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Thread: Road to Jerusalem. A collaborative AAR.

  1. #1

    Road to Jerusalem. A collaborative AAR.

    Welcome all to the this little collaborative Crusader Kings writing project. In this thread, you are going to find an AAR relating a tale of the First Crusade, from its inception to its conclusion, but the Crusade’s story will not be told from one, but from many angles, and not by a single, but by many authors. If you decide to follow, you are going to meet old favourites of Crusader King AARs rubbing elbows with newer faces, and I do hope that reading a sample of an author’s writings in this thread will encourage you to take a look at his other AARs. There are a lot of underrated gems out there.

    Road to Jerusalem
    A collaborative AAR

    Table of Contents:

    Prologue by The_Guiscard
    Chapter One: Mustering at Jutland by Saithis
    Chapter Two: A Duke and His King by The_Guiscard
    Chapter Three: Donnchad by Hardraade
    Chapter Four: La Serenissima by Rex Angliae
    Chapter Five: Young Richard Arrives In Bari by phargle
    Chapter Six by crusaderknight
    Chapter Seven: The Champion by AlexanderPrimus
    Chapter Eight: Dreams of Empire by The_Guiscard
    Chapter Nine: Disaster! by Rex Angliae
    Chapter Ten: The Land of Opportunities by Saithis
    Chapter Eleven: Two Friends Reunite by phargle
    Chapter Twelve by crusaderknight
    Chapter Thirteen by RGB
    Chapter Fourteen: A Vital Detour by AlexanderPrimus
    Chapter Fifteen: The Concerns of Rome by canonized
    Chapter Sixteen: The Battle of Lake Ýznik by Saithis
    A Byzantine Interim by General_BT
    Chapter Seventeen by crusaderknight
    Chapter Eighteen: Donnchad by Hardraade

  2. #2

    by The_Guiscard

    The French chaplain Fulcher of Chartres' (b.1059- d.1127) wrote the Historia Hierosolymitana, the History of Jersusalem, which is the most important source on the First Crusade. Fulcher used eye witness accounts for much of his chronicle, and was as a crusader himself present at many of the events he describes. Among the proceedings he witnessed at first hand were the events that took place in November 1095, at the council of Clermont, presided over by Pope Urban II:

    Then the pope said that in another part of the world Christianity was suffering from a state of affairs that was worse than the one just mentioned. He continued:

    ”Although, O sons of God, you have promised more firmly than ever to keep the peace among yourselves and to preserve the rights of the church, there remains still an important work for you to do. Freshly quickened by the divine correction, you must apply the strength of your righteousness to another matter which concerns you as well as God. For your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent. Moreover,
    Deus vult.

    ”All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian religion! Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor. Behold! on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on that, the rich; on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his friends. Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses; and as soon as winter is over and spring comes, let hem eagerly set out on the way with God as their guide.”

    And thus, it began….

  3. #3
    Chapter One: Mustering at Jutland.

    by Saithis

    From the dark, cloudy skies of the north, soft tufts of snow drifted to the ground, powdering the earth with gentle layer. The weight of each flake compacted upon those beneath it, forming a frozen layer across the snow-swept ground. Winter in the north was always a dark affair in terms of the blankets of clouds and long nights where no sun dared to sneak its face above the horizon. But despite that, the faint hints of moonlight stealing through the clouds and the flickering of fire together with the white carpet gave it an eerie, yet serene feeling.

    This serene atmosphere was ruined by a dark stain upon the landscape; then another appeared, and another, and as far as the eye could see, campfires marred the land, spilling the smoke of dry firewood into the sky. The sound of many Danes enjoying their evening echoed throughout the land, and the clusters of tents housed both the snoring and the partying, and all around the Danes huddled about the warming fires and drank and danced and sang to ward off the cold.

    The Scanian Axes, they called themselves. They were one of many mercenary regiments called to do their duty. Duty to God, to Christ, to the Pope, and to their King Erik I; all these were things which was to unify the Scanians with the rest of their brethren in Denmark. Harald Bragde, likewise, was just the man to do it. The son of a well-respected thegn from Sjælland, Harald had earned his glory as a mercenary raider. His company had launched raids against the Wends and Finns and earned a great deal of prestige in Skåneland. His contingent had grown to a healthy 1,000 men, enough to make a serious impact on any battlefield.

    "The armies of Denmark march south of Scandinavia to make for Empire of Romania."

    While his men were no huskarls (the only professional soldiers in the kingdom's army), they were well trained and disciplined warriors. No strangers to the Viking fashion, they wielded sword and shield with ruthless skill and their success had led to relative wealth. All of his men wore chain, and while many utilised the distinctive round shield of Viking myth, many including himself had acquired enough wealth to wield the kite shield which had grown in popularity due to its superior leg protection. Regardless of his armament, each man was brave, disciplined and eager for battle.

