle and riches, high office and honours. I will serve you for as long as you want my service, and I am content with what I have received.”

    “But I have ill rewarded you”, the King insisted, “and I can’t believe that you feel otherwise. Your modesty does a Christian honour, but I’d rather have an officer of mine speak his mind. ”

    With these words, Robert de Hauteville rose from his seat with a fluidity of motion belying his years. Seeing the King standing erect, the entire hall down to the farthest end of the low tables fell silent immediately. The strong and unwavering voice of King Robert carried throughout the hall: “You all know that my nephew Serlo has served me long and well and faithfully. Side by side with me or on his own, he has fought many battles as my Marshall, and not once was he defeated. But time goes by, and the world changes. The marshal is a married man now, with a duty to beget many more Hautevilles – I will not see him seperated from his wife for all those endless campaigns. Therefore, I release Serlo de Hauteville as marshal of the kingdom and create him Count of Capua instead!”

    “Long live Count Serlo!”, Count Roger de Hauteville shouted immediately. All through the short speech, Serlo’s uncle, who had obviously been privy to his brother’s intentions, had beamed at Serlo with barley concealed mirth, and now he was the first to hail the new count of the realm. Almost instantly, the cry was taken up by a hundred throats throughout the hall.

    Surprised and overawed, Serlo rose stiffly from his seat and made to bow deeply in gratitude and reverence, but the King would have nothing of it. Robert de Hauteville’s still powerful hand on his shoulder arrested Serlo’s bow and drew him into an embrace. “You’ve earned it, my boy”, he heard his uncle’s voice over the din of the many voices salutating him as Count Serlo.




    Edited to re-upload picture.
    Last edited by The_Guiscard; 11-11-2009 at 16:14. Reason: Re-uploading picture

  11. #51
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Hehe, to Capua instead of the riches.

  12. #52
    Field Marshal phargle's Avatar
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    I've always loved the first generation of the de Hautevilles. Serlo is one of my favorites; that weird name, that great martial score. I'm glad to see him and Bohemond doing well.

  13. #53
    Chapter Eight: In Which A Count Meets With Two Brothers


    “There will never be a better moment to strike“, Bohemond declared with conviction.

    “Probably”, Serlo countered his cousin’s passionate outbreak. “But still, it’s not a good moment. There can never be a good moment to strike out against the German king. And it would be an unjust war. Your father has no claims whatsoever on Spoleto.”

    Bohemond sneered: “No claims! Come, come, Serlo, since when has the King bothered with justice when grabbing land? A cause for war is easily found. And now is the time.”

    It was the last days of March, and the two Hauteville cousins leaned on the wooden fence of a pasture belonging to Robert de Hauteville’s large country estates near Napoli, enjoying the early spring sun and watching the horses frolick. After months of dry hay, the young fresh grass was a treat for the animals. A week ago, Robert Guiscard had come to Napoli after spending the winter in his favourite residence of Palermo, and Serlo had together with his wife traveled from nearby Capua to attend upon his liege, but there hadn’t yet been much opportunity for the Count of Capua to speak with his uncle in private. The King was kept busy by the local minor vassals, clergy and leading citizens bringing their quarrels and lawsuits before their liege, a drawn-out and tedious business, as Serlo had during this past year of lordship over Capua found out or himself – one always antagonized one claimant, and sometimes even both. This very afternoon, he had been asked by Bohemond to accompany him to the pastures, allegedly to give his opinion on a horse, but his cousin’s real reason, as Serlo soon found out, was to solicit support for his plans of an attack on the County of Spoleto, belonging to Mathilda, Duchess of both Toscana and Spoleto.

    “Mathilda of Canossa is one of King Heinrich’s most powerful vassals”, Serlo objected while watching the horses play, “certainly the most powerul south of the Alps. Even if she has marched off to war, it is not wise angering her – and the German king.”



