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Thread: 900 yeAARs of AARs.

  1. #81
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    “Gaillard!” a voice called from below a vine-covered arches.
    “Your Grace.”
    King Lovell, in truth, had none of his younger sibling’s charm and dignity. About one head shorter than him, he had become fatter and fatter over the years, to the point that few horses could bear him now. Blonde, almost white hair fell softly on his sagging cheeks.
    “The pig is dead” he finally spat. “You know who I am talking of ; Maertijn, the baron Beaumaris.”
    Gaillard hesitated an instant.
    “He will need to be replaced.”
    “He will need to be buried. Or maybe not. I was of a mind to dismember his body and expose him on a butcher’s hook.”
    “That would be unwise, brother” Aveline's husband sighed
    “Unwise?”
    “Whatever his faults he was regent during your minority, and as king regnant you confirmed him as your advisor. To disavow him now would be to renege your own policy and ultimately to question your own authority.”
    “He was the one standing against my authority, don’t you remember?”
    “I do, but what I am trying to explain…”
    The king started to pace relentlessly, his fat face red with anger.
    “I want people to understand what fate my enemies can expect.” he blurted. “I want people to fear me!”
    “So be it then.” Gaillard shrugged. “But I doubt people would fear you for striking your own men after their death. Many will actually see that as a sign of weakness.”
    “So you are on his side, against me?”
    “What…”
    Without notice the king punched his brother with all his strength. His fury made him faster than anybody would have expected from a man of his girth, stronger also. Before Gaillard could react he landed a second blow on his chest, slamming him against the wall, and closed his heavy hand around his neck.
    “I asked you a question. Did you betray me with Maertijn?”
    “Are you…” Gaillard began in disbelief, then something in his brother’s eyes made him stop.
    “How can I trust you? How can I go to war and give you a command, knowing that you wait for but an opportunity to betray me? You always have, uh? Answer me.”
    “I am your brother, Lovell. I have always been faithful to you! How can you doubt it?”
    As suddenly as he had struck Lovell let go and stepped away like a drunken man. When he faced Gaillard again his eyes were full of tears.
    “Nobody likes me” he said. “Truly a king has no friend. I am… Forgive me, brother.”
    Gaillard did not answer for a while.
    “They are all traitors. I will show them who I am.” Lovell went on. “All of them! Beginning with that bastard Beaumaris.”
    As he sat on a stone bench he did not seem to notice Gaillard stood away from him.
    “Do you forgive me?”
    “Yes.”
    “Good.” The king slobbered. “I will leave tomorrow for Castel Saint-Jacques. Will you come with me?”
    His brother hesitated.
    “Yes. Yes, I think I will. If you would have me at your side.”
    “Good.”
    “I will give some instructions to my stewards then.”
    As the two brothers parted neither noticed that Aveline had been looking at them from the balcony.
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  2. #82
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    The Swedish War

    Kuipy (King of Leon)

    The Spaniard

    They say that in Normandy every story begins with a meal, and evidently the man Diego was no used to that splendid a fare, from the way he gulped the creamed veal and roasted fruits with crushed almonds. Nor was he accustomed to being with the duchess, and it showed. His eyes went in disbelief from the shy, blonde-haired beauty to the lavish meal, as if unsure of what he would rather drool on. At over thirty the duchess was still a very graceful and attractive ; her maid herself, Aldonza, although she had her own way with men, could not help being jealous of her white bosom and slender complexion.
    “Aldonza tells me you have a reputation.” She finally said.
    “Reputation?” for a while he seemed ready
    “With women” Aldonza said, bending toward him so he could catch her smell. She liked her mistress well, in truth; little had she thought, when she had become a chamberer, almost a lady in her own right, that she would ever have to give the veneur more than a cursory look.
    “Oh! Certainly” he grinned.
    “I am a woman too, though a duchess.”

    The stupid grin froze on Diego’s fat lips. Undoubtedly he had heard tales about the two women’s secret fornications and wanton debaucheries. Rumor had it, from the kitchens to the stables, that in her husband’s absence she had taken to adultery with his old and lecherous physician Isaac, so great was her lust. Now that Isaac himself was gone, on a mission to Constantinople, an idiot like Diego could very well believe the duchess willing to stoop to such lows as him so satisfy her carnal appetites.

