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Thread: The Chronicles of the Golden Cross Redux

  1. #41
    Honourable Saxon Thegn AlexanderPrimus's Avatar
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    FOR THE THRONE




    1181

    Saladin invaded almost immediately, sending three massive armies to put the fear of Allah into the wayward Franks. A small force from the southeastern deserts moved right away to besiege Reynald’s fortress at Kerak, while a much larger host crossed the Sinai to join them. The third army hailed from Damascus and moved down from the northeast, besieging Safed along the way.

    King Baldwin called up all of the realm’s levies in response to the threat, though his forces still appeared to be outnumbered. One major reason for this soon became clear: a missive from Raymond of Tiberias arrived, declaring that he would be unable to answer the royal call to arms, as he was already dealing with problems of his own. His armies were embroiled in an assault upon Masyaf, the neighboring stronghold of the dreaded Hashishin, and could be of no help in any military matters farther south.

    What this conveyed to me was that since his counsel to avoid provoking the Saracens had been ignored, Tiberias had decided to leave the rest of the kingdom to face the wrath of Salah ad-Din alone. In-game he did seem to perpetually have his levies raised, though interestingly he never managed to increase the size of his holdings by much.

    Fortunately for me, Sibylla’s personal levies were already in the field to suppress a small revolt in Ascalon, so I was able to retain control over them. The king was thus only able to raise the levies of Jaffa-Ascalon’s barons and bishops. Fearing that even our combined forces would be unable to cope with Saladin’s vast host, I went to the military menu to look for mercenaries. Sadly, there were next to none available. The two companies that were listed had already seen recent action, probably with the Byzantines, and were badly mauled. Luckily, mercenaries are not the only extra troops available to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. It’s a good thing Baldwin was such a devout king, because he had plenty of piety stored up to recruit the services of the Templars and Hospitallers. Each order brought a body of troops larger than Baldwin’s initial army, so Jerusalem’s forces were more than tripled by their arrival.

    Therefore it was left to the combined armies of Jerusalem, Jaffa-Ascalon and the knightly orders to save Reynald de Chatillon from his well-deserved fate. I had half a mind to abandon the old fool to Saladin’s vengeance, except I knew I would want the support of his lands down the line should Sibylla become queen, and I knew it would be much, much harder to pry them from Saladin’s clutches than from Reynald’s.

    Thus my armies went forth to defend the honor of the throne of Jerusalem, not to save a bloated, impetuous vassal who was more trouble than he was worth.

    Rather than sending Sibylla’s modest contingent into battle by itself, I decided to wait and see what the king’s much larger host would do and then follow it to serve as reinforcements. Baldwin’s army moved south, not towards the embattled garrison at Kerak, but towards the Sinai to head off Saladin’s encroaching army. The Saracens were laying siege to one of Sibylla’s holdings at Darum, but rather than raise the siege, Baldwin made a feint towards Balian’s fortress at Beersheba. I followed suit, and sure enough the Saracen army assumed we were marching to lift the siege of Kerak and broke off the siege of Darum to pursue us.

    It was at the Battle of Beersheba that I was first able to see Richard the Lionhearted in action. As was appropriate, I had appointed him to command the center of Jaffa-Ascalon's contingent, and he did not disappoint. The two armies were fairly evenly matched until Richard arrived with the reinforcements and swiftly turned the tide of the battle. The Saracens were decimated and the combined Jerusalem/Jaffa-Ascalon forces were able to move on to Kerak unmolested.

    In the meantime, the large Damascene army had moved south from Safed and joined in the siege. I was somewhat concerned because the numbers of the united Saracen host were still larger than the crusaders’ army, but my fears proved unfounded.



    With no apparent concern for their own safety, Richard and a small band of his knights broke through the Saracen hosts and rode right up to the gates of Kerak, shouting at the defenders to sally forth and join the battle, for God’s sake. The sight of the dashing Richard, his familiar crimson tabard soaked a deeper shade of red by the blood of his enemies, rallied Reynald’s embattled garrison enough for them to join the fighting at a pivotal moment and weaken the resolve of their attackers.

