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Thread: Eagles of the Steppe - A Kievan Rus AAR

  1. #1
    General Taiisatai64's Avatar
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    Eagles of the Steppe - A Kievan Rus AAR

    The Eagles of the Steppe




    Rome. The shadow of the corpse of Rome is that which blots out the sun and causes all those kingdoms of Europe to shiver in the cold beneath. The memory of Roman civilization hangs over Europe and fills the history books, it influences men and women in ways which nothing that is dead ever should. Therefore, it is a vile corruption upon the hearts of men, and I should know, for I have experienced the burden of its foulness upon mine heart and mind, and I have witnessed the extent of its corruption upon my kinsmen and seen its weight upon my ancestors through the history books.

    We proud Rus’ were far from immune to this curse. We dreamed that dream which so many others have before us, the dream of a new Rome, a new empire to be hailed by historians and theologians centuries after our fall. We built what we could, destroyed what we could not, and dreamed of immortal life in the eyes of the scholarly and intellectual.

    This is the curse. The curse of the memory of Rome.

    ******


    This is to be my second AAR, and hopefully the first that I will finish. While the last one, Knights of Saint John, was more of a holdover until Crusader Kings 2 was released, I’m hoping that this one will last longer. As long as Paradox doesn’t release a patch which breaks my save game, or as long as every save I make doesn’t get corrupted, my ambition should play out. Let’s all pray that there’s no bloated save game glitch as well

    I’ll be playing as the Duke of Polotsk, Vseslav II Rurikovich, and I’ll be attempting to create the Kievan Rus’ and expand further from there. It’ll be written in a narrative and history book format, usually written in hindsight “after-the-fact”, though not too far ahead (I may play for 5 years or so at a time between updates, I like to keep everything fresh in my mind, though I may change this so I can impliment some overarching storylines).

    I hope you, my readers, enjoy this. To anyone coming here from my Knights of Saint John AAR, I promise I will get back onto that at a later stage, but for now I’ll be focusing on this.
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  2. #2
    General Taiisatai64's Avatar
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    Prologue



    The column of mounted knights and heavy cavalry filed through the castle gates in orderly fashion, unpolished steel glinting dully in the light from the sinking sun, in total disregard of the pageantry that surrounded them; bright colors, chanting and cheering – a right proper festival, this was. Most of the common folk had even donned their festival clothes, those scraps of fine “lordly” clothing they kept walled up in a closet to take out and wear once or twice every year during the more exciting festivals. Or for something as exciting as this.

    Roman watched it from the best seat in the castle, or so he considered it; a hidden window above the castle gates, it overlooked the courtyard and allowed him to see over the low wall that ringed it, to the city and farmland beyond. In the distance, the Dvina River wound slowly into the distance, like a snake unwinding itself after a long soak in the sun.

    Roman loved this little window. Some days he would sit here, hiding from his tutors and Iziaslav, the castle arms master, watching life in the castle below, until his guardian Yaropolk would come fetch him. Yaropolk was the only other person who seemed to know about the hidden corridors, though Roman suspected a few of the servants knew about some of the corridors. As the court spymaster, Yaropolk knew everything there was to know about the castle and more besides, and as Roman’s foster-guardian he had, of course, shared much of that knowledge with Roman. Roman knew many things because of it, most of which he wouldn’t run to brag about to mother, that was for sure. Poison, ways to kill a man quietly, and other such arts of the shadows had all been taught to him by Yaropolk from the tender age of seven.

    With a squint, Roman could just make out the face of his father, Vseslav, Duke of Polotsk, riding at the head of the column, wearing no helmet but still garbed in the same stained mail and plate he had worn since the campaign began. He had a hollow-cheeked face under his mop of lank brown hair, and beneath that armor was a thin yet leanly muscled body. He didn’t look very lordly, and Roman knew that most of the servants thought the same, but he had a certain air of mystique about him, and close-up, those sky-blue eyes of his always seemed to be peering into your very soul.

    ******


    Meanwhile, Roman’s older brother Gleb was sitting on the stairs of the castle wall. For all his two years on Roman’s twelve, it was Roman who looked the older; Gleb was baby-faced, with plump, ruddy cheeks and a mouth that was too quick to smile.

    Gleb was smiling now, in fact, a broad grin that displayed a row of whole, off-white teeth and made his blue eyes sparkle. His eyes were fixed on his father, but they broke contact when the boy next to him spoke up in a deep voice which sounded far older than its speaker.

    “Is your father truly a sorcerer?” said Alexei, his thick brow – which overshadowed his eyes – forming a concerned v of wrinkled skin. Tall, wide-shouldered and powerfully muscled, with only eleven years on him, that was Alexei Kuznets, the smith’s son and assistant. And none too bright, either, Gleb had observed… which was saying something, coming from Gleb.