    “What is Mathilda gonna do?", Bohemond asked with derision. "Her liege ordered her to come to his help, and she marched off almost month ago. Damnation, Serlo, she didn’t even do anything about Urbino defying her! She ordered Simone de Montefeltro to raise the host of Urbino and lead it to the staging fields in Modena, and when he ignored her and practically revolted, she didn’t do a thing about it. And you know why – her king had ordered her entire host north, and without defying him she couldn’t spare any troops to bring Urbino to heel. That means that she also won’t spare any to defend her lands. If we strike now, we will pluck them like ripe grapes.”

    “That we would”, Serlo conceded readily. “But there’s also the pope to consider. Duchess Mathilda is Alexander’s closest supporter, and she is his favourite daughter. If your father marches on Spoleto, the pope would censure him, maybe even threaten the ban.”

    Bohemond turned his gaze away from the horses and looked Serlo int he eyes, frowning: “Serlo, do you think me an idiot? You know as well as I do that King Robert is almost as close to Pope Alexander as is the Duchess of Toscana, and that he is nearly as important an ally for the pope. Alexander may fume and threaten, but he will not take action and risk loosing the support of Naples.”

    “You are probably right, I’ll give you that. But even so, the Duchess will not stay in Germany forever. She and her armies will return, and she will not return alone – she will bring the hosts of her liege with her, to drive us from Spoleto. Would you have your father risk war with Germany? Bohemond - we cannot win such a war!”

    King Robert’s bastard son shrugged and made a dismissive gesture: “What of King Heinrich? One of his vassals after the other is rebelling. First Bohemia, then the Provence, Genoa, Luxembourg, Kärnten, and Österreich, and now also Saxony. Saxony, Serlo. You know what that means, you know the power of the Saxon Billungs. Do you think Heinrich has called Mathilda of Canossa and her troops for nothing? His kingdom is reeling and breaking apart. There won’t be a German army in Italy anytime soon.”


    The crisis of the German kingdom in early 1075


    “Do you forget how Heinrich has dealt with many of those insurrections? He has brought Bohemia to heel in little more than a year, and word is that the submission of Österreich is a matter of months, if not weeks. Heinrich is not a king to trifle with. He will pull his realm back together, and when he has done so, I wouldn’t want to be on his list of enemies – I wouldn’t want your father’s kingdom to be on his list of enemies.”

    Serlo saw that this last argument had silenced Bohemond. His cousin clenched his jaw and gave Serlo a penetrating look, one hand clasping the wooden fence so hard that its knuckles showed white. In a lower but more insistent voice he said: “What then would you have me do, Serlo? I need this war. Since he discharged you, the King hasn’t named a new Marshall. I have reason to believe that he ponders appointing me, but he deliberates. Without a new war, it may be years until I become Marshall. And am I to have nothing? He hasn’t even given me a lousy manor! Serlo – I need this office, and to get it, I need a war. But whom should we attack? The King is firmly opposed to crossing over into Africa and risk a confrontation with powerful al Nasir, and he will also not invade the Balkans, to avoid a quarrel with the even more powerful Byzantines. So should we attack the pope? Of course not! All that remains is Sardinia to the west, and the lands of Mathilda of Toscana to the north – and King Heinrich is overlord of both! But the German king is busy, and will remain so for a long time, and the Tuscan lands are bare of troops. I tell you, there never will be a better opportunity!”

    Serlo didn’t quite know how to react to his cousin’s outbreak. What Bohemond had said was true, and yet … Serlo wished the King would simply grant Bohemond some holding, any kind of holding, or give him an honourable office at court, without the need for a highly uncertain war which might drag on for many years. But both didn’t seem too likely, Serlo knew. While he was still grasping for something to say, Bohemond spoke again: “When I propose my plan to the King, will you support me? Are you with me?”

    “I am with the King”, Serlo said. “And I am not in favour of this war, although your reasoning is sound. If you propose the war, I shall not speak against you. But listen, Bohemond, don’t do it. I will talk to your father about the marshallship …”

    “I have not asked you for compassion or advocacy”, Bohemond almost spat at Serlo, his face set in a rictus of fury, “I have asked for support for a reasonable plan. If you will not lend it, you can …”

    Here Bohemond regained his composure to a certain degree. Biting off the last sentence and any insult he might have wanted to hurl at Serlo, he simply turned on the heel and walked away, his back very erect and his head held high.