    Harald did of course appreciate the irony that such bloodthirsty men would be called to arms by Denmark for such a holy cause. Liberation of Jerusalem? Battling heathens? How many people were to be truly impressed by this endeavour, he wondered? Many of his own men were swayed, and had made it clear they would go even if Harald had not joined the Crusade. Personally, Harald thought it was silly, but was not about to argue with the King's purse. This was a matter of business, and he didn't care where the killing was to be done as long as he got his pay.

    Harald, however, was far from alone in this war. Over 5,000 Danes, including his army, had been assembled – one of the largest forces in history. Most were the King's huskarls and professional mercenaries, but many were also volunteers from the peasants, pious Christian zealots who had taken up arms to free the Holy Land from the Saracen devils.

    "Hersir, have you a moment?" His lieutenant interrupted. The brave but foolish Niels Hansen, a half-German half-Danish swordsman originally from Bremen, then Odense. He was a trustworthy man, and while his cleverness was lacking, his attitude and popularity with the regiment was something that Harald needed and valued more.

    "Yes, Niels, what is it? What do you need now?" He smiled, sipping his mead – spoils of their last victorious raid in Livonia.

    "Well, some of the men and I were just wonderin'…this 'crusade' or whatever we're being organised fer…do we know where it is we're goin'? I mean, do we hafta' ask directions, or…"

    Harald let out a jolly laugh. "Oh Niels, bless your heart. We may have to ask, yes, but we do not go to the Holy Land immediately. First we meet the other Christians. We go to Konstantinopolis. From there, we meet with the other Crusader Kings. From there, we go to war."

    Niels's jaw visibly dropped, and he took a moment to regain his composure before looking to a group of men nearby, which nodded, encouraging him.

    "Well, hersir, ahm…well, have you ever been to Kon…tans….erm…wherever?"

    The mercenary captain took a large bite of his roast before continuing. "Konstantinopolis, Niels. It is the greatest city of the Empire of the Greeks. You…do know who the Greeks are, yes?"

    Niels's dumbfounded look answered his question quite thoroughly.

    "Ugh…nevermind…leave me, Niels, King Erik may be here at any time and I must be prepared to meet him."

    "Oh I wouldn't bother wasting your time doing that." An unfamiliar voice interrupted.

    Harald's eyes turned to the newcomer, and it was his turn to let his jaw slip open for a moment, before he gracelessly dropped the meat onto the platter and stood, removing his hat and bowing to his liege.

    "Y-Your Majesty! Forgive me, I thought you would be another hour or so, and that I might have time to eat! I apologise, greatly, I beg you oversee this great breach of protocol! It was not my inte-"

    "Hold!" Erik I barked, interrupting him. "Like I said, there's no need to bother wasting your time with that. We've had a hard journey from Odense and I'd like a rest without the formalities myself. Harald, wasn't it? You are the general of the Scanian Axes?"

    The eager mercenary nodded. "Yes, my liege, I have come as requested, and my men are willing to face death itself to fight for you. We have brought our full numbers, and will be ready to begin the march within two days, as soon as we have finished accumulating the supplies that are due to arrive from Ribe. I think this will be the first time our people have made such a long march."

    The Danish King smiled. "Yes, and it is a march we will make together, as one. I must say, Harald, you impress me. Your knowledge of the world is greater than I would have expected from a mere hired sword. Pray tell, my good friend, why is it you use the title of hersir when you clearly command a host far too great for one, and how is it that you know so much of the east?"

    The general smirked and offered Erik his mead – the King accepted with a grin in reply.

    "Well, my liege, I was not always the scruffy general before you now, nor was I always forced to turn to my sword for living. I used to be the son of a prominent royal thegn. I received the best education my father could buy, and being the genius he was, he was not short of money. They said my father was likely to become the next Jarl of Skåne, but he was murdered brutally. Next thing I know, my fortune's gone, I'm a penniless orphan, and I'm forced to make a living on the streets as a young man of merely 15."

    "The young Harald Bragde as a child."

    Erik shook his head. "A tall tale, my friend, a tall tale indeed!"

    Harald laughed. "Tall it may be, and some may have been exaggerated a little, but I'll let you figure out what is and isn't, if you don't mind sire."

    The King chuckled in return, and stood. "Enjoyable, you are. I expect I will come seeing you again. I will need good men in the days to come, and don't be surprised if I come to ask for you help for any reason."

    As the monarch's figure disappeared, Harald was left with an odd sense of calm. So that was he, Erik I, King of Denmark – he who had earned a name for kindness and generosity. Harald now understood why he was so popular; the Danish King was, quite frankly, a man of the people. He was content with party and drink and sport and they had said that he had gone around to meet families personally after a recent ting was held. His reputation with the farmers and commoners was a wonder to behold.

    Harald had to admit it, even if he had some concerns, he liked the man.