    “You know what I want, don’t you?” she whispered. Aldonza knew fairly well that her timid mistress would not dare look the rake in the eye; but a humbler gaze proved her the effect she was achieving on him.
    “Yes” he answered, still chewing “and I want it, too.”
    “Alas, I dare not” she answered, playing her part with such an excessive conviction that it almost brought a amused smile on her chamberer’s carmine lips. “My husband love me, and does not suspect my conduct. But you know what the king would do.”
    To judge by his face he did not know at all, neither did he understand why the duchess explained him that Lovell had no legitimate sons, only bastards.
    “He shuns he wife, who was Beaumaris’ protégée. Therefore, if he was to die… If somebody was to kill the king my husband would succeed him, and I would be queen, free to reward my faithful servant.”
    “To kill the king ?” he relented. Maybe he had acquired some of the dog’s instinct. He still reeked of them, and like all veneurs slept among them for their warmth. With a repressed shudder she put her hand on him.
    “Would you do it?” she asked as enticingly as she could “Would you do it for us? For me? During a hunt, for example?”
    “Yes” he answered hesitantly as he swallowed a piece a swan cured with herbs and honey. The duchess' pearl white smile encouraged him. “I will do it for you, my queen.”
    Men were so shallow, so predictable. Briefly she thought of sir Clarence, her little toy, and hoped no harm befell him. Was he thinking of her now, in that dark, icy land, and when would he be back? If Isaac had its way it could be soon enough.
    Diego was becoming insisting and annoying, though, now that the proper promise had been extracting from him. He would rather have taken his prize now. So Aldonza went to the anteroom, put her hands over her mouth and gasped in feigned surprise.
    “Who is it?” the Duchess asked.
    “Quick!” Aldonza ushered Diego out by a second door and calmly came back to her mistress.
    “Do you think he is ours?” Aveline asked in a trailing voice.
    “Aren’t all men?”
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  3. #83
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    The Norwegian

    The Normans brought them silently under the tent, lying on their oaken shield. They laid them on the table, side to side, the king and the knight, then stepped back. King Bård of Norway could feel their reproaching glances, hear their grumbled curses through their clenched teeth. Their faces were red and their fingers numb; a few of them lacked an ear. Norse they might be, by blood, but after generations in the South a Swedish winter was too cold for them.

    Physicians scurried around Lovell with worried faces, and started to talk among them in low, hushed voices. Those were neither Norwegians nor Normans, not even Welsh militia or Irish auxiliaries, but frail, sheep-faced Spaniards.
    “So?” a tall, brown-haired man asked, shaking snowflakes from his thick beard. He wore hauberk over leather, and a black bearskin cloak over his large shoulders.
    “M’lord duke” one of the physicians answered. “The wound on his thigh will heal unless it festers but the chest one...”
    "He frothes blood" Bård pointed out. "That will not heal." He had seen enough wounds like that to know.
    The Spaniard looked at Bård, then at Gaillard, then at his king, then at his feet.
    "It is true, it is true that the lung is pierced. We may be able to prevent it from infecting, and to stop the bleeding, but each move will prevent the wound to cicatrise. I... do not know... Maybe master Isaac would know a way to treat that king of wounds."
    "Then we will go back to Spain, as soon as he can be transported."
    "What?" Bård protested. "I still need your troops."
    "Our deal was Orkney in exchange for our help against Sweden. Now the Swedes are defeated and their king has fled; our part of the agreement has been fulfilled."
    "You do not have the authority to make this decision."
    "I have it as Lovell's heir and second-in-command."
    "Who says he saw you as such? I have heard you too quarreled and you left him with your host. Would he have been wounded if you had stayed by his side ?"

    At that he saw the Norman duke bristle. Two fierce eyes looked straight into the king's, burning with anger, and his mouth twisted in a contemptuous snarl.
    "Or maybe it was because he trusted you."
    "Is that how you speak to a king? I command you to stay and serve me. My western vassals are rebelling against me."
    Gaillard sneered.
    "I can't see why."

    When a few carls approach menacingly he swiftly curled his huge, hairy hand over the hilt of his sword, and stood poised, without betraying the slightest sign of fear. His soldiers swore and gathered on either side of him, the most nervous drawing several inches of steel.
    Bård hesitated. For each of his own warriors there was three Normans in the tent and ten in the camp. His only hope, he knew, was to smite Gaillard at once. But the duke was as tall as him, who towered over most men, and looked rough enough to at least put up a long fight. He relented.
    "You are not worse the trouble of a fight." He hoped his vassals would not hear about the incident. "You may leave, but I will not grant you Orkney."
    "As to that, we shall see."

    Without paying Bård any more attention, Gaillard turned to the second wounded man."Clarence. Is he..."
    One of the physician shrugged and lifted the man's cape. Below it the man's chest was a mess of gore and broken ribs. That he was still breathing was a testimony to his strength and determination.
    "That looks bad, m'lord. I'm going to die." he hissed.
    With surprising gentleness from a man of his stature Gaillard wiped the mud and blood that smeared his brow. It seemed to apease him somewhat, but more blood oozed from his torn scalp.
    "'T is the end, m'lord. Please... Please see to my sons."
    "I will." He gestured toward another soldier. "Wine."