    “No,” said Gleb, trying – and failing – to keep a trace of annoyance out of his voice, “he isn’t a sorcerer.”

    When he said that, Gleb had to stop and consider for a moment. He knew his father had been the one to perpetuate these myths of heresy and sorcery – apparently the lie gave him a certain air of mystique, and power over his vassals and servants, although Gleb couldn’t really see it. He did know that the rumors had come from somewhere, and that somewhere was the fact that Vseslav had been birthed by a male midwife. Rare, Gleb conceded, but not exactly mystical… although, to hear the peasantry tell it, the man had not been a midwife but a sorcerer. Then there were the rumors that this midwife had helped his grandmother conceive Vseslav, which Gleb supposed may be true, surely there were herbs that could help with such things, but to hear the common folk tell it, it was sorcery that had done it. Blood magic, or something along those lines.

    Shaking his head, Gleb got to his feet.

    “I’d best go give my father a warm welcome, Alexei,” Gleb said as he ran off towards the column.

    ******




    Trifon muttered in annoyance as the rest of the welcoming party rapidly outpaced him, leaving him among the unimportant courtiers and lowborns that made up the train of the group. Sometimes he believed God had cursed him with his dwarfism to test his faith. Now was not one of those times. Now was one of those times where he knew God had cursed him out of pure spite. Now was one of those days where he wondered why he had ever chosen to become a priest – had he truly been so naïve as to believe that he could be miraculously cured of his affliction?

    Still, it would be good to see Ves again, no matter how humiliating the circumstances. He may not bethe most learned or scholarly of men, but he was intelligent, and for the most part he ignored Trifon’s condition, which made him a paragon of virtue in Trifon’s eyes. He liked to discuss the finer points of leadership and warcraft, two of Trifon’s favorite topics, and also didn’t mind the odd discussion on the merits of some heresy or another, not to mention his other favorite topic – sorcery.

    Trifon had finally caught up with the vanguard of the welcoming party. Vseslav was clapping his son Gleb – the idiot one, as Trifon liked to think of him – on the shoulder and laughing about some jest or other, and was about to turn towards his wife Sofia when he noticed Trifon stepping out of the crowd.

    “Trifon!” he yelled out boisterously, “it’s good to see you again, my friend!”

    Ves stepped forward to give Trifon a hearty embrace – Trifon couldn’t help but notice that he had to kneel down to do so – which gave Trifon a good look at Sofia’s face. Her steel-grey eyes were screaming hatred and murder. That certainly soured this joyous reunion.

    “Trifon, my man,” said Vseslav, clapping Trifon on the shoulder, completely ignorant of his wife’s disposition, “I have a gift for you!” With that, he produced a lavish looking document and pushed it into Trifon’s pudgy hands, “the Bishopric of Erle is all yours, my friend.”

    Trifon looked at the parchment in his hands with slightly shocked silence, then raised his head to look Vseslav in the eyes.

    “Congratulations on your conquest of the pagan Latgalians, Ves. I’m sure the Patriarch will be most pleased,” he said the latter with a grin spread across his face – comments about the Patriarch were a part of an in-joke between him and Ves, with every one of them being veiled insults regarding the powerlessness of the Patriarch, usually in comparison with the power held by the heretical Bishop of Rome.

    ******


    In the year 1067, the Duchy of Polotsk was just another part of the patchwork of duchies that made up the loose confederation known as the Kievan Rus. The Duchies primary enemies were the pagans to the west of them; they possessed a firm barrier of alliances along their eastern flank, alliances secured by dynastic ties with the other Dukes of the Rus.



    The Duchy was, however, threatened by internal issues. Succession laws dictated that the lands of the father would be divided amongst his sons, a concept known as
    Gavelkind. With a grand total of six sons, Duke Vseslav’s stable and secure realm was like to fall apart upon his death, especially considering the divisions between his sons.
    Last edited by Taiisatai64; 29-03-2012 at 05:23.
    WritAAR of the Week, 5th of March, 2012
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  3. #3
    Field Marshal loki100's Avatar
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    nice opening and a brave choice, especially given what is around you. Do like central european CK AARs, so much scope for fun and mayhem

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    The doomsayer randakar's Avatar
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    I'll be watching this with interest.
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  5. #5
    Very nice. Normally I don't prefer the long roleplaying entries, but I gotta say, this is nice.

    Thanks for the linky by the way.

    So far, Trifon seems interesting. Thanks to Game of Thrones, I tend to like scheming, intelligent dwarves.

  6. #6
    People's Commissar of the Navy Demi Moderator Avindian's Avatar
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    I am fascinated by this game; really wish I'd gotten more into CK1. You hooked me with your topic and your goals!