    Returning to his meal, Harald did not give it another thought. It was a long, long march to the Balkans, and he wanted to enjoy his rest as much as he could before they would begin the journey. A large part of him brimmed with excitement. Greece, the Levant, Egypt; these were places that his studies had mentioned, but the minimal information he had gleaned about them so long ago had mostly faded, and now he was left with only a few rudimentary basics. He was going to enjoy learning about the region first-hand.

    When he was done, he was going to enjoy ruling a land of his own at long last.

    Saithis is the author of the Danish AAR Piety of the North Star. If you enjoyed her writing above, I recommend you give it a try as well.

  4. #4
    Off Again Alfred Packer's Avatar
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    Wow, Saithus, those are some pretty, pretty graphics (I'm a sucker for a good map)

    Even better is the dialogue between Harald and the King...this is off to a great start!

  5. #5
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    Great idea! I look forward to seeing this progress.
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  6. #6
    Cisár všetkých Slovákov demokratickid's Avatar
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    Me likely the map too, Alfred! KUTGW, sirs!
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  7. #7
    Thank you for the encouraging comments, folks! I will keep myresponses brief – it’s really the individual writers’, in this instance Saithis’, place to address your feedback. Btw, consider this an announcement to individual writers that they are of course free and indeed invited to post in this thread to reply to comments on their own chapters and proceedings at large and also to comment on other contributors’ chapters as well.

    Alfred Packer: I’ll leave it to Saithis to deal with you in a fitting way, Sir!

    VILenin: Thank’s for the encouragement. In all honesty, though, the initiative originates ultimatively with canonized, and the idea for using the First Crusade as a backdrop to the project from AlexanderPrimus.

    demokratickid: It’s Saithis who’s to take credit for the map.

  8. #8
    Lady of the North Star Demi Moderator Saithis's Avatar
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    The_Guiscard: Well then, a reply I shall give! As a side-comment, 'his' in the advertisement of my AAR is inaccurate, though it's not an unfair assumption. :P

    Thank you again, publically, for the opportunity to participate!

    Alfred Packer: Why thank you my dear, I do try my best to please! Looking back, some of the dialogue feels a little forced, but that's what writing on no sleep under pressure does. I'm writing my next piece right now, so I should actually have it fine-tuned by next update...hopefully it will be even better.

    VILenin: I thought it was a pretty good idea too, I can't wait to see what the others have come up with...

    demokratickid: As The_Guiscard said, the map was my creation. I created the style awhile back and I quite enjoy it thus far. I intend to use it in Piety of the North Star, however, I already have 'normal' screenshot maps going to about 1087, so I don't know if I'll make new ones in place of those or just use them up while I can.
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  9. #9
    Chapter Two: A Duke and His King.

    by The_Guiscard

    “His Grace is now ready to receive you, my lord Duke.”

    “Coming”, was the reply of Roger Borsa, Duke of Campania. He gulped down the last of the wine and rising from the window sill wiped off his mouth with the back of his hand. His bastard of a half-brother had kept him waiting for nigh on an hour, and the quiet anxiety of Roger, who was always unnerved at having to face Bohemond, had in the meantime waxed steadily, despite the copious amounts of wine he had gulped down in an attempt to soothe his nerves.

    Roger Borsa did wipe his sweaty palms on the costly fabric of his kirtle as he followed the scribe who had summoned him. The man, a Greek judging by the style of his long tunic, showed the Duke of Capania into the King’s council chamber adjourning the royal appartments. The Norman king’s residence at Palermo had by its former Muhammadan masters been enlarged and altered, and little of its original Byzantine style was still recognizable. The floor and walls of the chamber where King Bohemond used to confer with his advisors where tiled in a colourful checker after the Arab fashion, and the wooden ceiling was intricately carved with heathen scrollwork. Two wide windows made the room much more airy and admitted more light than those built in the Frankish style. Woven rugs of infidel manufacture were thick on the chamber’s floor, in places piled one atop the other, and one them were placed several small round tables and chairs, also in the Muhammadan fashion and with none of the high backs to them the Latins favoured to keep cold draughts away from the occupant.

    The largest of these tables was covered with an assortment of maps, and bent over this table was the figure of Duke Roger’s half-brother Bohemond. The king of the Apulian Normans was a huge man, quite possibly the tallest in the world, towering well over seven feet. He had already been massive as an infant, allegedly almost splitting his mother in half in coming into this world, and he had been as tall as any kight before he had seen twelve winters. Mark, he had been christened, but his and Roger Borsa’s father King Robert Guiscard used to nickname him ‘Bohemond’ even as a toddler, after a famus giant of Norman legend, and the nickname had stuck – as had his own, Roger thought bitterly, ‘Borsa’, Roger the Purse, after the lands and wealth he had been thought to one day inherit from both his mother and his father. Well, Bohemond had befuddled their aging father and betrayed Roger of his inheritance from King Robert, leaving him with but his mother’s lands and the damned nickname, now nothing more than a jest at his expense.