    The tables had turned, and the battle began to move in favor of the Christians. Their enemy still outnumbered them, but the added weight of all the Templars' and Hospitallers' heavy cavalry made a big difference against Saladin's thousands of badly-armored peasant levies.

    Yet more than anything, credit for the final victory really lies with Richard’s brilliant command of the right flank. He smashed through the Saracen left in a matter of minutes and then joined Balian of Ibelin in pressuring the enemy center. That eventually collapsed as well, leaving the Saracen right flank to be cut to pieces without any support.

    Jerusalem’s victory was complete, but Saladin still had yet more troops arriving from the more distant reaches of his empire, and the crusaders’ numbers were dwindling every day with no hope of reinforcement. Therefore when Saladin proposed a white peace I accepted it gladly. I suppose I could have fought on, but he had more resources and manpower. Saladin would have won in the end and Jerusalem would likely have had to give up some territory. Better to quit while we were ahead.

    So King Baldwin rode out to Saladin to discuss the terms of peace, and the two spoke privately for almost an hour. The Saracens then withdrew without comment, while the crusaders returned to the benighted citadel of Kerak.



    Saladin had agreed to withdraw on the premise that Reynald be sorely punished for his many crimes. So in a rare display of ire, the leper king berated Reynald for his foolhardiness, slapping him across the face repeatedly and forcing him to grovel in the dirt for his life. After this public humiliation the simpering Reynald was permitted to retain his holdings, but Baldwin was so exhausted from the exertion of that encounter that he collapsed and became bed-ridden for several months.

    ***


    1182

    The war with Saladin had been a very narrow thing. Although the enemy ultimately withdrew from the field, it was no victory. Everyone knew that Jerusalem had come painfully close to utter defeat. And having Richard follow Baldwin around to bail him out in every battle that could follow didn’t seem to be the best long-term strategy.

    It was time for Sibylla to be a little bit more assertive.



    I’m sure Sibylla probably felt a twinge of guilt at plotting to depose her dear younger brother, but the matter was easy enough to rationalize as being for the good of the kingdom. After all, Baldwin likely did not have long to live, and Jerusalem had already come perilously close to the brink of destruction one time too many.

    However, inviting co-conspirators to the plot was not going to be so easy this time around. Only upper tier nobles were available for recruitment, and many of those were still loyal to the dying leper king or at least wished him no harm. Anyone interested in sponsoring a regime change was going to require more than Sibylla’s good will to motivate them. Sibylla’s mother Agnes de Courtenay was out. Not only was she landless, but she was Baldwin’s mother as well and would not betray him. Richard was complicit of course, and made for an easy invitation. (Although truthfully I played this event both before and after the patch and he was only available to invite to the plot once.) Raymond of Tiberias remained disinterested and contemptuous, and Balian of Ibelin was still loyal to King Baldwin. None of the foreign princes were interested in becoming a party to their guile -- not Richard’s father, the English King Henry II, not the Prince of Antioch, and certainly not the distant Byzantine Emperor. Without the support of additional conspirators the plot percentage remained too low to enact it.

    There was only one choice left, one other landholder who would be willing to support the plot. I had to make a deal with the devil.

    Etienette de Milly accepted the plan quite readily on behalf of her slighted husband, Reynald de Chatillon. The two of them were quite eager for retribution against the Leper King for the degradation he had heaped upon Reynald after the Battle of Kerak. So while the ambitious Princess had gained their support, these dangerous allies now presented a different sort of problem: Sibylla would be in their debt, which would not bode well for the future.

    Isn't it interesting how decisions made for the sake of pragmatism can be so ironic?

    In the meantime, with Reynald’s lands coupled with Sibylla’s, nearly half the kingdom was laid against the current regime. The percentage was high enough to risk it, and I accepted the mission to send King Baldwin a letter of rebellion. (Why the game mechanism is to send a challenging letter rather than launching a palace coup I don’t know.) Lacking both the political support and the personal strength to oppose the conspiracy, King Baldwin acquiesced to their demands from his sickbed. He was to retain all of his personal lands and holdings for the duration of his life, but would surrender the crown to his elder sister.

