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Thread: 900 yeAARs of AARs.

  1. #121
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    Well, I did provide some translation. But from a poetic point of view these are rather poor verse, elaborated less for artistic merit than to convey the message "Hey, Blackmist, stop butchering my heirs right now or I'll, uh, grumble and bide my time"
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  2. #122
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    A little look at what those "Cool I get a cultural conversion" events actually mean.

    Balancing accounts

    Kuipy (King of Leon)

    That was the coldest winter Serlo's wife could remember. Even south of the Thames it had started snowing before the the harvest could be fully brought in, meager as it was. Now it was almost Ash Wednesday, and snow still covered the land like a shroud. The wheat was gone, the meat was gone, and the coin sir Robert had given to each Norman family, which had helped so much as long as there had been anything to buy, was gone.

    All there was left was a bushel of lent, just enough, God help them, to hold until the first thaw. Then they could hurry to harvest the watercress and immediately sow the first radishes. Then, Gold help him, he may be able to poach some deer in the woods. But for now there was nothing he could do.

    As he chopped some wood with a hatchet he could feel his children's eyes on him. The young ones only wondered why there was no more food and looked at him with sad reproach and an absurd hope, but the older knew. And his wife kept her eyes down and her mouth tight, she knew as well. In times like that there was no choice. As he slid one more log and some branches into the fire he checked the woodpile nervously. They would have enough wood for the week, he guessed. Wood could not feed them, but the fire would keep the darkness and the chill out.
    The door creaked opened. Chill and darkness crept in and two gaunt, ragged figures stood in the doorway. One was a men, the other a boy, but almost as tall and probably older than Richard. And both were so starved he could see the bones of their hands.
    They were coiled over knives. The children stepped back, skinny boys and girls, all except Robert who stood bravely for his eight years, and Richard whom he saw crept away toward the bed. Good, he thought. God help us. Mathilde was crying in her mother’s lap.

    “You have food” the elder man began with a hoarse Saxon accent “I know”
    “I don’t have any food for you”
    “In the pantry” the boy said in a somewhat better Norman. “I can see it, the way he looks at it.”
    “I have a child.” the old man pleaded.
    “I have children too.”

    The man looked at him with desperate eyes. There was still strength in his thin limbs and crooked hands, but he would not be as fast as the younger one.
    “You would do the same” he pleaded once again. “If it was you.”
    Serlo did not answer. Even in normal times he would not have given them anything, his harvest was his own. The man had taken a few steps in, his twitching lips opening into a snarl. And behind him Richard was coming back, his father’s old sword in hand. Serlo strained not to look at him.
    “Just go away.” he said “I have no food for you.”
    “You came and take everything.” The wolfish snarl widened, and Serlo recognized the glitter of a raging tear. “It was our farm.”
    “It no longer is.”

    When the knife moved he jumped between Robert and the boy. Age and hunger made him less fast and less strong than he had been but he still managed to knock him aside with the hatchet and turned to the old Saxon. Richard was on the ground, sprawling. The long sword has been too heavy for him and when hit he had let go. Now the man lifted his dirk over the huddled boy.

    “No!” He shrieked and struck. The smell of splashing blood took him years back, on the battlefields of Scotland, when he had been fighting with his friend Roger under the banner of king Lambert. The man reeled and staggered and fell. A warm red puddle spread under him.

    “Are you all right?” Serlo lifted his son, aghast at how little he weighed. “You are not hurt?”
    “No.” Robert stuttered. “I am sorry, I just…”
    “Don’t worry.”

    Leaning against the door the young one tried to get to his feet but fell back on the ground. When Serlo grabbed a handful of hair, wide, panicked eyes gaped at him. He had been wrong, he knew : the boy was no older than Robert. But he had lifted his hand on them.

    “Don’t.” his wife said. Her eyes were full of tears and pleading.
    “Egfrida…”
    “Don’t. Not if you love me.”
    “I have to.”
    He lifted the hatchet.
    Last edited by Kuipy; 05-06-2009 at 21:37.
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  3. #123
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Hmm, fighting over food, butchering locals?
    Only the strongest survive, and sometimes not even they do.