    By the time he was handed a cup Clarence's thanks had turned into a drawl. With one hand he lifted the dying man's head and held the cup to his lips. Some of the wine dribbled on his cheeks, but a managed to swallow a few drops. His eyes fluttered and dimmed and then close, forever.
    On the side of the side of the dead knight, the dead king whimpered.
    " Your Grace." one of the physicians asked.
    " I am not a Grace yet. Tend to his wounds and tell me when he can be transported."
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  4. #84
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    The Georgian

    The main trouble with being a Georgian Jew in Byzantion, Ariel reasoned, especially in the court of Byzantion, was that one has to be careful not to look too Jewish, or too Georgian. For a long time now it had not done to sound too conspicuously Byzantine either, and in fact at the beginning of his career he had to adopt some Turkish manners, though too much lest it be thought that he was forgetting his place. Although it now forced him to sound somewhat catholic the conquest of Thrace by Swedish crusaders had come as an advantage to him, since the distinction between, for example, manners from Trapezous and Guria, erstwhile a matter of grace or disgrace, appeared somewhat blurry to his new, blue-eyed overlords. Yet it did nothing to make the situation any simpler, and of course there was the issue of other Jews, an interlope brethrenhood with whom he had to act and sound Jewish enough.

    In front of him, Isaac lowered his cowl and looked at him intently. That one came from Spain, but his reputation of cunning and knowledge had preceded him, and Ariel knew master Isaac of Toledo was not one to be denied.

    “It is an honor indeed, but I do not know what you want of me.”
    “As I told you. The town.”
    “Yes, well… It will not be easy…” That meant it would not be cheap either. Swiftly the old traveler reached under his black robes with a gnarled, spotted hands and presented Ariel with a very fat pouch.
    “Half for you, half for whoever else is involved.”
    Ariel weighed the pouch and the dangers. That was a very good offer. With a last, formal scowl, he relented somewhat.
    “I would like to help you, of course, especially for such a price. But people are going to be difficult to convince. When Byzantion fell in heathen hands, nobody answered our plea for help. Neither did the so-called Roman Emperor come to our help then or ever since. For over a century we suffered under the Turkish yoke, and when the Swedes arrived they were hailed as liberators. People will be loath to turn against them.”
    “Don’t turn against them, then. When the Norman army defeats them in Sweden, offer them safe haven and greet them with open arms… offer them the title of Byzantium emperor if they renounce to their frozen homeland for it.”
    A crafty smile came to both lips.
    “That might just work” Ariel admitted
    “There is another matter. I came here to buy a drug, a rare one.”
    “A cure? What for?”
    “Life.”
    Ariel smiled a connoisseur’s smile.
    “The most expensive ones. Unless you settle for the kind of cheap swills that leaves marks.”
    “I want a specific one. A drug from Cathay, described by Pline and which prevents the blood from clotting, so that a man bleeds to death from the smallest of wounds. It goes by many names, and is brewed from rotten pigs’ bowels and dead rat’s blood.”
    “I know the one. Half a century ago it was a staple of the Byzantine court, but it has grown rarer and much more expensive. As you said, its exact recipe has been lost in the Western world, and we import it from China, or used to. But times change.”
    He moved a fat, soft finger over a vellum map.
    “Tribes from the Asian steppes are on the move, and the Silk Road is now longer sure. They have burnt Marv and Samarkand, and as we speak they are riding toward Astrakhan and the Russian principalties. With the Arabs or the Turks, there was still trade to be made, but now our exchange with the Far East are down to a trickle.”
    Unsettling as the news were Isaac seemed more irritated than worried.
    “So” he inquired “Do you have it?”
    “Why, you insult me. Do I ask you whether you have the gold with you?”
    The two men exchanged a conniving look and Isaac reached again under his black robe.


    So... I'm slowly bringing other players' characters in the picture to give a sense of the dynamic in Europe. Guys tell me if you don't like the portrayal of one of yours and I will see what I can change.
    Last edited by Kuipy; 08-02-2009 at 17:50.
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  5. #85
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    Not easy being a king.
    Or a servant.
    Poro Diego.

  6. #86
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    Yes, Diego is pretty much expendable. Of course, in Crusader Kings everybody is expendable.