    Baldwin’s declining health was cited as the official reason for the regime change, although the other vassals certainly maintained their suspicions. Regardless, they all respectfully attended the joint coronation, all except for Raymond of Tiberias that is, who once again referenced his ongoing war against the Hashishin as an excuse for his failure to attend. King Baldwin was also absent, both as a matter of protocol and one of practicality. It would not do to have an abdicated sovereign present for the coronation of his successor, and he was far too ill to attend even if he wished.

    Sibylla was the picture of demurity as Patriarch Heraclius laid the crown upon her brow. Whether or not she harbored any reservations about the manner in which she was to succeed her brother remained a mystery, as her expression was totally inscrutable. However, when it was Richard’s turn to play at coronation, his behavior was unsurprisingly typical. He plucked the crown from the Patriarch’s frail grasp as if it were just another bauble and placed it on his own head with a self-satisfied grin. All in attendance lauded their new King-Consort and Queen with the appropriate pomp and plaudits, though an uneasy air remained despite the magnificence of the occasion.

    And that’s how in the year 1182, Richard and Sibylla obtained the throne of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.





    ***

  2. #42
    Field Marshal naggy's Avatar
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    Whew. I was imagining the chaos if Richard dies or is maimed in the first battle.

  3. #43
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    What do I see here? The Chronicles of the Golden Cross.... REDUX?!

    It's great to see you writing again! And once more I will follow.
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  4. #44
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    I can't believe I haven't commented here yet, but I'm really enjoying this so far! Keep up the good work!
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  5. #45
    Honourable Saxon Thegn AlexanderPrimus's Avatar
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    naggy: No kidding. Still, if I want to roleplay Richard properly, he's got to be brave to the point of recklessness. I fully expect that his luck will run out someday and he'll get himself killed as in real life at Chalus.

    Deamon: Welcome back! Your enthusiasm is very refreshing. I hope it's contagious too.

    Avindian: Welcome aboard. Glad to have you along for the ride.

  6. #46
    Second Lieutenant JackTheRipper21's Avatar
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    Ohh never was around to read the Chronicles of the Golden Cross ,but I enjoyed your interim(s) in Rome Aarisen. I will be following this AAR as well.
    Last edited by JackTheRipper21; 23-02-2012 at 09:47.

  7. #47
    Field Marshal loki100's Avatar
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    nice stuff, a hard fought war and a rather juicy plot
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  8. #48
    Blasted Conniving Roman General_BT's Avatar
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    King Richard of Jerusalem? It has a nice ring to it. And I certainly understand Sibylla's (and your) emotions regarding the AI squatting between you and having control of the Kingdom (and the ability to run it decently). Here's to this Jerusalem being more successful than your last (and certainly most successful than real life!)!
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  9. #49
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    Lovely update. Now that Sibylla has the Holy Sepulchre she can perhaps turn her designs to restoring the rest of the Patriarchs to proper Frankish dominion.

    Also, how do the snake-like Kommenids see this desert viper? Will they be intervening for the "good of the Oikumene" soon?
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  10. #50
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    Another excellent update!
    I'm actually a teeny bit disappointed that your plot didn't fail, giving you the opportunity to portray Baldwin as a magnificent bastard who could easily foil his sister's intrigues even when he's dying.
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  11. #51
    Basileus Romaion Nikolai's Avatar
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    A return of the Chronicles, excellent. And with Richard the Lionheart as king? Brilliant.
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  12. #52
    Pantomacatalasecesionanis ta

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    A pity that Baldwin had to end deposed like that. He deserved another fate, but life is hard even for kings.
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  13. #53
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    Following this, Alexander, good work.
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  14. #54
    A fantastic read so far. Can't wait for the next installment!

  15. #55
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    Yep, I'm as well eagerly awaiting the next parts of the story. Very well done so far.
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  16. #56
    Honourable Saxon Thegn AlexanderPrimus's Avatar
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    JackTheRipper21: Thanks! Feel free to read my other stuff (linked in my sig) if you want.

    loki100: Thank you. I aim to please.