    Roger swallowed hard and cleared his throat. “My lord brother”, he addressed the hulking King, his voice sounding thin and feeble even inhis own ears. The Duke of Campania cursed himself for it. Bohemond always did that to him, making his belly tighten up and his knees go weak. Roger’s half-brother was strong as two oxen and quick to anger, and when angered wouldn’t hesitate to kill the object of his wrath, no matter what the cost to himself. It was not without reason that Roger avoided the King as much as he could.

    Roger de Hauteville, called ‘Borsa’, Duke of Campania.

    Bohemond looked up, turning his brutal face with that square jaw fully upon Roger. “Be welcome, dear brother”, the King said, his voice even and devoid of the affection conveyed by his words, “it is a rare pleasure to receive you. I am afraid I couldn’t spare the time any sooner, I was in session, planning the new campaign against the Hammadids.”

    “Thank you, my lord brother. I have heard of your intent, it is the talk of the court.”

    “And not anymore the court alone”, Bohemond replied. “This very moment, riders are dispatched, carrying the summons to muster throughout all of Sicily. If all goes well, we will embark for Tunis in no more than six weeks.”

    “That’s good”, Roger replied somewhat sheepishly. He took a deep breath, then said: “There is also another war against the infidels being prepared. God himself has called for it, the pope has declared.”

    Bohemond snorted, half amusement and half disdain. “Yes, I have actually heard, wouldn’t you believe it. Well, I have no time for foolish adventures a thousand leagues away.”

    Roger felt his heart sag at his brother’s derision. Bohemond had always been something of an impious heathen, too dumb to actually grasp the great work of salvation done by the Lord or feel touched by it, but the Duke was still surprised at his brother showing his derision so openly. “It is dangerous, yes, and it is far, but I still think that it is a most worthy cause”, Roger said. “And God wills it.”

    “The Pope wills it, more like”, Bohemond scoffed. “Anyhow, what is it you want, Roger? Out with it!”

    Roger’s tongue flicked across his lips, one feeling as dry as the other. He longed for a drink of wine. “I have”, he started, faltered, and began anew. “I have a mind to join in liberating the Holy Land. It is just, you see, my lord brother, my coffers, they are, well, not exactly empty, far from it, but still, my treasury, well, it’s not quite sufficient to pay for all of my troops, for the mercenaries, and for ferrying all of them across the Adriatic Sea and for provisioning them on the march to Constantinople. Once there, the Emperor will surely reprovision us, I think, but to get there, I need, well, …”

    “Out of the question”, Bohemond cut him off.

    “Out … out of the question?”, Roger echoed. He felt sick. The holy war was a matter of faith for him, but first and foremost his hope to escape the clutches of his brother, to win himself a kingdom of his own after hateful Bohemond and their late father had conspired to unlawfully take Apulia and Sicily away from him. He should be King, not that oaf Bohemond who plunged the Normans into one pointless adventure after the other, all for the sake of yet another worthless patch of African desert. The Pope’s war would have been his chance. He was a powerful Duke after all, and the son of a King of high reknown – who on the campaign might outrank him? None! He would have been lord of the expedition, both by virtue of his station and his cunning in battle. He must go to Jerusalem, must make himself its King!

    Bohemond sighed. “Look, Roger, I won’t waste my time skirmishing with you. You want to go, and you want me to fund your adventure? Fine.” From among the many sheets on the table, the King picked up a folded piece of parchment bearing his seal and showed it to Roger. “Here is my order to you to assemble your troops and bring them to Palermo, to aid me in my campaign against the Hammadids. I need but hand this over to you and all your dreams of going to Jerusalem and doing whatever you delude yourself into being able to do are over once and for all. You will go to Tunis instead – or you will have to defy my order and renege on your duties as my vassal. Well?”

    Panic was welling in Roger. The holy war, his chance of a kingdom of his own, of escaping his thrice-damned brother and the disdain and mockery he saw in his fellow lords’ eyes, all of them were retreating fast, escaping his grasp. He opened his mouth to reply, but something was cutting off his throat. A dry rattle escaped his mouth before Roger managed to say: “I will obey whatever you command, my lord brother.”

    The King acknowledged this with a curt nod. “Very well”, he said, “listen. Do as I say, and I will not summon you to Africa. I will even pay you out a loan of one hundred pounds of minted silver from the royal treasury and provide you with ships to take your host across the Adriatic Sea to Greece. How does that sound to you?”

    “Excellent, my lord brother”, Roger managed to reply. He needed some wine, why on Earth had Bohemond offered him none?

    “In return for letting you go and even supporting your campaign, you will hand me back the County of Benghazi I have entrusted to your safekeeping”, the King said. “Furthermore, you will proclaim that that bastard of your’s, that other Roger, whom you’ve made Count of Naples, is not, I repeat, not of your flesh and blood and that all rumors to this end are but that – rumors. Understood?”