  4. #124
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    Designing a building

    Kuipy (King of Leon)


    “So you see, your Grace” Master Moses pointed “That wall will collapse without a thicker buttress.”
    Alexandre snorted. Much as he disliked Moses on account of his creed, there was no defter man with numbers, and he had proved reliable and useful, in his way.
    “Build it larger, then. Will it mean even more delay?”
    “No, your Grace. Not if I get more men to work on the buttress.”
    “You’ll have them.”

    Boots clanging on the scaffolding made them both lift their heads. The Crown Prince greeted his brother with a moody nod, the architect with a deferent bow. At just over thirty Robert was a short, pot-bellied man with graying hair and a slight lisp.
    “Brother” Alexandre said with minimal courtesy. “I heard of your arrival last night but I thought you were still sleeping. And I was busy with Castel-Saint-Jacques.”
    He beckoned his brother to look at the barbicane below them, lined with round and squat towers.
    “After all these years the second wall is all but finished, and we can start work on the outer bastion. Once we are done here it will be the biggest fortress in Europe, much bigger than anything the Burgundians have. A worthy seat for my royal capital.”
    “Mine will be London.” Robert soberly answered.
    Alexandre did not understand immediately.
    “London?”
    “Our father is dead.”

    Alexandre gaped at the thought.
    “It is regrettable. Grievous news, despite our differences.”
    Somehow, though, he could not believe it, although he had known king Bardol to be sick and old by the rare letters from England. Dutifully he tried to reach into himself for the pain, but there was none to be found, only surprise and disbelief. He ought to pray.
    “In any case I am king, not you. I… shall provide…”
    “These things have changed. Our father has named me his heir.”
    “What… Why?”

    Something like a scowl twisted his brother’s sheepish face.
    “Maybe because I was at his bedside instead of biding my time, waiting for him to die. Maybe it is because I spent those years helping him instead of denying him service. Maybe because he saw you for the man you were and the fool you made yourself in these crusades where all conquests went to our rivals.”
    Alexandre looked at the man as if he saw him for the first time.
    “I will fight! I will raise the whole kingdom against you.”
    “And break a hundred year’s work for your petty self? I can’t believe Father was so right about you.”
    “Don't you remember where we come from? Who you are named after? It all started when Prince Robert was disowned by the Conqueror. Isn’t that true, Moses?”
    “Hem, yes” the Jew stuttered. “History does seem to repeat itself.”
    “It does not. The time of crusader kings is coming to the end, brother. There is no more use for kings like you. While you were building toy castles your father and I built an empire. And I will not let you wreck it. I will rule.”
    “What will the Pope say of it when I appeal to it.”
    Robert smiled.
    “I would not have come here without knowing it, brother. You are under papal interdict. It seems the Holy Father was more impressed by my cathedrals than your bloody fort, and I see his point. As it is the only part of it I am interested in is his gates. The kingdom waits for me.”

    When he wheeled away his purple cape flapped superbly.
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  5. #125
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    So the Kingdom Leon goes to the evil/good one. Time will tell how mean he is.
    Popes are cheap. And so is purple.

    Never leave your kingdom for a too long time.

  6. #126
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    Actually he did not last long. Just the time to give me yet another superking with 2 stewardshipand 3 diplomacy.

    Setting a bone

    Kuipy (King of Leon)

    "Gerald Fitzalexandre is dead." Isaac confided.
    Baruch of York frowned and stoke his lush, greying beard with a spotted beard.
    "How do you know it?"
    "I just heard it." Isaac bent forward and whispered: "The courier came from Poland last night. Not unscathed, either. It is some bloody business over there. He received a spear in the gut."
    "I see."

    They crossed the courtyard of Castle Dyfed without a word, gravel crissing under their fine boots. Both knew how bad the news were. Duke Lambert had been brave and proud, but also too smart to rock the boat ; gold and lands had been enough for him to grudgingly accept that his father had been passed over in the royal succession, and that he would be but the duke of Galicia, second most powerful man in the realm. But with him dead, and his son and heir a mere toddler, it would not take long for malcontents and ambitious to spread tales of true king and rightful rule.

    "What will we do?" Baruch asked as a burly read-haired soldier unlocked and opened for them the heavy door of the Old Tower. When they walked past him he gave them a hard look. Ever since Isaac of Toledo had introduced them to the court, barons and commoners alike had envied and despised the king's useful jews, especially after their rise to prominence under the late king Robert.