    How did you play as Kievan Rus', though? I didn't see it as an option at the beginning.
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  7. #7
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    I'm Here for the Intensity, oh, and the Interactive AARs. Also, one cant get enough of Kaisereich stuff. Oh! and i'm also here for the, you know what, nervermind, I think you get the point.
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  8. #8
    General Taiisatai64's Avatar
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    loki; Brave? I actually thought Polotsk would be easy

    randakar; good to see you

    NRDL; My intention with Trifon was to make him into a kind of Tyrion-esque character, actually The update was long, I suppose, but I've seen far longer (looks at Avindian). The font and size also makes it easier to read... I find that if I put it on normal-font, normal-size my eyes will start to water from reading it, but an alternative font and slightly larger size makes it far more bearable. It was maybe 1500 words... I seem to be able to write up dry, boring essays of 1000-1200 words at the drop of a hat, but when it comes to story it takes forever to write and I'm usually burnt out by the end. I still enjoy seeing my characters come to life, though.

    Avindian; I'm not playing as the Kievan Rus I'm playing as Polotsk. Kievan Rus' is a creatable Kingdom-level title with a fair amount of de jure territory. Coupled with everybody and their mother being a Rurikovich, it makes it rather hard to form without getting at least one Kinslayer and a lot of time, or at least that's what I gathered.

    KotoR; good to have you onboard.
    WritAAR of the Week, 5th of March, 2012
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  9. #9
    General Taiisatai64's Avatar
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    Low, high, low, high, high, mid!” roared Iziaslav, slashing at Gleb with his sword in time with his words. Gleb was trying to block the blows – which did not come from the stated direction nine times out of ten (“To build up your instincts, boy,” Iziaslav had told him the first time he asked.) – but he was hard-pressed. He’d be sporting an impressive array of bruises after this, he knew.

    It wasn’t that he was a bad fighter. He could execute any known combination of counters and strikes that Iziaslav had taught him, could defend himself against the better fighters in the castle garrison, could even get a few hits on Izia occasionally. Gleb may not have been the brightest mind in the duchy, but he had an excellent memory and a strong sword arm, and his interest in battlefield tactics seemed to outweigh his lack of intelligence when it came to the martial aspects of his education.
    No, it was just that he had other things on his mind.

    It had been just a month since his father returned, but already things were degrading to that old, sorry state of affairs. His father had gone from the jovial man happy to once again be home, to the stern, cold-eyed man he had been before the conquest. What war had seemed to add to him… being at home had stripped away.

    Gleb more than suspected who was behind all this. His mother was often cruel, as he had found out at an early age, and this hadn’t endeared her with her prodigious brood of five sons, or with her husband, but recently her callous cruelty had turned into something deeper. It was as if she had developed a tangible hatred for her husband, though Gleb couldn’t understand why. She was also as quick to anger as Vseslav, and Gleb often lay awake at nights listening to their yelling.

    Suddenly he let out a yelp of pain and clutched at his arm. Izia had taken advantage of his preoccupation and struck him a stinging blow on the elbow before dancing away, a thin smile spreading across his scarred face, and Gleb pushed thoughts of his father from his mind and pushed the attack, lashing out with a quick flurry of blows.

    ******


    Deep inside the castle, Roman was seated across from Yaropolk, a low oaken table between them. Yaro had a thick manuscript laid out on the table, some kind of forbidden book detailing the workings of the body beneath the flesh and skin. The illustrations were quite vivid and fascinating, Roman thought, and the content was interesting… but not as interesting as the topic at hand.

    “Roman,” Yaro had begun, his harelip quivering slightly as it did when he was nervous. Yaro was rarely nervous, so Roman at once began to pay absolute attention.

    “Roman, we all know that your brother… well, your brother will not be the Duke this duchy needs,” he continued, “Your brother… he has a head for numbers and a fine memory, I’ll give him that. He’s a good swordsman as well, and he’ll make a decent commander most of the time. But he doesn’t have the mind for making decisions quickly and well, and he’s far too honest for his own good.

    “I have been urging your father to encourage Gleb into becoming a man of the cloth, but that bastard Trifon keeps interfering. It’s not that he disagrees with me… everyone knows that Gleb will never make a good Duke. It’s that he dislikes you more. I heard him muttering something about… ah, well, that’s of no concern.

    “What is of concern is what we’re going to do about it. When your father dies, you’ll inherit the counties of Latgale and Vitebsk, according to the current version of his Will. We need to change that. Now, here’s how we’re going to go about…”
    By the time Yaro was done, Roman was nodding slowly in agreement. He was going to enjoy this.

    *****


    Vseslav waved his hand as if swiping away a gnat from the air.