    A fighter and a rogue meet in an inn

    Kuipy (King of Leon)

    They say that in Normandy every story begins with a meal, but nowhere better than in the good city of Eu, and, there, nowhere better than at the Auberge du bon soldat. The place names meant the Good Soldier’s Inn, but what soldiers came in were only plump militiamen, with jovial faces and nice uniforms and rusted swords.
    The kings cherished the city as the last remnant of their old homeland, and gave its bourgeois many charts and privileges, so that many Normans, unhappy under the Saxon or Burgundian rule, flocked to it and made it more prosperous than any other port of the Channel.
    For the first time in centuries the kingdom of Normandy had been in peace for more than a decade, for the first time it stood secured, having extended itself from Orkney to Seville. Now it reaped the benefice of stability and an improved administration. Everywhere forests were felled to be replaced by fields and pastures, everywhere banalities were built and roads paved. Everywhere plenty replace thrift, and prosperity ruin; but nowhere as much as in Eu, or so they said.

    In 1221 the auberge belonged to Mathilde, a tall, strong, dark-eyed woman whose strong voice and sharp wits terrorized staff and customers alike. King Lovell had given it to her, some seventeen years ago, when her hair was still black, her hips slender, and her upper lip hairless, and with canny and obstinate efforts she had made it one the best hostels in that bustling town. Although courteous, she had never been affectionate in the slightest way with her clients. But that morning, when a blonde, smiling young man, with dark blue eyes and a clean-shaved face pushed the door with a bundle over his shoulder, she threw herself in his arms.

    “Rogerin! How you’ve changed!”
    “I can see many things have changed at the inn, too.”
    “Have you eaten well?”
    At that he had to smile. “I did not starve at the court. My father is most generous with us” he added, almost resentfully.
    “How long will you stay?”
    “I don't know yet. It all depends on...”
    Suddenly he froze and looked around him. Sitting at a table with a jug of cider, another guest was sitting, apparently oblivious to their conversation, but with an ominous, suspicious look about him.
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  7. #87
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    It was hard to picture a greater difference than between the two men. Where Rogerin had blonde, flowing hair, the stranger was bald ; where the former was genial and expansive, the latter kept his face an expressionless mask ; and while Mathilde's son wore the traditional garb of a norman bourgeois, her patron sported conspicuously foreign clothes. Having drunk the last of his cider, he waved a maid for another one, but without a word, as if unable to speak Nuormand or unwilling to have his voice recognized.
    “You came because of the war, did'nt you?”
    When he nodded she followed his gaze. So far Eu had played no part on the conflict opposing the Saxon king of England and the Emperor of Burgundy, but it was the biggest port on the Channel at a time when it was swarming with boats big and small, and stuck between Burgundian and English Normandy. The War, as it went, would become harder and harder to ignore. Already bread and fish were become more expensive as those who could afford it hoarded them, already the sentries on the whole could see the smoke columns where villages had burnt not a day's ride from Eu. Already the guilds, who in ordinary times could never get enough hands, were pressing the bourgmestre to close the doors on the cohorts of refugees converging on the city.
    “That man hides something,” she whispered to her son “be wary of him.”
    Rogerin scowled; obviously he disliked being reminded what knowledge of men her erstwhile condition had given to his mother. But he did not have time to answer anything before the door opened to a tall, thin man with fierce whiskers and a blue livery, who nodded amiably to the Mathilde then walked strange to the stranger. The later lifted grey-green eyes toward him.
    “Greetings, good man. My name is Joscelin Caucher, Captain of the city watch” he announced in a swaggering, humorless tone. “I understand that you are a Burgundian.”
    “Count.”
    “What?”
    “A Burgundian count.”
    The captain hesitated.
    “And prince.”
    At that master Caucher blemish and stopped tugging at his large whiskers, who suddenly seemed to droop by an inch.
    “Son of a king and brother to one, third in line to the throne. You may call me lord Jaume of the atlantic isles. 'Good man' would be too familiar, I reckon.”
    Now that he heard the name Rogerin unmistakably recognised the man for a Provence, having seen so many of them at the Norman court. The Provences were maybe the largest ruling family of Europe, too large maybe, his uncle Gaillard would say and scratch pensively his long black beard. The current emperor had no less than five brothers, all titled, but Jaume was the one he liked and trusted the most. So, Rogerin thought, his father had guessed right.
    The Captain seemed extremely embarrassed.
    “Lord Jaume... It is an honor indeed to have you in our modest city” he added in the voice of someone who did not care much for such honors.
    “And a pleasure too, I hope.”
    “Would you want us to provide you with accommodations more befitting your rank ?”
    “Maybe, latter. Although I rather fancy this auberge.”
    “May I ask... hem... for your purpose in that town?”
    “I mean to open that port to our ships.”
    “As for that, as you certainly know, the Normans take no part in your wars. I would also be loathe to... I mean... There are places were, by my orders, only guards are allowed, although...”
    “Have no fear. I did not come to single-handedly throw down your ramparts.”
    “Hem, in this case, everything is fine.” the captain hesitated.
    “And would you be so kind as to send me whatever envoy you receive from your king...”
    “He will not need to.”
    With a resolute look over his face Rogerin sat in front of Count Jaume and waved Caucher away. The soldier felt so obviously relieved that he did not even think of enquiring who was dismissing him. The Burgundian snorted.
    “One of Lovell's bastards.”
    “And his minister.”
    “Is that so? Well, you heard what I wanted.”
    The decision was his, Rogerin knew, as would be the blame thereof if it was wrong. His father thirsted for revenge against England and his uncle would have advised caution. But neither of them was there; that choice was here to make. His heart skipped a beat, and he made it.
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  8. #88
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    Conquer England???