    "What will we do?" he repeated in the staircase.
    His younger friend smiled and briefly waved a bundle of parchments.
    "All is not lost. Just be sure not to let the king die."
    Isaac, he knew, did not mean die from a broken ankle. They had left London with the smallest guard they had dared, and spices burnt night and day in the king's chambers and the queen's. But even then nothing was certain; that plague spread and killed like no other before. Yet another cause of concern, especially since the populace had been quick to find who to blame. Master Baruch sighed.
    "I will do my duty. As you wil."
    The king they found drinking wine and stirring restlessly under his sheets.
    "When will that bloody leg heal? A king can't spend his life in bed."
    "Isaac and I can help you move, your Grace. Do you want us to seat you in an armchair by the fire?"
    "No. Nevermind. Just answer me, when can I walk again?"
    "As I told you it shall be a matter of weeks, not days. But should you need something..."
    "I need to go hunting again! That's what I need."

    Baruch knelt at the bedside and checked the cast. The leg looked good. There was no dark of pale hue in the foot, and he was sure to have set the bone correctly.
    "In two weeks, I would say. Maybe. You were lucky the fracture was clean."
    "Lucky! Are you stupid? Is that what you told my father when that arrow pierced him in the chest, that he was lucky?"
    "I told him that he could recover with rest and proper care. I truly wish your father had heeded my advice, your Grace."
    "Whatever. You've seen my leg, now go away."

    Isaac rasped his throat.
    "Your Grace, I would need your seal on some documents." Baruch saw he had put a spoonful of wax to melt over the king's bedside candle.
    "Eh ?" their lord grunted. "What is that, now?"
    "Nothing, your Grace. Only matters of state."
    "Oh, that."
    King Aunger put his seal on the parchments without a look at them. The two Jews exchanged a knowing, loathing glance.
    "Go away, now ! And Isaac... Send me a wench. You know what I mean."
    "Yes ,your Grace."

    As age stiffened his back Baruch was finding it increasingly difficult to bow, and grimaced in pain as he stood up.
    "Good. Good." Isaac told him in Hebrew, once they were in the staircase again. "If anything happens to the new duke that letter will make the bishop of Asturias archbishop of Galicia, and, I guess, that will be the end of any talk of Hélie the first."
    He smiled and Baruch grinned. The priests might like them least of all but they were smart enough to know where their interest laid. Kings, bishops, or jews for that matter, all men were a corrupt, despicable lot. And, he reasoned philosophically, it was all for the best.
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  7. #127
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    Comforting the dying

    Kuipy (King of Leon)

    "You will not feel a thing."
    With master Moses Josce had learnt that the key to lying was not showing any emotions. Most liars betrayed themselves by trying to look too sincere, too eager to be trusted. But master Moses truly did not care, and, people would reason, why lie when you do not care? So when he said "It will not hurt", or "you will live", or "you will soon walk again", with a blank, cold face, they believed him until he sewed their wounds shut with a white hot needle while Josce held them down on the table.

    "You will not feel a thing." he repeated.
    Josce did not dare look the knight in the eyes, but he did not notice. Despite the pain of his crushed leg master Moses' voice seemed to soothe him, and he breathed more calmly. He was a fat man, well over thirty, with large red moustachios and a weak chin. When they had carried him under the tent he had been praying and begging, saying he had a wife, a girl, and a small castle in Bretagne, that he did not want to die. Josce had seen enough wounds already to know that he probably would. But before that, even if he did not care, master Moses would try to save him. He reached to Josce.
    "The saw."

    In the grey, unfeeling eyes of his master, Josce got the confirmation that the knight was going to die. Sometimes it made him uneasy to think that he, too, would have to suppress all sympathy if he wanted to become a physician and surgeon, as master Josce had under master Baruch, master Baruch under master Isaac of Eu and the latter under the famous master Isaac of Toledo. Sometimes he hoped he would manage to retain some of it, even if that meant he would never be a very good surgeon, and have to drink himself to sleep every night like some of the other surgeons in the camp.
    "The saw, Josce! Are you dreaming?"

    Josce hurried and fumbled, grabbed the larger saw as fast as he could and turned to his master. There was a roll of thunder outside.
    And the world tumbled.
    He was laying on the ground, with earth in his mouth and a throbbing pain in his chest and head. When he opened his eyes he saw the knight's, blue and dead. Blood spilled from his nose and lips, and his back was broken under the fallen table. Master Moses must have been on the other side, Josce reasoned, and he walked there on all four ; at least he still had

    The tent was torn and flapped in the cool marine breeze. Blurry as the word still was, all he could make out were some puffs of acrid smoke and his master with his gut pierced, bowels gushing from the wound.
    " Josce. I'm wounded."
    " We will see to it, master Moses."
    " Don't you dare try and feed me those dumb lies, Josce. That's good for goi. Oh, it hurts."