    “Yaro, I have no time for this. I can see your point, but…”

    “My lord, the creation of a new Duchy, consolidated under your banner, would add much prestige to the realm,” wheezed Yaro, “with prestige comes power. You know how the other Rurikovich’s look down upon your family as outsiders. You were the only son of the only son of Iziaslav, brother of Yaroslavl, making you the great-grandson of a King of Kiev while all the other surviving Ruri-“

    “Spare me the history lesson, Yaro! I know as much as you do about my descent, I do not need reminding…” growled Vseslav.

    -on that count I believe you are wrong, my lord- Yaro thought, but he kept that to himself.

    “But… I do see your point Yaro. Perhaps… perhaps it would be for the best… if I can arrange for a change in the succession laws… it would take only a few bribes, a bit of wheedling… I could secure my position for Gleb, and…”

    Yaro let the man drone on. With the Duchy of Vitebsk in Roman’s hands, and himself at Roman’s right hand, he knew that great things could be wrought. And if this man, too obsessed with fatherly love for his eldest to see the truth, got in the way of that… well, such things could be dealt with.



    OOC: I consider this update a bit sloppy. I'm pretty tired but I just wanted to advance the storyline and reveal what I have planned for Roman and Yaropolk. It's shorter than I had planned.

    Also, I just realised how hard writing a story that is going to span decades if not CENTURIES is going to be. Therefore I'm asking you guys whether you want me to go through it quickly, or loiter through and spend several updates building characters, plots and storyline. It's up to you.
    WritAAR of the Week, 5th of March, 2012
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  10. #10
    I think it would be better for you to just focus on the gameplay, and the characters, but not from an overly drawn out story perspective. Focus on attributes, traits, wars, plots, all the tangible game stuff. You're writing's nice, and it would be cool to have both story ( and gameplay notes in parenthesis ) but if you're having a hard time with the story, perhaps it's time to just go through it quickly.

  11. #11
    General Taiisatai64's Avatar
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    Good narrative does not “skip time”. You cannot simply fast forward two or three years without looking clumsy. Therefore the spaces in between in which little happened must be filled in, so I will do my best to do so. Skips may be weeks or months but rarely more than a year without explanation.

    In other news, I was writing from 3:30 in the afternoon until 8:00, and the update got ponderous. I'm therefore splitting it into half. This'll also be my last update for 2-3 days while I play ahead to Vseslav's death.


    *****




    The city of Polotsk, drawn during the 16th century. Significant expansion occurred during the late 15th century, including the building of sturdier walls and renovation of the bridges.

    In the 11th century, the city of Polotsk was a rustic sprawl of housing and hovels, situated in the two crooks where the Polota River (from which the city drew its name) ran into the larger Dvina River, thus splitting the town in half. Joined together by three bridges, the city still developed a sense of division, with one side of the city comprised mainly of hovels and poor quality housing, while the other contained the “middle-class” of citizens; merchants, lesser nobility, priests, and the ducal family. The richer quarter played host to the city keep, a small castle ringed by a low wall roughly 15 feet tall. The castle itself was three stories tall, with one five-story tower and another six-story tower.

    Most of Polotsk’s economy leaned on two things; trade with ships coming up and down the Dvina river, which ran into the Baltic; and fish from the Polota river. The area around the city was used for farming, although the ground was of such poor quality that it could only produce enough food to feed the cities populace, and thus allowed for no trade in foodstuffs. The poor quarter of the city had no protection, not even a low wooden palisade, and was allowed to spread freely, while the rich quarter was protected by a low stone walls roughly eight feet tall, and a palisade of even smaller height fifty feet out from the stone wall. The idea was that any enemy that scaled the palisade would be forced to run fifty feet across open plains under arrow fire before scaling the wall. Polotsk’s defenses were utterly reliant upon the chokepoints provided by its position between the two rivers.

    In comparison with Kiev, Polotsk was an utter backwater. After spending decades as the cultural and political center of the Rus’, and because of its position upon the Dnieper River, running from the Black Sea to the icy north, the city was rich, large, and well-fortified, possessing impressive 30-foot tall walls sitting upon reinforced earthen embankments. Very few hovels could be found in the city, with most of the buildings of sturdy and good construction. Many churches could be found within its walls, and the entire city was shrouded by the shadow of the fortress of Kiev, a very impressive construction far larger than the keep of Polotsk, considered nigh-impregnable.

    By 1068, however, the city was beginning to show the signs of the present disunity among the Rus’. A shanty-town had sprung up outside the walls, and refuse was beginning to foul the river. The city still remained the heart of the Rus, a fact that would not change for years to come.