  9. #89
    Colonel Kuipy's Avatar
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    Or not.

    King Gaillard the First

    Kuipy (King of Leon)


    They say in Normandy every story begins with a meal. That was how theirs had begun too, with a big, sweet pie Gaillard and Lovell had shared as toddlers. That was the earliest he could remember, and the details were blurry. He only remembered the burning sweetness of unknown spices on the apples, the light of that particular spring and the face of his brother. All it took to see it, in the vivid colors of childhood, was to close his eyes, but when he opened them Lovell was still dead.
    The sheet over his brother's body was red, but the face seemed peaceful at last. There would be no more of Lovell's unbound furies, or of those smiles by which he made himself forgiven. Gaillard desperately wished he could have seen just one more of them, or had the time to tell him just the few words he had always kept for himself. He wished his brother and father were still alive, or that he was dead himself and with them. Around him and his brother's deathbed there were the dukes, and behind them the dukes, and behind them a score of courtiers and lower knights, guards and passing servants who all looked in silence, waiting to see if he would cry, as kings cannot do. But tears had never come easy to him. Instead he knelt and kissed that cold stiff hand who used to be so strong.

    " How did it happen?" he asked, struggling to his feet. He had not taken the time to remove his haubergeon, and for the first time he felt how much it really weighed on him. "How did it happen?"
    " He kicked a dog, while we were hunting." Richart de Breteuil said. The Duke of March was one of the few who had joined the Normans against their Saxon overlord. "A big fierce alaunt, the kind they use for bear-hunting. The dog jumped at him. He's dead now."
    Just like Lovell, Gaillard knew, ever imprudent. The window panes were shut but rain battered them and puddles started to form on the floor. Was there anything in that cold, muddy island worth losing a brother? His wife Aveline was here to, although she did not look him in the eye. She knew what he had lost, certainly.
    "I tried to save him" Isaac said. "I bandaged the leg and applied the best poultices. But the shock opened an old wound inside the chest, and there was nothing I could do to stop that bleeding. I am grieved to find my science at such a loss. If you wish to dismiss me."
    "That would not be fair" the queen said and bade the old physician rise to his feet. "My lord husband, I was praying at Lovell's bedside and I am sure that master Isaac did everything..."
    "He did not!" a angry voice yelled.
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    A ragged, smelly Spaniard waded through the press and cast an angry look at the old man and Aveline, who grew suddenly very pale. "The Jew lies! the dog did not strike him in the chest, it went for the throat."
    "But that man was not here" Breteuil blurted. "How does he know that ?"
    The servant stopped.
    "I... I heard that from, uh, somebody..."
    "Look at his belt, your Grace" Isaac said, and walked a few steps away from Aveline. "Isn't it the purse you offered to your wife at his belt ?"
    "No!" the man swore. "I mean, she made me do it !"
    "Enough." At the king's commands guards seized him. "My lady wide, you have been accused of adultery, fornication and..." His voice broke. "That fool of a son you pretend to have given me, is he even mine ? Or some veneur's?"
    "Gaillard, I beg you... All I did I did it for you."
    Most in the audience gasp but a few did not look that surprised. Was that what they would think of him? he wondered. Was that what they would whisper back in their castles, what the monks would write of him after his death?
    "Bring them to separate cells."
    He catched his nephew Rogerin's yes.
    "My nephew" he commanded "You will ride to the king of England and arrange peace with him at whichever terms it takes."
    "As you command, your Grace". The young man bowed and left, somewhat flattered to be confirmed in his position of favour.
    "Now leave me" the king ordered "all of you."

    The nobles looked at each other and exited, some fast enough, eager to spread what they had seen, some with a deliberate slowness, trying to eavesdrop one last word. One did not leave at all, but silently came closer to him.
    "You look devastated, Your Grace. I can send for wine, or prepare a brew that will give you solace. If so you which."
    "Yes" the king muttered. "Stay with me, Isaac."
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  11. #91
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    King Gaillard the Second

    Kuipy (King of Leon)
    They say in Normandy every story begins with a meal. And so Geva spoon-fed her king. Since the end of her long, unhappy marriage she had come to regard that boy no one liked as the son she would never have. And now his eyes were empty, his face expressionless. Soup and drool and snort dribbled down his chin, in the thick, matted black beard.