    Josce looked on with wide eyes, forgetting his own pain. Master Moses whimpered in agony then gathered the force to snarl.
    " Guns. One of them guns exploded, I am sure. To think of what they have cost us. Please look at the field. And bring me the vial."
    Josce got up and peered through the hole, very carefully. He blemished.
    "It is not good. The Dutch are closing in."
    "Guess they will get to keep all that Russian land after all. The vial, now. The vial."
    Josce held the vial in trembling hands. Master Moses took a long gulp and coughed, drooling some calvados on the short, tufty beard he had tried to grow. There was a stench of alcohol, blood and smoke in the air that Josce knew he would never forget.

    "Leave now. Flee. I am going to die. Maybe... Try and find my father and tell him whatever he wants to hear."
    "Master Moses?"
    "Go."
    He looked at his pupil one last time.
    "You are a smart boy" he said before closing his eyes forever "Make something better with your life than sawing legs off."
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  8. #128
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Hmm, a wise king. Letting jews handle everything, and the kingdom shall flourish for sure. Until the clergy says otherwise.
    'Fetch me a wench'
    Classic!

  9. #129
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    Yes, the king's jews are both a positive influence (they are by far the most educated people around and have a Europe-wide network of influence), a negative one (by now they have coopted each other at pretty much all the good spots which is bad news for the actual meritocracy which put them here in the first place) and a very bad one (they tend to grossly underestimate how much they are pissing off everybody else, and overestimate their capacity to deal with it in the long term). Of course it will all depend on what kind of king is in charge. More details on that...

    later.


    I expect to have the whole "useful jews" arc resolved at the beginning of EU3 (Can you say "national bank" ?).
    Last edited by Kuipy; 28-04-2009 at 21:57.
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  10. #130
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    Cooking a tasty meal

    Kuipy (King of Leon)

    “They say in Normandie every story begins with a meal.” Mathilde's grandmother told her. “Well, many meals end with bourdelots. You already know how to make puff pastry.”

    Diligently Mathilde started to mix two parts of flour with one part of water and a pinch of salt, spread the paton and wrapped it around a large slice of butter. As her hands performed the familiar task she dreamily looked from the kitchen window and saw three riders on the place before the Good Soldier Inn.

    Her heart beat as she immediately recognized Rolland’s fair hair and strong body. At sixteen the Crown Prince was already taller than most men, and as handsome as any serving girl could dream. One of his companions was his usual companion, marshall Valdemar, a bald giant with a fierce smile, with a prominent gut and a longshoreman’s shoulders. The third rider, though, looked like neither. He was a gaunt, bony man who wore a black cassock that made him look like a priest. But his hooked nose and shrewd looks belied the cloth, an old scar ran through his scalp, and he seemed to be having an amiable conversation with the prince.

    When they were at the middle of the place, Rolland vaulted effortlessly from his horse and handed the reins to a groom, then walked impatiently toward the inn, still discussing with his confident. Her grandmother tapped her on the knuckles with a wooden spoon.

    “Are you dreaming?”
    “No” she muttered in contrition.

    She hurried to give six turns to the pastry, rolling it out and folding it twice every time. Old Emma showed her how to carve a pit in the center of a hard apple, removing the stem and seed without slicing or pealing it.

    Through the lattice she could see the place without being seen, and hear the prince’s clear, sweet voice as he paced forward.
    “…Efficient, formal and.... Damn, what is the fourth one, Josce?”
    “The final cause.”
    “So what purpose does all that word-twisting serve?”
    “Well…”

    Mathilde’s grandmother placed the apple over a square of pastry.
    “Now fill the apple with honey. For a wedding your can add some sugar, and for a prince’s wedding a pinch of crushed cloves and cinnamon.”

    Her heart sunk when she heard the worlds. She had known, of course, that he would marry. The marshall had come to her and given her some coin and told her that she would never see him again. Yet there he was; could it be that he had come for her? On the apple’s stuffing she poured a spoonful of calvados. Alcohol fumes were stinging her eyes.