    Serlo stayed and watched the horses, his mind on Bohemond. After some time he roused himself and strolled back to the main building of the King’s estate, an old, fortified Byzantine villa which had once belonged to the counts of the Spartenos family. With the realm at peace, Robert Guiscard did prefer residences like these, especially the one in Palermo. They were of course less secure than the motte-and-bailey castles, but offered much more comfort. Serlo himself did at Capua live as often as practical in his large and luxurious townhouse and not at one of the cramped and primitive castles. The Count traversed the estate's walled garden and cast a brief look into the hall, but as suspected his uncle was still hearing lawsuits. In close attendance upon him was among others his faithul steward, Herman da Intimiano. Herman was a few years his liege’s junior, but he looked many years his elder, Serlo realized for the repeated time. He had always had a somewhat haggard look, but the wound he had received in Sicily, when fighting Ayyub ibn Ziri on the Simeto, wore hard on him. Herman’s entire right side had caved in under the swing of a Muhammadan mace. It was a small miracle and a testament to the skill of Robert de Hauteville’s Greek doctors that Intimiano had survived at all, but still he had never really recovered, as Serlo knew.



    Seeing that all of his close acquaintances were busy at the moment and desiring to drive the falling-out with Bohemond from his mind, Serlo walked back out into the garden. In passing throuh it, he had seen his wife sitting with a few companions in a sunny corner, and he decided to join them. Drawing near, he realized that the small group sitting on benches amid the flowering bushes consisted of Helene and two of King Robert’s children, the young Duke Roger Borsa and his sister Mathilde. Roger was fourteen and would probably soon be knighted and take up the governance of his fief himself, and Mathilde had turned sixteen the past winter.

    “Duke Roger”, Serlo greeted the heir to the kingdom upon drawing near, then turning to Mathilde: “And my dear cousin – you are looking more lovely with every passing year.”

    Now this, Serlo knew well, was a lie. While Mathilde de Hauteville couldn’t be called exactly ugly, she had had the poor luck to inherit her father’s heavy frame and was a very plain girl, very unlike his own truly beautiful wife. Still, as the firstborn of a king, Serlo didn’t worry that she might not find some suitable husband.



    “You are too kind, dear cousin Capua”, Mathilde replied with a slight acknowledging bow of her head. “Your wife has just been talking to us – I have asked her to tell me about life in Greece. It may well be that I shall soon go to live there. My father is looking for a Greek husband for me, you know?”

    Serlo did know. Ever since the onslaught of the Seljuk turks had shaken Byzantium to its foundations, and probably even prior to this, King Robert’s fondest dream was that his son Roger might one day wear the imperial purple, and to faciliate an eventual coup he was not only intending to marry as many members of his house as possible into Greek families, he had even had Roger learn to speak fluent Greek – which by the way was one of the reasons why Serlo’s own wife was very fond of the company of young Roger. She had learned Italian, which she needed to converse with the members of her household, and Norman French, which was the language the Norman overlords used among themselves, but after less than a year of marriage, she was far from perfect in both and spoke in a rather terrible mishmash of languages. Casting a look at his wife, Serlo thought for an instance how she had until now frustrated his uncle’s hopes of producing a new generation of Normans with ties to the Byzantine Empire – her belly did not yet show any signs of pregnancy.