    The Norman realm (green) in early 1096,
    and the lands of Duke Roger Borsa (red) and is vassals (yellow) within it.

    Roger nodded weakly and Bohemond continued, pushing two sheets of parchment across the table towards his brother. “Here”, he said, “I have already had the documents prepared. I know that father wasted everybody’s time in having you learn some letters, so you know that I am not trying to trick you into signing anything unbecoming. This here is your renunciation of Benghazi, and with this document here you formally deny all allegations of having fathered Roger. Sign.”

    Roger reached for a quill, then hesitated. Even though only a bastard, Roger was his only living son, his one legitimate one having died while still an infant. If he gave away the chance to acknowledge Roger, he was denying his one male descendant. Should he die without fathering another one, all his lands, everything he possessed, would pass to Bohemond…

    “I will not make his offer again”, Roger heard his half-brother’s hated voice grate. “Hesitate but one more moment, and I will withdraw my offer, and the documents, and pass you this summons here in my hand.”

    Once again, Roger licked his dry lips. Bohemond’s threats were never empty, he knew. The price his brother demanded was high, but then also not so high after all. Roger had fathered one son, he would father others, legitimate ones, not bastards. And what was giving away one sorry African county when he would win a kingdom instead? He reached for quill and documents and then signed both with his ducal monograph.

    A thin smile on his lips, Bohemond took both documents into his keeping. “A wise decision, dear brother”, he said, “you have just won yourself the participation in the Pope’s holy war. A place in heaven is already reserved for you.”

    “And the silver?”, Roger asked past the lump in his throat. He wanted to get this degradation over with as quickly as possible.

    “Worry not. You know I am a man of my word. I will even today give orders for the silver to be paid over to you, and also orders procuring the ships to take you and your men into Greece.”

    “I do thank you, my lord brother”, Roger managed to say. The exchange of a few more pleasantries and Bohemond wishing him success, and Roger was off to his own chamber and a soothing draught of cool red wine. It never occurred to him how the King could have had the documents already prepared in advance.

  10. #10
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    I daresay a crusade of sorts is going on already among the Normans...

    But perhaps the Pope does want their attention directed elsewhere.
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  11. #11
    Heartbreaker canonized's Avatar
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    I am so happy and glad to see this going ! It's been an excellent read so far .

    Saithis , I have to say that your introduction was a very fun read especially to think of Danes going to the Holy land and the little bits of comedy you inserted in there were nice I did enjoy the graphics as well ! oh and reading the comments I suspect that demokratickid was agreeing with alfred packer about the images and not attributing it to him .

    Guiscard , as expected the prologue was excellent ; reciting the Pope's address was very inspiring to set the mood and also your update with the positioning and hopes of norman noblemen is not only a refreshing focus on the non-kings of the time , but also a much more realistic determination of how a kingdom might have sprung up in the Holy Land . Very well done and calculated
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  12. #12
    Cisár všetkých Slovákov demokratickid's Avatar
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  13. #13
    Chapter Three: Donnchad.

    by Hardraade

    Donnchad stepped into the practice yard and for the first time noticed how terribly cold the day had gotten. In the yard two figures were dueling. They whirled around, hacking and slashing at one another with practice swords, their breath hanging above them like clouds in the cold air. Donnchad moved towards them. He had meant to get here earlier and witness the entire session, but had been held up by a petty and terribly boring dispute between two rival Taoisigh over grazing rights. From the clear signs of exhaustion being shown by the smaller of the two combatants, it seemed that mediating the dispute had caused him to miss all but the end of the session. One very important matter still awaited his attention in the council chambers, but he had promised to be present for this sparring match and it was a promise that he would not break.

    Donnchad watched as the two circled each other warily. The smaller fighter was moving lazily, his breath coming heavy and he did not seem to have the strength to raise his shield. It was obvious that he would not be able to defend against another of the bigger man's attacks. Suddenly, the smaller man burst into action and began swinging his sword through the air with blinding speed. Caught off guard, his opponent stumbled backwards, only just deflecting several slashes that would have otherwise struck flesh. The smaller man pressed the attack hard, hacking at his opponent's shield and driving him back. Seeing and opening, he lunged forward with the point of his sword aimed for his opponent's chest. The bigger man just barely got his own sword up in time to deflect the thrust.

    It had been an impressive attack, but Donnchad could see that the failure of that thrust had decided the contest. The attacker had left himself too open. No sooner had that realization struck Donnchad than the bigger man's shield struck his smaller opponent on the side of the head. He staggered back in a daze and, by the time he recovered his senses, found the point of his opponent's sword aimed at his throat. The smaller man looked from the sword to his opponent and in a defeated voice said, "I yield."

    Donnchad clapped his hands together and shouted, "Well fought."

    The two men had been so engrossed in their combat that they had not noticed his arrival and Donnchad was amused to note that the sound of his voice had startled them. The two fighters turned to face him and bowed at the waist. Once straightened, the smaller fighter ran over to him with a smile that Donnchad could see was red with blood and said excitedly, "Did you see that, Father? I nearly had him this time."