    "Ah ! I told you, Josce. Here it is."
    The prince stopped a few steps away from the Inn, but without more than a quick glance at the large, timber-framed building. On the paved ground of the place some disheveled pedlar was holding a small black and white monkey on a leash, and regaling passer-bys with the creature’s tricks.

    The crowd had made way for them, but Rolland’s warm smile flashed on his angelic face, and the people around him grew easy and curious. The older man squatted on stiff knees and let the monkey climb it, which it did with many jumps and antics, but the Prince and the man he had called Josce paid especial attention to its tail, which he coiled around the black sleeve.

    “Heh. Didn’t I tell you so?” Rolland asked.
    “I see you were right. You were right. Where does this beaste come from?”
    “I bought it from a seafarer brought it from overseas, m’lords. One Captain Jaime, sailed farther than any other, beyond the Isles of Hawks and the sea of grey sirens.”
    The man frowned in disbelief, then gazed dreamily at the monkey and did not answer. The Prince tapped him on the shoulder.
    “Like it? It is my gift to you for my birthday.”
    “M’lord” the peddler mumbled “I don’t own anything but it.”
    “You would deny your king.” the giant roared. He was close enough now that she could make out his large nose and bushy eyebrows over the blonde prince’s shoulder.
    “How much do you want for it?” the man Josce asked in a softer voice.
    The monkey shrieked and pulled his beard. When the man muttered a price the prince laughed and threw him his whole purse, which elected a raucous laugh from the huge bald marshall, and a disapproving frown from his hook-nosed favorite.

    Both the man in the cassock and Mathilde’s grandmother cleared their throat. With panick, the young girl folded the pastry around the apple and reached for the brush with which she could spread egg yolk over the white, flour-covered bowl so it turned a golden brown in the oven.

    “Good. Old Emma said. Well, not too bad. Make a hundred more now. We will have many patrons today.”

    When she turned away Mathilde peered through the lattice again, hoping that the prince was not gone, and could see him listening to his two familiars. All joy was gone from the prince’s face.
    “Wedding!” he said bitterly “Well, as for that, I can remember...”

    A melancholy smile danced on his lips and, for a moment, it seemed to Mathilde that he gazed forlornly at one of the inn’s windows, the one of the chamber where she’d loved him.

    “I can remember my duty.” He said. And the three men walked away, one of them carrying a black and white monkey over his shoulder.
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  11. #131
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    A womanizer?
    ...and some meals tend to end with broken hearts...

  12. #132
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    Rolland sure broke mine. He was the best king ever until he turned into a tough soldier (after the actual time of the ARR).

    Giving orders

    Kuipy (King of Leon)
    “Quite the crowd.” the duke of the Wales whispered to Valdemar Murat.
    “Aye.” The marshall looked over his shoulder, reveling in the surly look of two Diaz crones behind him. His rank at court and the prince's favour had earned him a place of choice and great honour, in the first bench after actual royalty, along with Guy le Blount and other Dukes. That it allowed his colossal frame to obscure some old blood's view of the altar was a further pleasure.

    Guy was right. The king's largess, even tempered by Jews' greed, had helped rebuild the Cathedral of Eu after the sack half a century ago, and kept it lavishly adorned thenceforth. But in a small holding like Eu, crammed as it was between Channel and Burgundian empire, there was just no place to construct as big a church as Saint Bede in London or Saint Hugues in York, either of which today's press would have easily filled. Representant of all the Norman race, it seemed, were here to attend the Crown Prince's wedding.

    Before him, closer to the central alley, he could make out the slouched shoulders of King Aunger, and the frail ones of his Rolland's brother, Fréry, a shy lad of fourteen. They were surronded by the cohort of their prolific Portuguese cousins. In the midst of them, the boy-king of Sweden sat uneasy on the pew as on his shaking throne, near the silent Prince of Burgundy.
    Closer to Valdemar stood the dukes and their children; behind them the rest of their families and most foreign legates; and yet further down the nef the province lordlings and richest bourgeois of Eu, Londres and Santiago. The back of the nef, formed by those important enough to be let in but not to be let see, was more colorful. There were bastards and dubious lords; there were squires from Burgundian Normandy who dreamt of a Reconqueror and impoverished trading princes from Sicily, in their moth-eaten purple. There were seafarers back from strange lands and hedge knights back from weird fights, captains of the grizzled kind and of the crippled kind. There was the motley rabble of Eastern Normans, dogs of war and frontier barons who sold their swords and their lives all around the Baltic.