    As unfortunate as this was for Serlo himself, it didn’t presently detract from King Robert’s long-term designs, as attacking the Empire didn’t seem possible anytime soon. After the catastrophic defeat he Byzantines had suffered at Mantzikert the time would have been right, but back then the Hauteville’s had not even been undisputed masters of southern Italy and had not yet been ready for such an undertaking. But now, the disaster of Mantzikert was being made good. Almost immediately after the defeat, one Romanos Diogenes had capitalized on the malcontent of noblemen of the realm and had murdered the old Emperor Konstantinos and usurped the purple for himself. Many nobles did not acknolwedge Romanos and had rallied behind the Prince of Hellas, a scion of the Argyros family. The prince with the auspicuous name Nikephoros, ‘Bringer of Victory’, had marched on Romanos and defeated him. Romanos had been blinded and disappeared into some dungeon, and Nikephoros Argyros had been declared emperor. The new emperor had immediately taken energically to the field against the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia and had actually managed to fight them to a standstill within only two years. But he had been grievously wounded in this war, and within a further year was dead from this wound. But the immense popularity Emperor Nikephoros had garnered with his success against the Turks insured that his son Kyrilios had been elected to the purple, even though only three years of age. Many had thought that the Empire could in its crisis not survive an infant Emperor, but little Kyrilios had now been Emperor for three years and Byzantium was still strong. The regent, some brother of the late Nikephoros, seemed to be a very able man who was rising to the task of bringing the many wayward vassals to heel, who had enjoyed their independence since the death of Konstantinos eight years ago. Under these circumstances, Byzantium was too strong to tackle – and it seemed that it would grow stronger still.


    The Byzantine Empire and its wayward vassals in early 1075


    “And not only for Mathilde”, interjected Roger Borsa. “Our father is also looking to find me a suitable Greek bride, even yet. Although I am of course not going away to live in the Empire. At least not immediately”, he added with a sly grin.

    And yet another testament to King Robert’s determination to link the Hautevilles to Byzantine nobility, Serlo thought, as Roger Borsa was still a bit young for marriage, being barely fourteen, right in the middle of puberty and speckled heavily with pimples. But he was slowly becoming old enough that one could now increasingly discern what kind of man the future king was going to be. Though both sons of King Robert had inherited traits of his frame – Bohemond mainly the height, Roger primarily the broad build – this was where the similiarities ended. Bohemond may have been slightly more intelligent and slightly more talented, and Serlo did also sympathize with his plight and liked him well enough, but still, it was easier to like Roger Borsa. Where Bohemond was guarded and reserved, Roger was outgoing and friendly, and where Bohemond lashed out in anger, Roger was simply forthright. Serlo was glad that he, and not Bohemond, would succeed to the throne of Naples.


    Edited to re-upload picture.
    Last edited by The_Guiscard; 11-11-2009 at 16:16. Reason: Re-uploading picture

  14. #54
    Great AAR.
    Very few of us realise with conviction the intensely unusual, unstable, complicated, unreliable, temporary nature of the economic organisation by which Western Europe has lived for the last half century. We assume some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late advantages as natural, permanent, and to be depended on, and we lay our plans accordingly. On this sandy and false foundation we scheme for social improvement and dress our political platforms, pursue our animosities and particular ambitions, and feel ourselves with enough margin in hand to foster, not assuage, civil conflict in the European family. Moved by insane delusion and reckless self-regard, the German people overturned the foundations on which we all lived and built.
    John M. Keynes, 1919

  15. #55
    Chapter Nine: In Which A Count Witnesses A Terrible Oath


    Serlo deflected the spearpoint thrust at his face with his shield and pulled hard at the reins to make his heavy charger pivot on the spot. Foaming at the mouth and rolling its bloodshot eyes, the quivering grey stallion turned on the trampled ground, bringing the German man-at-arms to Serlo’s shieldless right. Serlo lifted his bloodstained horseman’s axe high and with a mad howl brought it down hard on his enemy. The German caught the deadly blade on a shield lifted over his head, and desperately thrust again with his spear from underneath it. It was a feeble and awkward thrust that hit Serlo in the armpit. Serlo dimly noticed how the point of the spear caught in a ring of his chainmail, maybe bursting it, and how the force of the thrust wrenched him around in the saddle before the the spearpoint slid free again. The Count of Capua gave another wild, roaring shout and let his axe come down again on the mercenarry’s shield, and again. The German now dropped his spear and braced his shield with both hands against Serlo’s powerful and deadly blows. Again and again he hacked at the shield, screaming with every blow from an already sore throat. Suddenly, the shield shattered from the power of the blows, splitting in two useless halves. Serlo brought down the deadly axe one more time, catching for an instant a glimpse of the horror-stricken face of the beardless German youth who had hidden under the shield, then the axe blade bit into the boy’s shoulder, easily splitting the metal-reinfoced leather and the collarbone underneath it and embedding itself deeply in the lung. Releasing a gushing spray of blood, Serlo wrenched his axe free from the crumpling youth and glanced around the chaos of battlefield.