    General_BT: Indeed. I'm afraid Baldwin's AI was not the wisest I've ever seen. I hope the kingdom succeeds as well, though the chances of it exceeding the first Chronicles aren't likely. Guy de Lusignan just did ridiculously well in that game, but that's because it was possible to do some pretty crazy things in CK1. (Like Guy besieging Baghdad, I mean really?!)

    Bagricula: Well, crusader Antioch already has a Latin patriarchate as well, so that just leaves Constantinople (improbable, barring a Fourth Crusade-type debacle) and Alexandria (not going to happen -- Saladin would rip my face off). As for the Byanztines, they have bigger problems of their own than little old me. The wily Emperor Manuel just died, and the Seljuk Turks are keeping Romaion very busy indeed.

    Eams: Good point. Though there was little he could do to resist with his ailing health.

    Nikolai: Welcome my friend, and thank you. Glad to have you on board!

    Kurt_Steiner: Indeed. Just imagine what kind of king he could have been had he not suffered from leprosy, for example.

    koningtiger: Thanks! Glad to have you.

    NICK_GIFF: Thank you. I'll do my best.

    Arrianus: Thanks to you as well. I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

  17. #57
    You'll have difficulty surviving as the KoJ. All my attempts have ended in failure even on normal difficulty, although I was trying with a 1090s start. Maybe it's easier in the 1180s.

    Advice from my experience:

    1. Abuse the heck out of the holy orders. They are your best friends. They are big armies available for cheap if defending against heathens and they punch well above their weight with all the heavy cavalry.

    2. Don't overextend yourself. My last KoJ fell apart after almost taking Damascus (ironic). If your levies get too low (or maybe even if they are all called up) the entire Middle East will smell blood and pounce. You can survive for a good long time and gain lots of gold from failed jihad attempts, but eventually you will get worn down. This is compounded by the fact that so few mercenary bands are available to you, so you can't quickly convert the gold into troops. My advice would be to try to dump all the heathen's gold into castle upgrades.

    3. Ally with some big powers if at all possible - France, HRE, ERE, etc.
    Last edited by OutsiderSubtype; 23-02-2012 at 20:13.

  18. #58
    Honourable Saxon Thegn AlexanderPrimus's Avatar
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    OutsiderSubtype: Hello there, and welcome to the AAR! That's some solid advice you have there. As for your three main points: yep, yep and yep. The holy orders will be in near constant use, the levies and castles must remain strong, and I have plans for a marriage alliance with the Hohenstaufens down the line (once there's an heir to marry off, that is). For those of you still around who remember the first Chronicles, does that thought ring any bells?

  19. #59
    Honourable Saxon Thegn AlexanderPrimus's Avatar
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    EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY




    1183

    I had succeeded in obtaining the crown, although the city of Jerusalem itself was still a part of the ailing Baldwin’s demesne. After briefly appraising the situation, Richard and Sibylla’s first act as monarchs of Jerusalem seemed obvious. Thus I moved immediately to increase the crown authority. Though the vassals grumbled about it, this was a necessary step to secure the kingdom from threats both without and within. More importantly, higher crown authority would be necessary to ultimately change the kingdom inheritance laws from gavelkind to primogeniture, so that the increasing demesne I was building up wouldn’t be whittled away by a gaggle of hungry heirs.

    There was also one fortuitous event that needed exploiting. Sometime during the war with Saladin, the Chancellor had succeeded in fabricating Sibylla’s claim to her uncle Joscelin’s lands at Acre. Of course, the middle of an enemy jihad is not exactly the best time to launch an internecine family war over a single title. Fortunately, now that the kingdom was at peace and Sibylla wore the crown, Joscelin’s title could simply be revoked without a struggle. The peers of the realm did not object, since Sibylla provided a legitimate family claim to the lands in question. So the disappointed Joscelin moped off to his ancestral home in France while the royal demesne was enriched even further. Acre was of prime importance both financially and strategically, and now it was mine.