    Maybe more than any other people, the Normans reached further than the sovereignty of their nominal king. Not that it was hard when that king was a sorry excuse whose sovereignty did not reach beyond his bedchamber. What power, though, for a men whose order they would take, a king who could lead all of them, like Rollo or the Conqueror. Maybe Rolland, when his time came, or maybe the son his Elvire de Normandie would bear him.

    With her twisted nose and pointing cheekbones, the bride was no striking beauty, she was almost ten years older than her groom and not even a virgin allegedly. But he undressed her with his eyes and did not feel sorry on the prince's account. And Josce had been right: all that mattered was that, after the deaths of her father and brother, she was the last of Alexandre’s blood. Any son she could give the prince would silence all talks of usurpation by the cadet branch.

    “Another success for the Jews.” Guy whispered. “Damn them. Did you talk to the prince about that?”
    “Yes. But not much came of it.”

    He had broached the subject sooner this afternoon, when Rolland had muttered "Ironic, somewhat. Josce was the one who came up with this marriage, and of all my father’s subjects he may be the only one absent in this church."
    "Your tutor is a fine fellow, truly. But I like his ilk little enough, and I am not the only one." he had said. "I hope you will not let them dictate your conduct when you are king, as your father does."
    "When I am king I do not mean to have my conduct dictated by anybody." Rolland had answered, and Valdemar had known better than to further press the issue.

    Looking back at the prince Valdemar found himself hopeful. Rolland was as tall and strong and he was handsome, and the marshall knew him for a rugged fighter and peerless rider. He had all the confidence and dignity his father lacked, along with the fierce temper of a true Norman. And more importantly, he had that smile which made all men like him and all women spread their legs. When the bishop was done droning, when he bent and kissed his bride as gracefully as you can bite in a rotten apple, the whole church hailed and clamored.

    Yes, Valdemar thought, maybe that little brat was the one.
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  13. #133
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    Like bite a rotten apple???
    Wowz, that is one of the strangest phrases on this story!
    Are they both that ugly?

    Incest, incest, I hear incest!

  14. #134
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    Rolland is a pretty boy. Elvire is... not is first choice.

    The time of rough and tough warrior kings has ebbed out ; ever since Bardol the kings of the Normans have been spoiled children of prosperous times, and when faced with the actual duties of their charge, they react as spoiled children, each in his own way.

    Incest is just the icing on the cake, of course. But seriously, they have three whole degrees of separation! By royalty standards they could be from different planets.
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  15. #135
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Yeh, different planets means from the neighbours house in medieval terms?

  16. #136
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    Heh heh.

    Taking orders

    Kuipy (King of Leon)

    The king’s palace at Viborg was by no mean as big as his father’s great hall in London, but the new Norman lords were few enough that it seemed almost empty. As the first of his barons Robert de Ruon was striving to keep at Count Joscelin's elbow and to flaunt his fine furs and gold ring. His new land, as a whole, was cold, harsh, and poor. But his barony in Karelia, with two dozen Finn hamlets and a large timber keep, was much bigger than the one he had had to relinquish in Bretagne. Already some Norman settlers were clearing woodlands near his keep, and the road crossing his land was more busy every passing day.

    King Fréry of Finland was standing straight on his throne of carved wood, with a white pelt on his frail shoulders. The scepter in his hand and the crown on his head were both shining silver. His black robin, master Josce of York, was standing at his side and perorating; they said he had been king Rolland’s mentor and a trusted advisor. Upon hearing the death of their father, Rolland has rushed to his own coronation in Eu with marshall Murat and six hundred knights, leaving master Josce behind him to assist his newly-crowned brother. Having compiled laws from the old charts of Normandy and Rome, he was reading them aloud before the bored barons.

    Only a few dispositions, concerning the rights of low and high justice, the duties due to the king, the right of hunting and minting really concerned them, and soon enough they realized that they were mostly identical to those prevalent in England and Norman Spain. The rest was a hodgepodge of Latin, obtruse canons and convoluted exceptions. After each item master Josce stopped and looked up to the king, who generally nodded in agreement, after ensuring that nobody objected. Sometimes, as if on a whim, he amended a minor disposition or ordered it removed. Master Josce did not seem surprised by any of these interventions and they were immediately acted.