    It was to this city that Duke Vseslav along with his sons and a large portion of the court travelled in late 1067 to request aid against the Pagan from Duke Iziaslav Rurikovich of Turov, Prince of Kiev and kinsmen to Duke Vseslav. With winter beginning, snowmelt and rainfall had turned the roads between into sludge, and so progress was slow. It took several slow, bitterly cold weeks to reach the city of Kiev, with many of the supply wagons and wheelhouses becoming bogged in the water-drenched dirt of the “highway”.

    - from A History of the Rus', written by Mikhail Petrovich, University of Moscow, Moskva.
    ******


    Vseslav huddled over his horse’s neck, his thick sable cloak barely seeming to keep out the cold and wet. He had suffered similar privation in the past, and supposed he could say he was used to it.
    His son’s and the rest of his entourage, however? Not so much…

    Roman especially. Vseslav was a cold, hard man, but he still cared for his sons, and Roman was especially concerning. The boy may be plotting with that snake Yaropolk (A man too clever for his own good by half, Vseslav thought grimly to himself), but he was still his son.

    I thought that twice… still my son… I must be feeling worse than I thought…

    Vseslav shook his head and looked around. The fog had swept in around them swifter than he would have thought possible, and all he could was the grey outlines of his companions and the vague shape of cobblestones beneath his horse’s hooves. Cobblestones meant they were close, the only cobbled part of this road was near Kiev.

    Looking over his shoulder, Vseslav could see the outline of the wheelhouse and its team of six immense plough-horses. Inside that wheelhouse was his wife Sofia, and Roman, who had taken ill only days after the beginning of the journey. And, of course, Yaropolk, whispering more perverted lies to his wife, no doubt.

    Beside him, a horse nickered, and a pudgy hand reached out to touch him on the shoulder gently. Turning back, Vseslav found Trifon riding beside him, a concerned expression on his face.

    “I am sure Roman will be fine, Ves. Truly.”

    Vseslav nodded slowly, but a thought dawned in his head. What if Trifon had had something to do with Roman’s sickness?

    But surely that was just the paranoia speaking… right?

    ******


    Up ahead of them loomed the gates of Kiev. The fog had faded away an hour ago, leaving a trace of grey mist curling around their horse’s ankles and snaking across the ground, slowly being burned away by the cold winter sun.
    Vseslav waited outside the gates, his face hard and impassive, but his eyes radiating cold anger. At his right hand rode Trifon, at his left rode Sofia, her face pinched with annoyance. Behind them rode Gleb and Roman, Gleb sitting his saddle proudly while Roman sat hunched over, face pale and body shivering, beneath thick layers of fur.

    “Husband, are you going to simply accept this injustice?” Sofia spat, her face twisted with anger… most of it directed at her husband.

    Vseslav simply stared onwards. It was only a few minutes before the gates finally opened with a ponderous groan, and a welcoming party of thirty or so riders sallied forth. At their head was Iziaslav, bedecked in sable cloak with crimson trim and silken clothes. Izia was anything but modest, Vseslav knew.

    Putting his heels to his horse’s flanks, Vseslav rode forward to meet Izia. The man had a haughty look on his face that Vseslav couldn’t help but find intolerable. He had despised Izia the moment he first laid eyes on him, now that was morphing into hatred.



    “Ah, cousin Ves!” called Izia, laughter dancing in his eyes. He looked around at the cronies he had brought with him, a smile flickering across his face. Vseslav marked those men who smiled back before turning his cold gaze upon Izia.
    “Cousin Izia. It is such a pleasure to see you again,” Vseslav put as much contempt as he could into those words. You bloody fool, he berated himself, you must be diplomatic with this strutting popinjay, or you will never get the aid you need.

    “Oh, Ves, I’m sorry I kept you waiting. I had an important court function to attend, and… oh, I will not bore you with the details…”

    Arrogant fool, Vseslav thought, he knows I have no choice but to accept his lies, but he could have at least had the respect to make the lie believable.

    “Of course, Izia. I forgive you. Shall we?” Vseslav motioned towards the gate.

    Iziaslav motioned with his hand, and the party reorganized itself and began to ride began into the city beside Vseslav and his companions. Izia remained beside Vseslav, a broad-shouldered, balding hulk of a man riding behind him, greatsword slung over his shoulder. The man wore no armor, but Vseslav assumed he was Izia’s bodyguard.

    “You are lucky, cousin,” Izia began, a trace of contempt filtering into his voice, “we have suitable accommodations available for you and your party. They used to belong to the Byzantine ambassador and his companions, but they departed just a few months ago –“ Probably left after they realized just how ineffectual this Prince of Kiev really was – “and their quarters have been vacant since. I truly do hope they will serve you. I will have a servant take you there as soon as we reach the keep.”