    The Count of Capua spotted a pair of combatants nearby, his retainer Hoel exchanging blows with a well-equipped German warrior. Serlo forced his maddened horse to canter up to the combat and in riding by leaned from the saddle and embedded his axe with a powerful blow deep in the German’s back. With a severed spine, the man fell screaming to the ground, where he was finished off by a quick practiced stab from Hoel’s sword.

    Then, suddenly, all over the the trampled meadow, the enemy turned to flight. Serlo had seen it often, how the resolve of of one man breaking broke also the resolve of the man next to him, and how an entire army that had fought hard in one moment was fleeing in the next. And it was now the army of Werner von Lenzburg which had broken and was fleeing into the hills and towards the safety of the town of Cingoli.

    Serlo pricked the already mangled flanks of his charger once again with his spurs and sent the horse off after the fleeing enemy. His axe would be embedded in in a few more backs before the enemy was safely away.


    A Norman knight ready for the Battle of Cingoli

    * * *


    Even without Serlo’s support, Bohemond had been able to convince his father of the merits of his plan, and as he had guessed he had been made Marshall. ‘Tis campaign was your idea, so it best be your responsibility, too’, the King had told his bastard son. And he had asked Serlo to join the campaign at the head of the host of Capua, to lend his experience and advice to the young Marshall Bohemond.



    It had been more like a stroll in arms than a proper campaign. By mid-May, Serlo had led the Capuan host into Spoleto and at Termoli on the Adriatic coast had met with his uncle’s own host, mostly men out of Foggia led by Marshall Bohemond de Hauteville. The county of Spoleto, part of Duchess Mathilda’s personal demesne, had really proved largely devoid of troops, and nobody had opposed Bohemond’s and Serlo’s march. Roaming Spoleto at will, the Hautevilles had marched from town to town and castle to castle. Most of them had capitulated immediately, but at a few places, rump garrisons had tried to put up resistance. Against these sorry foes, Bohemond had never bothered with proper sieges but had had the places simply stormed; any surviving defenders had invariably been hanged, to deter others from resistance. After little more than a month, all of Spoleto had been under Hauteville control.



    Just when Spoleto had been secured, by late June, a messenger from Mathilda of Canossa had arrived from north of the Alps, bringing a haughty missive: The Duchess ordered the Normans hence from her lands; if they complied, she would not seek redress for what injury had already been done to her and her lands by the Norman aggression. Serlo had had to prevent the affronted Bohemond from running the herald through here and then. If he had, the Hautevilles would never have gotten the second part of the message, to be delivered in case they refused to relinquish the lands of Mathilda: Heinrich, King of Germany, Burgundy, Bohemia and Italy, declared war on Robert de Hauteville.



    After this – expected – turn of events, Serlo and Bohemond had ridden south to confer with King Robert at Termoli, near the border of Foggia and Spoleto. Bohemond had pressed for a continuation of the campaign and wanted to advance further into the lands of Duchess Mathilda. He advocated pillaging and devastating them so hard that Mathilda of Canossa was forced to sue for peace and cede Spoleto to the Normans.