    At one point Robert felt strangely uneasy, when he surprised a thin smile on the king’s lips after he approved a particularly verbose part of the chart, which referred to several others in incomprehensible terms. But no other baron protested, and the king signaled his robin to go on. After two hours standing the big Norman baron felt drowsy and distracted, but he had the satisfaction to hear that, as an acknowledgment of the fact that he had conquered a large part of Karelia on his own, his liege Joscelin would receive special privileges in exchange for his homage, as most Normans who had been in Finland before Rolland’s and Fréry’s conquest.
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  17. #137
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    “… king of Finland and Courland, by the Grace of God, in the year 1366 of his coming.” Master Josce concluded. He carefully lifted the mass of parchments and brought them to the king so that he could affix his seal on them.

    “We will now hear requests from our barons.” The king added, in a somewhat raspy voice. Obviously he did not expect any appeal from the tired audience and was about to pronounce the hearing over when someone interjected, from the back of the room:

    “I have a plea to make.”

    The barons gave way to a hulking, dark-haired man, slightly taller than Robert, in an old grey garment. That one was clearly not one of the barons, but several recognized him for a knight of the Norman host, and it was obvious from his countenance that he had been through more real fights than most of them. They bristled at the thought that he might claim such or such of their fiefs.

    “My name is Tore Cabesat de Vaca” he started. At that master Josce opened wide eyes, and looked at the guards on either side of the throne.
    “It is bold of you to come here” Fréry answered, clutching his scepter nervously. “My father had Eadulf Cabesat de Vaca executed for treason.”
    “He was. I will not deny it. And stripped of all his land to the benefit of the Blounts. But I am not my uncle. I grew up as a ward to the king of Sweden, and knew nothing of his schemes. He was a traitor” he shrugged “for all I know. But I rode in your host and fought your battles. I ask you to recommend me to your brother, and to speak to him in my favor.”
    Such story of lost birthright was not uncommon among the Norman nobility overseas. Robert himself, after his half-brother’s death at the battle of , had administered his estate in Bretagne until the robins of Rennes let his niece's husband take it away from him, and he had to leave for Finland with half-a-dozen men.

    King Fréry looked at his chancellor, then at Joscelin, then at master Josce who whispered a few word in his ear.
    “ We acknowledge and reward your service, sir Torge. When my brother Rolland comes back in a month, we shall recommend you to him.”
    At that the king rose to his feet.
    “The audience is over. Your have our leave.”
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  18. #138
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Finland Norman?
    Erhm, by this time the Norman language has surely transformed into many local Norman 'dialects', if not languages.

  19. #139
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    Well there are not many Norman peasant out of Normandy proper and southern England. And the nobility remains inbred enough to have a common tongue.

    Using an abacus

    Kuipy (King of Leon)

    Through the thin floor they could hear the whisper of transaction and the clinging of abaci. Under swift fingers the wooden balls moved back and forth with nary a sound, like men in the hands of kings. After the conquest of Finland master Benjamin had wasted no time in establishing himself as a trader in Viborg, and his clerks worked even at night on the many cargoes of furs and amber that went through his warehouses. Short and plump, he sat in a low armchair and nodded approvingly at every word the rabbi of Lincoln pronounced.

    “He will expel us. He will.”
    “I doubt it.”
    “But he already expelled all Jews from the Court.” The rabbi insisted “And he had master Isaac Cohen hanged, and all his belongings seized.”
    Master Josce snorted. The second part must have hurt the old miser most. Still he understood the rabbi’s fears.
    “You already told me.”
    “We cannot let that stand.”
    “I will talk to him. It will not come to that.”
    “What makes you think he will listen to you?”
    “He trusts me.”
    “You are too confident, Josce. You think you can sway him? You have grown as vain as my nephew.”
    Master Josce turned away with anger. He had no wish to discuss master Moses with these people.
    “I will do all I can to convince him that you ought to be admitted to court again. But I will not forswear my duty to him.”
    “What of your duty to your people? What of your duty to us? Have you forgotten it?”
    “I have not.”
    “Then act upon it.”
    Josce sighed.
    “I cannot. Do not do anything treacherous, rabbi” he warned, knowing they would.
    “You are the traitor here. The kings of the Normans are nothing to us, even if you've forgotten it. And you are nothing to him. Do not side with that goi against us.”
    “He is my pupil and my friend. Do not force me to make that choice.”
    “You will have to. Chose wisely, remember.”
    Without a word Josce stormed out of the room and down the flight of stairs. In the large room the clerks were bent on their abaci. Over his shoulder he saw that neither master Benjamin nor the rabbi had followed him. In that, at least, they were well-advised.