    “Izia, I had hoped we could talk first. This is truly not something that can wait, we must-“

    Vseslav cut off as Izia glared at him angrily before snapping his attention back to the street. Around them, the street was bustling with people, but they kept a wary distance from the column of riders and wagons.

    “I… you will have to wait, Ves,” Izia’s voice was tight with anger. Vseslav wondered at that… “there are some issues of importance that have cropped up, and…”

    They rode the rest of the way in awkward silence, the courtiers behind them and the peasants around them making up for it with a general uproar of sound and joviality. The only people who seemed to noticed the anger that tightened Izia’s face was Vseslav himself… and the man who rode behind them, who Vseslav had taken for a bodyguard.

    *****




    The Duchess Sofia

    The quarters they were given did indeed look as if they had been vacant for several months. Vacant and uncared for.

    Vseslav and his family had been given a small wing on the second floor of the keep for themselves, with the rest of his party not far away, in a far larger wing of the floor.

    The rooms had obviously once been lush, but mold, moths and dust had gotten at the furnishings, tapestries and carpets. They would serve, he supposed, but this was… insulting, to say the least. Deeply insulting.

    Turning, Vseslav saw the pale, thin face of Roman, huddled against his mother. Her pinched face was regarding him with the usual hostility.

    “Are you just going to let him do this to us?” she said, her voice emanating ice and winter.

    “What choice do we have?”
    Last edited by Taiisatai64; 20-02-2012 at 04:45.

  12. #12
    People's Commissar of the Navy Demi Moderator Avindian's Avatar
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    I decided to try my own game at reforming Kievan Rus', but with the Duchy of Kiev (I changed capitals from the Duchy that has it at game start... memory escapes me). Thanks for the idea and keep up the good work!
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  13. #13
    Field Marshal loki100's Avatar
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    nice update, you're developing this really well

  14. #14
    First Lieutenant madtemplar0's Avatar
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    Wow. Nice work. You're honestly one of the better writers I've come across on these forums, and I've read quite a few AARs. Keep it up! I'll definitely be following.
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  15. #15
    General Taiisatai64's Avatar
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    Avindian; Duchy of Galich, I think it is. They're bright pink at the start and the AI always changes to the Duchy of Turov on day one Guess they just don't like the color either.

    loki; thanks

    madtemplar; wow, thank you! That's a nice confidence boost, I have to say. I was starting to worry that my narrative skills weren't up to par, actually.
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  16. #16
    General Taiisatai64's Avatar
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    Dinner that evening was perhaps even more insulting than the accommodations they had been given. Greasy bacon, accompanied by boiled vegetables and old, salted pork were all they were given, along with apologies over the state of the food.

    “A bad harvest, you understand?” the vapidly-smiling chamberlain had said as way of apology.

    The same had been provided for breakfast. Trifon had taken one look at it and ordered his manservant to bring up some rations from the supply wagons, his stomach grumbling in protest, but he thought that it would be protesting worse if he tried to eat what lay on the table. Salted meat and hardtack would have to do.

    Following breakfast, Trifon decided it was time to pay a visit to Vseslav. At least it would get him out of these musty quarters; the mold and dust was making him sneeze and sniffle, and he felt a touch lightheaded from it. Personally, he hoped they had given Ves better accommodations, what with Roman’s sickness and all. Not to mention that such further insult was likely to get Ves’s blood running hot, and Vseslav had a mighty temper on him when driven to it. A simply sinful temper, Trifon supposed you could say.

    Never-the-less, Trifon had had barely any opportunity to speak with Ves since they had arrived, and the journey here had been one long horse-ride in the freezing cold that had left Trifon too miserable to speak most of the time. His legs still hurt from that, a deep aching pain that infected his joints and made his knees creak with every movement.

    Now he waddled down the corridor towards the guest wing where Vseslav and his family were staying. The corridor seemed to be empty – in more ways than one, with no tapestries on the walls and a very plain carpet on the floor, and the only light coming from arrow slits in the wall to his right that threw cold beams of light upon the ground and created a twisted shadow pantomime of Trifon’s body as he walked through them. On his left were deep set doorways leading into other rooms, most of which were now occupied by Vseslav’s party.

    It was these doorways that had tricked him into the false sense of aloneness, and it came as a shocking surprise when the shadows in one of these doorways suddenly moved and stepped to grab his shoulder. With a squeak of surprise, Trifon stumbled backwards, only to be steadied by the large, meaty hand on his shoulder. Heart hammering, Trifon looked up into dark grey eyes beneath a mop of black hair, and a head set on the broad shoulders of a warrior. This man was wearing a deep sable cloak trimmed with some kind of dark-grey fur (Wolf fur, Trifon realized with demented clarity), and the hood was up so it covered most of his face in shadow, which was why Trifon had not seen him until he moved.