    This plan had seemed good. The papacy hadn’t hitherto involved itself in the proceedings in any way, and it probably wasn’t going to anytime soon. Word from Rome was that Pope Alexander was on his deathbed and that the Holy See was currently practically incapable of acting. The affairs in Germany did also not develop unfavourably for the Hautevilles. Even though Österreich had been submitted again to King Heinrich, Tirol had rebelled in its stead, and with Tirol controlling the most important passes from Germany into Italy, the German and Tuscan armies were for now bottled up north of the Alps. A minor objection against advancing into the north had been that the only way to do so was through the County of Ancona, which was held by Werner von Lenzburg, a German vassal of King Heinrich and loyal to his liege. Such further violation of his territory might easily antagonize King Heinrich even more and make him less inclined to make peace again, but the three Hauteville lords had decided that this was an unfortunate but inevitable consequence.

    After the course of action – advance through Ancona and devastation of Duchess Mathilda’s demesne – had been decided upon, it had come to a major falling-out between King Robert and his bastard son. Boldened by his recent success, Bohemond had outright demanded being given Spoleto as fief, which King Robert had flatly denied. Bohemond had insisted, and his father had grown so angry that he would probably have stripped Bohemond of his office as Marshall if Serlo had not interceded and calmed the flaring animosity down. Bohemond remained Marshall and commander of the campaign, but he didn’t receive a single acre of land.



    And so Bohemond and Serlo had left garrisons to secure Spoleto and had marched their army north, sending heralds asking for safe passage through his lands ahead to the Count of Ancona. The answer had come swiftly, and it was the expected one: Werner von Lenzburg would not allow an enemy of his liege to pass through his lands, the heralds had reported, and he was already preparing for war.

    By early August 1075, the Hauteville cousins led their army into the lands held by Werner von Lenzburg. The Count of Ancona had at first stayed in his fortified mountain strongholds, knowing that the Normans couldn’t simply march by his positions and allow him to later sever their lines of supply and communication. But Serlo and Bohemond had no intention of obliging von Lenzburg by attacking him in one of his mountain fastnesses. Instead, they had started to pillage the land as hard and as they could, burning vineyards and orchards, slaughtering whatever lifestock they could get hold off, and killing as many peasants as possible. Count Werner hadn’t been able to stomach this for long. By late August, he had come out of his strongholds do defeat the Normans in open battle and drive them from his lands – a move as brave as it was foolish, considering that the Hauteville host outnumbered his paltry 800 men by almost three to one. Near the small hilltop town of Cingoli, he had faced the Normans, and here he had lost almost four fifths of his army.



    * * *


    On the eve after the Battle of Cingoli, Serlo and a few other Norman barons accompanied Marshall Bohemond de Hauteville to a parlay with Count Werner von Lenzburg. The abbot of a nearby Benedictine monastery had served as a go-between for the warring nobles, and he now also hosted the meeting on the hallowed grounds of his monastery. Serlo and the other Norman lords were welcomed by the abbot and led through the semi-darkness of the opressive Romanesque masonry into the bright sunlight of the small cloister. Here the meeting with Werner von Lenzburg was to be held.


    The meeting place in the cloister


    When the Normans entered, the small party of von Lenzburg was already present. Serlo had never before seen the Count of Ancona, but he immediately recognized him by his bald pate, the premature baldness of the Count being well known. Count Werner, who was a few years Serlo’s senior, had been sitting on the edge of the water basin in the cloister’s center, sunk together and shouders drooping, with the haggard look of a man who had just suffered a crushing defeat. When the Norman party entered, he pulled himself quickly together and rose to his feet, regaining his composure and standing very erect.

    The abbot introduced the Normans and the Germans, and the barons acknowledged each other with nods of the heads or slight hints of bows, then Count Werner cleared his throat and started to speak: “The day is yours, lord Bohemond, but Ancona is not yet defeated. You asked for this parlay – I desire none. But name what you wish of me.”

    “Ancona is defeated”, Bohemond declared with conviction. “Only some twohundred men fit to bear arms made it back into the safety of Cingoli. We outnumber you by nearly twelve to one. Even if you press every disease-ridden ancient and every beardless youth into service, I can storm Cingoli within two days. But it was you who picked a fight with us, von Lenzburg; my king doesn’t have a quarrel with you, and he doesn’t want me to depose you from your high office. I will leave you at peace, but you will resupply my army.”