    He walked out and Herodote whimpered. With a pang of heart he cradled the monkey closer to his chest, wrapping him in his heavy wool cloak.
    “I am cold too,” he whispered. “But soon we will be warmer.”
    Herodote looked back at him with wide, unhappy eyes. Josce could not know how old he was, or how old he was meant to leave. But since they had come to Finland his lush, black hair had become brittle and grey, and now he was coughing and losing weight.
    “We will be warm soon.” he repeated, while climbing up his horse, his left hand protecting the small monkey.

    The mare was good and sure-footed, and in his youth Josce had become an accomplished rider, crossing Germany with the broken remains of a norman compagnie after the disaster of Ypres. He rode effortlessly through the grey-an-white forest, in the black of the morning. That was the last he would see of Finland, after two years spent there. Yet another period of his life was over.
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  20. #140
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    Finally he came to the crossing where a wooden cross stood, so recent the wood still smelled of sap. He stopped but did not dismount; the king's party would be there soon enough. No bird sang in the branches, no rabbit darted suddenly in the undergrowth. The land was a cold one.
    Herodote moved and tugged at his coat. With stiff fingers he reached inside his pocket and gave him a withered cherry, his erstwhile favorite food. But the monkey only nibbled at the fruit, then dropped it in the mud.
    “Poor boy.”

    The sound of distant hooves drew his attention. Wrapping Herodote again in his cloak, he brought his horse to a trot and rode to meet a dozen riders. At their head was Rolland. For the first time since he had become king Josce beheld his former pupil, now a man of twenty-two, who had lost some weight and grown a short, clean-cropped beard.
    “Josce” he said
    “Roll... Your grace.”
    They rode side-by-side for an awkward moment.
    “My brother told me you helped him well, but refused to enter his service.”
    “My place is with you, your Grace.”
    “That is my decision to make.”

    Beyond the crossroad the trail became larger and more trodden; it led to a large and protected cove, two miles West of Viborg.
    “I have been busy in England. Many people do not seem to understand that I am king now. Or if they do, they do not understand what being a king mean. Especially your brethrens.”
    “Is that why you hanged master Isaac?”
    “I had to make an example.” Rolland answered. “To show that I would not tolerate fraud and prevarication. Surely you will not claim he was innocent?”
    “What of the other Jews?” Josce asked.
    “What of them? I dismissed them from my council as is my kingly right. They left the court unharmed and unpunished. I will send for them should I need their advice. Let the scholars stay in their schools, the bankers in their banks and the rabbis in their temples.”
    “And me in Finland.”

    Rolland blushed and scowled.

    “You would complicate things at court. If was thinking of securing you a chair at the Faculty of London. You could be the youngest magister of Europe.”
    “I could advise you. You will need help.”
    “Help from people I can trust. Where were you riding from and who did you meet there?”
    Josce wavered.
    “I would rather not tell.”
    “A fine advisor you'd make, then.”
    He pulled the reins and their horses stopped. They were arrived to the top of a low hill. Below them the Norman fleet was moored and sailors hoisted the first sails; the host had embarked the day before and, as soon as the king embarked, they would sail away. Josce observed Rolland more attently. Clearly that was the same boy who had left him six months before, clever but stubborn, in need of guidance but too proud to admit it.

    “You will need me at your side. My brethrens are restless, that is true, but it is only because they are frightened. I will help you reach an agreement with them.”
    “I don't...”
    “You don't want an agreement, I know. But you need one if you don't want them to act against you.”
    “You are threatening me.”
    “I am warning you, Rolland. Warning you as a friend.”
    “I would prefer you to obey me as a king.”

    They exchanged a long, painful look.

    “I won't.” Josce said. Rolland looked startled. It had not taken him long to take the habit of never being refused. “I will always think of you as a friend.”
    With a sudden rage he wheeled his horse away.
    “Isaac ben Baruch and rabbi Simon are plotting against you. The first blow will come from them. Farewell, my king.”
    And he spurred his horse down the narrow path.
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