    “I didn’t mean to startle you,” the warrior grunted, then narrowed his eyes as he looked at Trifon, “I hope I’m not mistaken. You’re the cherub, ain’t you?” His voice was thick with an accent, Bulgarian if Trifon wasn’t mistaken.

    Trifon nodded slowly, but his eyes flickered slightly with anger. He hated that nickname. Men had started calling him that as soon as he took up his calling in the priesthood (”The dwarf priest,” they’d snicker, ”can’t call him an imp anymore, can we?” To which the other would reply, ”No, but we can call him the cherubim!”)

    “Good. I need to speak t’ you. Men are telling me you have the ol’ Duke’s ear, and I can’t speak to him right now, not while Prince Rooster’s talking to him. Probably not while he’s in the city, neither. Rooster wouldn’t like that. Prob’ly would think your lord was trying to steal my “service”, not that I have a contract with him at all.

    “I has a warnin’ for you,” the man spoke in a growling drawl, like some kind of bear given human tongue, “you and your lord. He won’t find no help here. Izia’s looking out from himself and himself only. Still thinks that with enough mercs he’d be able to reform the Rus’ and rule in truth as well as name. I came ‘ere on contract, and what does he do with me? Tells me to sit and wait, and I won’t be getting any pay nor me men get any pay until he bloody well decides he wants a war with some Duke or another. Now I say your Duke, he needs me more, and he’d be willing to pay me, ‘cause he actually needs the help. I ain’t serving Prince Rooster hand and foot no more, you understand?

    “So, why don’t you go and you tell Duke Winter about my proposition, ‘cause as I said, he won’t be getting any help ‘ere.”

    *******



    Meanwhile, at about this time, Vseslav was sitting in shocked silence in his chamber, having just learned the vicious truth behind the words of Ljubomir, Captain of the Bulgarian Band mercenary group.

    He had been served the same breakfast as Trifon, but unlike Trifon the servants had provided it at the very crack of dawn, and woken him up at the same time. He was tired and grumpy, and when he had seen the food… well, he had become a bit angry, he supposed, but he couldn’t remember pinning the servant up against the wall or throwing the plate out the closed window, but he supposed he must have. Sofia had said so.

    Still, after his rage had passed, he had ultimately come to the same conclusion as Trifon, and sent for rations from the supply wagons. After an awkward breakfast around a table five times too large, with Roman huddled over his food, coughing, snuffling and sneezing and shrouded in so many furs Vseslav wondered how the boy could stand, and Gleb sullenly picking away at the hardtack that sat on his plate while Sofia stared daggers into Vseslav from the other side of the table, Vseslav had grabbed a servant as he passed the rooms and told him to send a message to Izia, begging audience.

    While he waited, Vseslav wondered how his other three boys were getting along. Davyd and Sviatoslav had been fine the last time he saw them, fine friends who knew how to keep out from underfoot when it came to people of import but always seemed to be a constant nuisance to the servants and kitchen maids, and little Rogvolod had just begun to speak his first words when they left for Kiev. For all Vseslav knew, the little guy could be walking around by now. The thought of missing his first steps made him melancholy.

    The sun had been a fine way above the horizon when Iziaslav finally arrived, several guardsmen and courtiers in train. Sofia had left, though Vseslav didn’t know where she had gone, while Roman had gone to visit with Yaropolk and Gleb to see Iziaslav, the marshal, not the Prince, and so Vseslav was on his own when Izia stepped through the door with an elaborate flourish of his crimson with cyan-trim cloak.

    At first, the visit had seemed to be going well. Izia had greeted Vseslav with civility, despite a slight glint of anger in his eyes. Vseslav had returned the favor, and they had sat down at a small table in the corner of the room to discuss business.
    Vseslav had begun to argue the merits of wiping out the pagan tribes once and for all (Using lines such as ”To protect the integrity of the Rus’… and ”As Prince of Kiev, it is your responsibility as well as mine…”) when it happened.
    At first Vseslav had thought Izia was in some kind of pain. His face had locked into a snarl, and a low whine was emerging from his throat. He had then discarded that idea with one look at Izia’s eyes. They radiated hatred and… something else… outrage?

    Then Izia had surged to his feet and slammed his fist down on the table.

    COUSIN!” he had roared, his face bestial with fury, “DO NOT PLAY ME FOR A FOOL! I know all about your plans, you sniveling cur, and you will not take Kiev away from me!”

    At this, Vseslav had held up his hands in a pleading gesture, his face conveying pure shock. Izia had seized upon that with a vengeance.