    "He has been like that ever since," Isaac explained to the visitor.
    Rogerin de Normandie, her other brother's bastard, stood on the doorstep in his riding clothes. Mud had splattered his worn-out boots and the green cloak wrapped over his powerful shoulders. The little rogue had prospered, she thought; he was taller and heavier than the adolescent she remembered. More of a man, no less of a knave. The sight of his cousin, or maybe the smell, had stopped him with an air of disgust on his peasant's face. King Gaillard II did not seem to mind. He looked straight in front of him and docilely swallowed another spoonful of soup.

    "Who knows?"
    "About his father? It was impossible to hold the secret."
    "And about his condition?"
    "Very few. I saw to it."

    The bastard pulled a chair and sat on it near Gaillard. This time he knew better than to snicker at his misfortunes or play him a naughty trick.
    "Do you remember me, Gaillard? Gaillard? It's me, it's Rogerin."
    Gaillard sighed a little, painfully, but did not otherwise answer, or shift his empty, unblinking eyes. There was a long, ghastly purple scar on his forehead, where the sword had struck him, but it almost disappeared beneath his unkempt hair. The king would have no more steel anywhere near him.
    "Gaillard, it's me. Who did that?"
    "He will not answer, m'lord." the Jew put it unctuously. "As I tried to explain..."
    But Rogerin would not let him in peace.
    "Who was that who attacked you both? Cousin, give me a name! Who did it?" He grabbed the king's wrist and the king wailed and flailed. The spoon flew and the bowl fell on the ground, splashing over his velvet breeches. He shrieked and put his hands over the head, then retreated to a corner of the chamber and crouched piteously, still whimpering in fright.
    Isaac had already closed the door, while the bastard stood stupidly.
    "Who did that?" he asked again, trembling with anger, clenching a big fist on the table.
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  12. #92
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    By now Geva had enough of them all. All his life Gaillard had been used and despised, by a father who eventually all but reneged him, by a bastard eager to take his place, by a brutal uncle and by all in the court. They saw weakness in his gentle heart, stupidity in his dreaminess, arrogance in his desperate attempts at proving his own worth. Now he had been left for dead, splattered in his father's blood, and they only thought to torture him again.

    "It was his mother" she spat
    "That is true... Probably." Isaac answered nervously. "But you will be hard-pressed to prove it. You were wise to ride here in all haste."

    With a defiant look at Geva he came closer to him and whispered, "As we talk she is probably riding to Castel-Saint-Jaques to assume the regency in the name of her son. I do not think we an oppose her for now."
    "My uncle had sent her to a convent."
    Isaac shook his head gloomily.
    "With his death his word ceases to carry weight. Even in normal circumstances there is so much to gain by choosing the right side at the right time. Now, with the king incapable to rule."
    "I thought you had the secret kept."
    "Oh, I had it kept alright. But it did not take long for some to guess exactly what it means." He looked at Rogerin pointedly. "You can be grateful to the dead king for the Duchy he bestowed you. If you were not too powerful to antagonize she would have you killed, as the biggest threat to her rule. I am not so lucky."

    Rogerin considered the tacit offer a moment.

    "You served under three kings, now."
    "I hope to serve under a fourth. I hope it is you. Did you know that your father and his lady wife were cousin twice removed? I bet there would be no papal dispense found, if we looked into it. And then, if I could found some witnesses that he did marry your mother morganatically..."

    In the peasant's face Geva suddenly recognized some expression of her own blood, a flicker of ambition, greed, and strength. He came to a window and peered over the city of Santiago, in the shadow of the red-brick castle.

    "Maybe, when the time comes," he mused. "For now I need to ride back to my estates. Doubtlessly you know discreet way out of the castle. I do not care to have my coming announced."
    "Follow me" the old man smiled devilishly.
    "An instant." Rogerin crouched near his cousin.
    "I am sorry it came to this, Gaillard. I am... Sorry."
    Then he rose, and walked decisively out of the door.



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  13. #93
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    The king is rich, yet so suckage.
    Surprising events I say.

  14. #94
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    Yes and that was before he got any madness-induced event. He was that bad.

    A map :



    In other news, I am two week late in the updates but I have an excuse : I was working (sort of). The game of musical thrones is not over, thanks to the plague. But from now on I will adopt a different format since I am a bit tired of Norman emo whining about their dynasty objectively going nowhere.
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  15. #95
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    Changing a diaper

    Kuipy (King of Leon)
    Lise pinched her nose and unfolded the little boy’s soiled diapers, all the while whistling an old song to herself.
    Nobody would hear her, she knew. Most of the year Rogerin’s court was in Castel-Saint-Jacques, an massive red brick fortress overshadowing the growing city that locals called Santiago, built by King Jordan less a century ago, around a limestone tower erected by his brother Geoffroy. But in summer, when the heat became too insufferable, he would leave and sail with a smaller retinue to visit one of his Northern vassals in the Isles or in Normandy. Once the king was gone the courtiers soon disappeared as well, and all of the sudden the castle once again belonged to cobwebs and the ghosts of past reigns. She was startled when one of them tapped the floor with his cane and walked in.