    Donnchad smiled and put a hand on his son's shoulder as he replied, "I saw, Findchad. Well done."

    By now the larger man had approached the pair. He was a man of only thirty -a year younger than Donnchad himself- but seemed older. Donnchad wondered if perhaps it was the long years of hard fighting in his service that caused him to look thus. A long scar that ran from the corner of his mouth and up across his cheek to disappear into his hairline gave him a cruel and frightening countenance, though Donnchad knew him to be a kind man with a gentle disposition. Off of the battlefield anyway. The warrior looked down at Findchad and said in a voice that was equal parts agitation and good humor, "Nearly had is not the same as had, my young Flaith. It's the end result that counts."

    Findchad nodded his head in abashed understanding and Donnchad smiled. He took his hand from his son's shoulder and said, "Run along out of the cold before your Mother comes looking for me with a real sword."

    After Findchad had gone, Donnchad turned to the scarred warrior beside him and asked, "Tell me truly, Brian. How goes his training?"

    "Well, Donnchad. Very well. I'm not ashamed to say that he very nearly did have me there. For a boy of thirteen he shows a remarkable amount of skill with the blade. He'll develop into a fine warrior.", answered Brian.

    Donnchad nodded and a pleased smile came to his face. In a land that always seemed ready to break itself apart with petty power struggles, it's rulers needed strong sword arms as much as they needed strong minds. After having conferred with his son's tutors and now Brian, Donnchad was satisfied that his son had both.

    Brian broke into his musings by asking, "What have you told the Papal envoy?"

    Donnchad's smiled faded and was replaced by a deep frown. He had hoped to escape the subject out here. He answered, "I have told him nothing for now. I will reconvene with both him and my council later today."

    "You would not deny him, would you?"

    Donnchad gave his old friend an irritated look and was almost sorry that he had ever allowed the sort of easy familiarity that existed between the two men. After a moment he sighed and responded, "I will stop no one who wishes to go to the Holy Land. As to whether I will go myself, I am undecided."

    "The Pope wishes you to lead them, Donnchad.", said Brian.

    Donnchad nodded and replied, "Of course he does. He wishes me to raise, equip, and supply an entire army. To beggar the realm for the sake of his Crusade."

    Brian shook his head. In a voice heavy with reproach he said, "You cannot put matters of finance above the will of God."

    "You talk of the will of God?", asked Donnchad. "If it was God's will that Jerusalem remain in Christian hands, why did He allow the Saracens to take it from the Romans?"

    Brian's scarred face held a look of deep shock as he whispered, "It is not for men to question God's plan."

    "Plan? What of my plan to consolidate my power and pass a strong, unified kingdom onto my son? Joining this Crusade could destroy everything that we fought for all of these years."

    Brian seemed to take his time thinking this over. Finally he said, "You're right. It could be the ruin of everything that you have struggled for. However, it could also be your way of securing it."

    Not understanding what his old friend could be getting at, Donnchad frowned over at him and said simply, "Explain."

    "When was the last time that we had an Ard Rí na hÉireann who actually ruled over a united and peaceful kingdom?" Donnchad did not reply as the question was largely rhetorical. They both knew that such a thing had not happened for several generations. Oh, men had claimed the High Kingship in recent years, but their power had generally not extended any farther than their ancestral lands. Donnchad was the first man since Brian Boru to call himself Ard-Ri and actually control the whole of the island. Rebellion, however, was a constant threat.

    Donnchad had to admit that Brian had found the best way to get his attention and listened losely as he went on, "The Ard-Ri is looked on by the powerful noble families as someone who has temporarily manged to become the strongest man on the island. At best they bide their time until they see a chance to remove him. At worst they ignore him completely. The Ard-Ri needs to become something more. Not just to them, but to the people as well. If you were to lead us to the Holy Land and plant God's standard atop the walls of Jerusalem, you will become something greater than any other Ard-Ri in history. The people will see that you carry God's blessing and will rally to you. You will unite this land in a way that has never before been seen."

    Brian fell silent and lowered his head as if embarrassed by the enthusiasm of his outburst. Donnchad stood staring at him for a long time thinking over what he had just heard. Long minutes of silence passed between the two men before Donnchad turned on his heel and began walking away at a quick pace. As he left the practice yard he heard Brian call a question, "Where are you going?"

    Without turning or slowing his pace, Donnchad shouted back over his shoulder, "To my council chambers. And then to Jerusalem."

    Hardraade is the author of the Irish AAR Of Men Great and Small. If you enjoyed his writing above, you might want to give it a try as well. Or else his Victoria AAR An Irishman’s Story or his Hearts of Iron 2 AAR Return to Glory.

  14. #14
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    Now that's an interesting one too.