    “Do not look so shocked, cousin. Oh yes, you thought yourself so smart, didn’t you, plotting to steal my throne from me. The Rus’ is mine, you lickspittle, and no distant cousin of the true Rurikovich line is going to take that away from me. You may go back to your pathetic backwater duchy and fight pagans for as long as you like, hm? But do not presume to tell me what my responsibility is. The pagans became your responsibility when you became Duke of Polotsk, a title far too prestigious for someone as lowborn as yourself! A great-grand-son of the Prince of Kiev deserves less than that while true sons of the Prince live in poverty!”

    Vseslav had tried appealing to Izia’s reason, but he had simply stormed out. As he reached the door, he had turned around and spat upon the floor, then spun and left, his rich, silken cloak billowing out behind him.

    Now Vseslav had time to ponder the implications of this. Yes, he had discussed ideas with his Chancellor of finding some kind of claim upon Kiev. But he had never intended to put such discussions into action. Never.

    A tap on the doorframe brought him back to the present. Looking up, he saw Trifon standing in the door next to the bodyguard from yesterdays ride into the city.

    “Ves?” said Trifon questioningly. He could see the distress on his face, “I have brought you someone who will take up our cause. Err…”

    Vseslav had never seen Trifon so unsure, but he looked towards the hulking warrior who stood in his door inquiringly. The man stepped forwards, and, in a voice thickly tarnished by the accents of Bulgaria, rumbled out, “It is a pleasure to meet you, Duke Winter. I am Captain Ljubomir, of the Bulgarian Band. I had heard you were in need of some help, and I’m just the man to provide.”


    The remains of the Fortress of Kiev, present-day. The fortress was rebuilt after the Sacking.
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  17. #17
    King of Spades Jestor's Avatar
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    An enjoyable read thus far. However, I want to quibble slightly with one thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Taiisatai64 View Post
    [font=book antiqua][size=3][i]Good narrative does not “skip time”. You cannot simply fast forward two or three years without looking clumsy.
    It depends entirely on the terms established by the narrative. Certain stories necessitate a leap across large gaps of time to prevent a too slowly-paced story that gets bogged down in irrelevant minutia.
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  18. #18
    General Taiisatai64's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jestor View Post
    It depends entirely on the terms established by the narrative. Certain stories necessitate a leap across large gaps of time to prevent a too slowly-paced story that gets bogged down in irrelevant minutia.
    You're absolutely right, I guess I was over-generalising. What I meant was that the leap can't simply occur, it must be a part of the ongoing narrative, for example, the writer describes a routine and then establishes that this was the routine that was used by the protaganist "all through the summer", while describing some important events that occured during the summer. This way, we go through this summer without describing every day the protaganist went through in any kind of detail because we already know what happened on most days. I used this in the History of the Rus' segment of the previous update; we skipped a month or two of playtime where the routine was "travelling in cold misery" then recapped anything important that happened during the journey (Roman's sickness) at the end of it, and in this same way I will skip another month or two for the return journey.

    In my Knights of Saint John AAR, I didn't follow this rule, and the narrative was clumsy because of it. I skipped large chunks of time without explanation and then explained it through quasi-flashback, it just didn't look good, so I refuse to make the same mistake here. If something doesn't happen for several years, I'll continue the narrative through another history book section instead of narrative format, but I won't skip ahead and do what I did in Knights of Saint John.

    Also, to anyone else reading this, I really appreciate constructive criticism. I always endeavour to improve my writing, and if you can help me do that, please just offer your suggestions
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  19. #19
    Field Marshal loki100's Avatar
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    well as I've said, I really like this. I'm a sucker for Rurikovich based CK AARs, and I like narrative AARs too.

    As to what to do in gaps ... it really depends. But moving mildy off that fence, in a History Book you need to acknowledge it in some way. Even if just to say that not much happened (& for eg any game of EU3 will have a period like this when infamy/stability/regency conspire to force you to draw breath for a while). Narrative i think you've got roughly two options. Your readers are looking for logic around the main story line, not for logic around a time line. So you can sometimes just skip a block and carry on. This works well if you are stressing some themes over others (so if your focus is a character, or domestic events for example).

    You don't need to tell everything in the AAR for it to work (even if you are doing a gameplay AAR, unless it is designed as a 'how-to').

    Above what works well is the concentration on two characters and the cross over between them. As a reader I don't care about time as such, I care about the interaction. You could pick it up 6 months later in another post and as long as the logic of a plot that has gone too far to be put aside is maintained (even if you find a way to say it has), I don't actually need to know about other things that happened.

    Not sure these ramblings help but I'd agree with Jestor, you can skip large chunks with no need to cover if they sit to the side of the central narrative.

  20. #20
    Amazing, very nice narrative, I'm liking the feud.

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