    “Don’t fret, dear. I am now stranger to wiping a king’s arse”
    Servants whispered that master Isaac had sold his soul to the devil, as Jews are wont to do, in exchange for knowledge, power and an immensely long life. But the Devil, it is known, always gets the better end of such bargains, and master Isaac, after serving and rising under five kings, was now so old that even walking, eating, and breathing were all painful for him. Four years ago his sight had gone, and soon thereafter his mind followed. King, once very mindful of his advices, now hardly ever sought them, and had replaced him by his heathen sons, grandsons and cousins, in numbers that made bishop Osorio grumble and glower.

    “You are mistaken” she answered with a timid smile. “This is Lambert, Lambert FitzGaufrid”. Only a nephew to king Rogerin, the son of his bastard half-brother.
    “Yes, just the one I mean. Just the one I mean.”
    From the way his long, crooked fingers curled over the pommel of his cane she could see he was in pain. His gaping mouth had no teeth, she could see. His eyes were foggy and unblinking, his face wrinled and hairless.

    “Just the one I mean” he repeated. Maybe he had forgotten about Rogerin’s sons.
    “Juan is the actual heir” Lise reminded him gently “and his sons after him.”
    “Oh no, certainly not. I know Rogerin too well. He will not have them succeed him. They are their mothers’ creatures and he loathed her. He will see that his sons get some title, maybe in the South. But the crown, now.”

    He limped forward to the babe and patted him with spotted hands.
    “Small children make strong men, do you know that? If they get sufficient milk, that is. This one will be a true Norman, if the king has his way. Nobody will prevent him to groom him as he sees fit, this time. He will be heir. Unless he goes mad.”
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  16. #96
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    Lise contemplated the red, little thing that had sucked at his breast. Mad? His father was, of course. She knows than certain door which was never to be opened, and the howls that came from it at night. And she had heard one of the Gaillard lived recluse in a fetid room with window-panes shut, and would shriek if one brought so much as a candle inside, so much that his mother managed to hide his death for two years to continue ruling in his stead. Yet…
    “It runs in the blood. You are too young to remember Lovell. And even before him… The first Gaillard made me search for it in ancient chronicles. William, Robert, Geoffroy… Madness, madness, at various degrees. It skips a few generations, or just goes unnoticed, but when it surfaces… Well, Rogerin would not like it. The boy may not have it easy growing up, with an uncle so intent on making him the heir he wants.”
    “What if he is not? What will the king do?”
    With surprising deftness and a weird smile the old Jew folded the diapers neatly, and handed them to her.
    “Just get rid of it.”
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  17. #97
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    Planning an invasion

    Kuipy (King of Leon)
    In 1251 Novogord was but a muddy, grey shadow of its former magnificence, with its small plank houses and vast, sinister churches where a diminished flock gathered in front of a crumbling Christ. Its palaces turned to ruins, its warehouses to pig sties, and the once bustling quay slowly fell into disrepair as few boats would even call in the once-bustling port.

    That day, however, a strange ship appeared on the Volkhov and approached a derelict jetty. Through the fog passer-bys could at first just make out a large, sea-faring hull, two square sail and a smaller, unfamiliar, triangular sone. Then an old dockhand recognized it for a Norman nef.

    The first man to swaddle down from it was plump and stocky, with a strong unshaven chin, blonde hair and large, alert eyes. He had a dagger at his belt but his pale, soft hands stayed instead on a fat leather pouch. By any means he was not a warrior, although he had the peculiar look of an adventurous man.

    “Robert Caucher! You Norman rascal, you have not forgot your old friend Orgozhin” a huge, bald man with sagging red jowls bellowed, and kissed the captain brutally, as Russians are wont to do.
    “That I have not” answered the man who had been called Roger, hugging back his greasy furs. “But I fear I had forgotten how cold your land is, Vladimir.”
    “Ah, right! Come with me, Norman. Let’s drink.”

    As Robert followed the Russian trader he waved his second-in-command Jaime to accompany him through the windy streets, where icy sludge splashed under their feet. As they went many people stopped to peer at them, and a trail of children followed them. Jaime went to mass and would whisper an Ave during the worst of gales, but like a good third of his crew he had Moorish blood in him. His coppered skin, jet black hair and hooked nose made for an unusual sight at the trading post, but he did not seem to mind being pointed at.