    I fear it may misifre though.
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  15. #15
    Cisár všetkých Slovákov demokratickid's Avatar
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    Yes, yes onward to Jerusalem!!! Nice work, sirs!
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  16. #16
    Saithis: That’s one mighty Danish contingent you are sending to Jerusalem. With 5000 men, so many of them utterly professional fighting men, the Danes are certain to make leave their mark on the Crusade. I am very much looking forward to it.

    Btw, I especially enjoyed your lead-in to your chapter. The description of the camp and the snow-blanketed landscape was very atmospheric. And sorry for the pronoun – I changed it immediately.

    Hardraade: Very good stuff here. The description of the duel was vivid, as was your portrayal of Donnchad, Findchad and Brian. You gave me a good idea of what these three men – or men and boy – are like, and also of the political situation in your alternative version of a united Ireland. Donnchad came across as a very sympathetic person, and I wish him luck on the Crusade.

    RGB: Well, the Normans are taken right out of my own AAR, from where I branch off the First Crusade as altenative history to Furor Normannicus, and there King Bohemond has indeed pushed deep into Africa. But I can assure you that there is nothing pious about his his efforts. Bohemond’s secular and a cynic, and instead of joining the Crusade he is using it to get the better of his half-brother Roger.

    canonized: Thank you, canonized. Using the Pope’s address for the prologue seemed appropriate and neutral enough to set the scene, but what also done for sheer laziness on my part. And my portrayal of Norman noblemen and their deeply egoistic drives is consistent with my slightly bleak outlook on human nature and does in this manner also pervade Furor Normannicus.

    demokratickid: Viva Campania indeed. This collaboration affords me the much-sought opportunity to finally throw more light on the figure of Roger Borsa. Anyway, thank you very much for your support for this project.

  17. #17

  18. #18
    Chapter Four: La Serenissima

    by Rex Angliae

    It was Advent Sunday 1095. It was cold. Cold and dark. Had it not been for the hundreds, nay thousands, of candles that illuminated the interior of the basilica the man would not have been able to see the spurts of breath that condensed before him as he knelt before the high altar in earnest supplication. Behind that altar lay the remains of the earliest evangelist, San Marco, in whose honour the splendid new cathedral was named. He was the city’s patron saint and it was already fast becoming the stuff of legend how his bones had been stolen from under the noses of the infidel in Alexandria by being hidden beneath a stash of pork carcasses that the Moslem customs men paid but scant regard to. The body had been brought back in triumph to the water city and interred with great ceremony in the old, wooden basilica. Now barely 12 months had passed since it had been translated with pomp to its new resting place in the holiest spot of all in the wonderful new basilica. This had been built to glorify God and the saint, and images of the evangelist’s symbol, the lion, were everywhere in the building. There were statues and carvings and above all wonderful mosaics portraying the wondrous beast. Some mosaics were still being finished. Workmen stood atop flimsy wooden scaffolding carefully placing tiny tessarae into place, scarce seeing themselves the effect of their work which was directed from far below in the nave of the cathedral by their master.

    The clergy said that it was the will of God and the blessed saint himself that the bones should reside in Venice. Other more cynical and wordly wise minds knew that in the great gospel writer, Venice had acquired a relic to rival that of St Peter himself in Rome, for the Venetians were ever wont to cock a snook at the wordly grandeur of the Papacy.

    The man stood up and wrapped his fur trimmed cloak tightly about his powerful frame. He shivered and stamped his feet on the paved floor to bring the circulation back to life. Immediately he was attended by servants who he gestured away impatiently. Obsequiously they melted back into the shadows and left the Doge of Venice alone as he strode down the nave and out of the great west door of the basilica and into the brightness of the piazza San Marco. He shivered again as the wind whipped in from the lagoon to his left. He turned into it and head down, strode off purposefully towards the grand palazzo, the home of the Doge that lay beside the basilica right on the waterfront where the Grand Canal finally emptied itself into the lagoon.

    Doge Vital Michele had been elected earlier in the year from amongst those noble Venetian families who were eligible to be selected to lead the aristocratic oligarchy who ruled La Serenissima. He had been praying that God would guide him now in this the first test of his reign. Only last week a messenger dressed in the unmistakeable yellow and white livery of the Papal curia had arrived in Venice with a copy of Pope Urban’s bull Deus Vult, calling the faithful to arms. He was calling for a Crusade to rid the Holy Land of the infidel and he had written to all Christian rulers demanding that they raise whatever troops, munitions and money they could to support God’s war. The Doge had no love for the Papacy, but Urban was still the Holy Father and it was mortal sin to ignore such an imperious injunction from the Pope. Thus he had struggled with his conscience and sought God’s personal intervention to guide his decision. He had looked around the wondrous new basilica and in this he had found his answer. God had spoken to him through the beauty of art and architecture and the Doge had decided that he would call upon all able bodied men of the Republic to bear arms in the forthcoming Crusade. He would use that afternoon’s formal court session to announce his decision and send his nobles home to their palazzi, each to draw up a retinue according to his wealth and status.