    “The hell I will”, retorted Count Werner, prompting a flurry of crossings from the present monks. “You know not all, de Hauteville. Word from Germany is that my king has forced the renewed submission of the rebels in Luxembourg – I swear it. And the war against Saxony is also going well. Soon, my liege will have crushed all insurrections, and then he will move against you, Norman. Assault Cingoli, if you must – you will find it well defended. You will take it, no doubt, but in doing so I shall pin you here for weeks, and I shall kill many of your host. I shall sap your strength, and you shall never complete your conquests in the north. And then my liege will descend upon you.”

    Serlo saw Bohemond glance pensively at the bald German. Then, in subdued tones, almost as if to himself, the Marshall said: “Aye, I think you could do that.”

    The bastard son of Robert de Hauteville gave a mirthless smile, then he raised his oath hand and spoke in a very loud and clear voice: “Abbot, and all you present, hear my sacred vow. If I am forced to take Cingoli by force, I shall slaughter every single soul in it. I will kill women and children and ancients, even infants in their cribs. I will hang Count Werner for the crows to feast on, but before I do so I will have him watch me strangle his wife and disembowel his sons. This I swear!”

    The last words had been spat out by Bohemond de Hauteville in a feral snarl. All present were appalled by the Marshall’s terrible oath, the Normans no less than the Germans, but most of all the monks. It was them who were the first to raise a clamour once their initial shock had worn off, but they were cut short by Bohemond.

    “Silence”, the Marshall roared and turned to Count Werner, who had turned very pale: “So, what is it, Count? Will you reprovision my army, or will you have me come to Cingoli and make good my holy oath?”

    Count Werner looked to his companions who started to talk to him in subdued tones, but again Bohemond interrupted: “I will have you answer now, on the instant, von Lenzburg. Deliberate but one more heartbeat and this parlay is over, and you will have a slaughter on your head the likes of which Ancona hasn’t seen. Answer!”

    The companions of Werner von Lenzburg shouted angrily at Bohemond de Hauteville, but they were silenced by their lord. With an incredibly tired expression he glanced back upon his victorious enemy and answered in a weak voice: “You shall have your provisions.”

  16. #56
    Field Marshal phargle's Avatar
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    I love Bohemond. Really, Robert pushed him to this moment.

  17. #57
    Enewald: Capua isn’t too shabby a county either. Anyway, it was time for Serlo to be rewarded, especially as he was a very modest marshall. He has not once asked for some monetary reward.

    phargle: When I started to write the AAR, I picked Serlo as the primary perspective character for the narrative as I wanted somebody involved in the events, but not at the very center of events, as Robert Guiscard himself would have been; and I did also want to pick some character from the gameplay, not a made-up one like for instance the chamberlain of Robert de Hauteville (I thought about this possibility). In the end, Serlo turned out an extremely fine choice, much more so then I could have known when picking him.

    Bohemond is a favourite of mine, too, as can probably be surmised from the attention he receives. Judging from the real Bohemond's exploits, especially in Antiochia, he must have been an incredibly mean person, and that's how I try to portray him.

    Zanza: Glad you like it. I for my part like your signature.

  18. #58
    Field Marshal phargle's Avatar
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    I like Serlo as well. He's always popping up with some pretty impressive successes, and I like to see him prosper.

  19. #59
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    This AAR has the uncanny ability to weave from history book-style to narrative and back again and remain perfectly coherent. The perspectives seem strictly limited to the bloodline's progeny, but if there's any family charismatic enough for this to work with, it's the de Hautevilles.

    Plus your cartography abilities put mine to shame.
    Mapping the Cartographers: a CK-DVIP Croatia AAR

  20. #60
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    This AAR continues to impress me... I have to say, I wish I had your skill at weaving historical and narrative together as beautifully as you do. The little tidbits like the discussion of the horses and fodder just before Bohemond and Serlo's argument about invading Toscana really complete the picture... without them its good, with those little things, it really comes alive and has a vivid tone. Excellent excellent work!
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