    “Just they wait until they see our nigger” he chuckled to the captain’s ear.
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  18. #98
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    Orgozhin seated them over crude chairs and one of his daughters poured them vodka. She was clearly the youngest and fairest of them all. Could the old Russian really think of it? He gulped his cup and waved for it to be refilled, while Jaime silently sipped at his, looking suspiciously around him. Robert drank and almost closed his left eye, the sign that he was no longer the friend, but the merchant.

    “I brought my usual cargo, Vladimir. Spanish blades, fruits, bolts of cloth, spices from the Indies. And casks of liquor. All of that, naturally, very expensive. I hope you have furs and iron aplenty. ”
    “It was a bad season for hunting” the Russian grunted in a melancholy tone.
    “And a bad season for mining, too?”
    “We can’t spare iron, damn you! You know why. The Mongols are coming, riding from the steppes. And the princes do nothing, nothing. They have gone crazy!”

    None of this was new to Robert. A century ago Novgorod ruled from the Baltic to the Oural mountains, and south to to Moskva and Polotsk. But under a series of ill-fated and incompetent knyazs, strife and war had reduced the principalty to a smattering of isolated outposts. And now the Hordes gathered and attacked, striking North a generation after having devastated the Caucasus and Crimea. Even the Emperor of Burgundy, they said, had grown wary of their innumerable host which threatened to storm all Europe.

    “No gold either! We have lost our mines in the east.”
    “Amber then? My cargo does not come as a gift.”
    “There is no amber either! The Balts, them rascals! A curse on them. Treacherous scum. But you can have all the furs, and lumber also if our meager stocks are not enough.”
    “I am not interested in lumber.”
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  19. #99
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    At that the Russian was startled. The Normans were master shipbuilders and brave sailors, but most of their lands was formed of Galician sierras, Welsh hills and Irish meadows, together with a few barren islands in the Atlantic and thirty acres of Normandy proper. No wood was to be felled there, or so little that it made no difference, and Normans had to buy lumber abroad or become a people of sailors without a fleet.

    “But you always bought it the previous years.”
    “Times are about to change. Old duke Powell of the Isles died, and King Rogerin pardoned his son with very good terms. He even gave him his daughter as a wife. That spells war in England, and new forests for our shipwrights carpenters.”
    “If you don’t get beaten this time again.”
    “How can we get beaten? One army attacking from the Isles and Deheurbarth, another outflanking any English counterattack from Wales, and the Spanish host disembarking on their southern shores. All those soldiers needing to be armed and ferried, I should be a rich man if I come back in time with your iron in my hold. Are you selling it to me, or no?”
    “You now I can’t” the Russian answered. “And without you buying my lumber I can’t afford your weapons.”
    “Then I may never come back. And there did not seem to be a lot of ships beside mine on the quays. Hard to tell, of course, because of the fog.”
    “I cannot sell you this iron. I just cannot. All I have to sell is a few beaver skins and timber, and I cannot buy anything from you if you will not buy them from me.”
    “Do not worry to much about me, old friend. I will find other customers. Maybe those treacherous Balts, who have so much amber.”
    “Damn them, and damn you! I need those weapons! We need them to survive. If I were the Prince! If I had an army! We should first deal with those rebels, it would take, what, a year or two? And then we can strike the other knyaz, first Tver and then Vitebsk. Recreate the old empire. Then we would stand a chance against the Khan.”
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  20. #100
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    “But you have no army, Valdimir” Robert Caucher answered“ And neither do I. And neither does Jaime. We are bloody merchants, all our strategy amounts to getting drunk on words and vodka, planning invasions that will never happen in our heads. Sell me your iron.”
    “I cannot!” Orgozhin roared. When he flung his cup on the table so hard that the thick clay shattered, Jaime jumped to his feet but Robert did not so much as flinch. Suddenly their huge host sat and wept.

    “A week, Robert. Give me a week. I will try and convince the lesser merchants to arrange something.”
    “Three days” the Norman conceded “And to not try to slip one of your girls under my sheets, or I will take her all right, but that will not mean you get anything from me. Jaime.”

    As they were walking out he turned back.

    “I’m sorry it comes to this, Vladimir. But I am a merchant.” His eye opened again. The other man was slouched on the table, finishing Jaime’s cup.
    “Aye, I know. I would do worse if that meant profit for me.”
    “You know I could use a man like you in Eu. If it comes to that…”
    “Better die here than live an exile. You know that, Norman. Don’t you?”
    “Aye. Enjoy you drink, then.”
    “All we have left to do in Novgorod. Getting drunk on words and vodka, waiting for the Mongols to come.”
    His bitter laugh followed them in the muddy street.
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