    He hoped to send at least 2500 men by sea down the Adriatic, hugging the coastlines of Dalmatia and Greece, then via Rhodes and onto Constantinople. The troops would be transported in the infamous Venetian war galleys. These fearsome fighting machines would guarantee safe passage, but they were not suited for the open sea and it was this that dictated the route they would take. They were biremes, long, narrow vessels powered by twin ranks of oars, capable of great speed and easily manoeuvred. A favoured tactic was to ram enemy vessels using the great spur that projected from the bow of the ship over its opponent’s sides, allowing the marines carried on its fighting platforms to storm aboard and take the enemy ship by force. The biggest threat would come not from the infidel, whose vessels did not threaten as far east or north as the route the Venetians would take, but from the pirates who used the many inlets of the Dalmatian coast as safe havens from which to attack any unsuspecting travellers.

    Throughout the winter, the Venetians gathered their strength. Galleys were commandeered and provisioned, their number swelling daily, forming a huge nodding and bobbing fleet at anchor in the shallow waters of the Lido. Meanwhile, the nobility mustered their household men, and in some cases, notably the richer nobles, bolstered their number with foreign mercenaries, mainly from other Italian states, not all of whom had answered the Pope’s call to arms as assiduously as the Venetians had done.

    The Doge had one unresolved problem though. Who would lead the Venetian contingent? There was no shortage of contenders but he feared that whoever he chose would cause resentment amongst other factions. He thought about leading the force in person but knew that his place was in Venice to rule the city shorn as it would be temporarily of its senior nobles. He had been back into the basilica to pray for further guidance, but was still no nearer making a decision.

    And then, out of the blue came the answer to his prayers. It was a few days after Easter when a small band of travellers arrived in the Republic. At their head rode a tall well built man of around 60 years old. He was well dressed and clearly in command of the others who treated him with respect and deference due to one of high birth. The man led them through the Piazza San Marco past the basilica (which he regarded with open admiration) and down to the very waterfront and the grand entrance to the Doge’s palace. One of the group leant forward in his saddle and shouted at the Venetian guards who had materialised at the sound of the horses’ hooves. The man spoke in Latin.

    “Greetings in the name of Christ! His Grace the Duke of Burgundy presents his compliments to Doge Vital Michele. He has heard that the Doge is raising a mighty army to fight the infidel, and having taken the cross himself, determined upon joining his brother in Christ in the solemn undertaking. Pray commend his Grace to the Doge and ask that he receive him as a fellow crusader.”

    Henri de Bourgougne, Duke of Burgundy was a formidable and well known ruler. Although advanced in years, age had not dulled his martial prowess, and the Pope’s call to arms had come at just the right time for him. Unhappily married to his third wife, many years his junior, who he suspected of dalliances with some of his younger courtiers, the duke had decided upon a life of celibacy and to become a crusader. He had determined to make his own passage to Constantinople but having heard of the Venetian initiative, the duke had instead hastened across northern Italy to offer his sword to the Doge.

    The two rulers met in private that afternoon. After a short while they emerged and the Doge summoned an immediate grand council to which all his vassals and captains were summoned.
    “My prayers have been answered. God has sent us our Captain. Henri, Duke of Burgundy will lead the Venetian crusade. You will obey him in all things, military and otherwise. Any man who crosses him, crosses me. You will all swear to follow him to the death if necessary.”
    A priest emerged with a bible and one by one each of the Venetian nobility and captains swore the required oath.

    Exactly one week later, on St Mark’s day itself, the Venetian fleet set sail for Constantinople. The Doge sat under a huge canopy of state as one by one, led by La Dragonara, in which sailed Duke Henri, the galleys pulled smoothly across the lagoon, sweeping around in a massive arc to pass right in front of the Doge, each of them raising their oars in salute as they passed their sovereign.

    The Doge and the assembled masses watched the last of the galleys as it slipped smoothly over the sunlit horizon on its way southeast towards its ultimate destination – Constantinople.

    Rex Angliae is the author of the Burgundian AAR A Nice Case Of Burgundy. If you enjoyed his writing above, you might want to give it a try as well. Or else his slightly older Crusader King AARs In Flandern Fields or Arthur’s Tale.

  19. #19
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    Venetians heading towards Constantinople?

    I don't know why but I have a creeping suspicion they may just be up to no good.

    The Duke as a Captain of Venice - that's interesting. Not something I considered but it must have happened a fair bit that noblemen got themselves hired as captains in other countries at the time.
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    Duke of Bonbon, and also Chevalier Grand Croix of the Ordre Militaire du Saint Christophe.

  20. #20
    Wow, this is good stuff

    Can someone just clear this up for me though, is this a multiplayer AAR.... or a spin off of Furor Normannicus :S

    I Love it.. just confused!
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