    With the entire kingdom now answering to Queen Sibylla as her vassals, it was time to do a little rearranging of the court. Having succeeded in buttering up Jaffa-Ascalon’s bishops (and thus ensuring that their tithes went to the royal coffers and not the Pope’s), the Chaplain was reassigned to proselytizing duty to convert the local Muslim population to Christianity. The Steward had managed to wring out plenty of tithes from Jaffa, though his more recent efforts in Ascalon had produced the revolt I was dealing with when Saladin first invaded. I sent him to Acre to take advantage of this new source of wealth. The Chancellor was sent north to try to improve relations with the influential Raymond of Tiberias and his vassals. The Spymaster accompanied him, in an attempt to stir up some dirt on the crusty old git. Finally Richard, who was still serving as the Marshal, was sent back to Jaffa and placed in charge of training troops. Since he was now actually the King-Consort of Jerusalem, I assumed that he was simply having his personal retinue of men-at-arms train the local levies in proper combat skills.

    Kings have far better things to do with their time.



    Speaking of which, around this time I received the joyous news that Sibylla was finally pregnant. This was cause for a celebration. I selected the kingdom decision to hold a grand feast. Fortunately I had a good lump of cash on hand, both from my frugality in the initial years ruling Jaffa-Ascalon and now from the additional taxes coming in from the whole kingdom (as well as the favorably-minded clergy). A handful of events popped up offering various entertainers, musicians and so forth that could be hired for the feast, and I made sure that Sibylla spared no expense.

    When the matter of providing meat for the feast came up, I selected the option to have the Marshal lead a hunt. I could easily imagine Richard and his men rampaging through the hills, slaughtering every bit of game that crossed their paths. Suffice it to say, the feast was well stocked with every delicacy that could be imagined.

    It was now time to send forth the invitations, which went out to every vassal of the realm, both high and low. Baldwin of course declined due to his ill health, as did some lesser mayors and barons whose opinion didn’t matter anyway. Raymond of Tiberias actually accepted, surprisingly. It seemed he was always far too busy to come down when his assistance was required, but when there was free food involved, well, that was another matter.



    The feast began quite well. Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem praised the food, earning him a curt nod from Richard and a beaming smile from Sibylla. The expensive entertainers were worth their weight in gold, earning the new king and queen a handy prestige hike for their troubles. Unfortunately, it was not to last. I should have counted on trouble when I saw that Reynald de Chatillon had accepted the invitation.

    Jerusalem’s resident slovenly, drunken maniac began ranting about some trifling offense that was done to him by a petty knight. His rival demanded immediate satisfaction, only to be caught off guard when Reynald leapt over the banqueting table and stabbed him to death with his dinner knife. Outraged at the disruption, Richard ordered the guards to seize the offending lout, but the inebriated Reynald challenged him loudly. Just what exactly did the new King and Queen think they were going to do about it? They owed Reynald for his assistance in gaining them the throne, and it would look very bad if they were to abandon their biggest supporter over such a small matter as a little dining room murder.



    Richard growled in disgust, but Sibylla adroitly demurred and released the swine to return home to his miserable castle. She then made sure that all of the servants and other witnesses to the crime received hefty bribes to keep their mouths shut, while the major vassals got an important reminder that supporting the crown could prove very beneficial in times of need. And after all of that, Sibylla received the “Just” trait. It is so amusing sometimes how the events work in this game, isn’t it?

    ***


    1184

    As the new year commenced, word reached the royal court that the retired King Baldwin was breathing his last. Queen Sibylla hurried to her dying brother’s bedside to be with him in his final hours. No record survives of what was spoken during that time, although I would like to think that words of healing and forgiveness were spoken as the two siblings were reconciled.

    And so it was that in 1184, just ten years after he had inherited the crown of Jerusalem as a boy of thirteen, Baldwin the Leper passed from this life into the realm beyond. He was only twenty-four. Sibylla emerged from his chambers having inherited all her brother's claims and titles, including the Counties of Hebron and Irbid, the Barony of Ramla, and the Holy City of Jerusalem itself.



    With the Eternal City now in their direct possession, Richard and Sibylla set about relocating their court to the royal quarters there. I love that relocating the capital is now an option in the game -- I hated how in CK1, if some backwater noble suddenly inherited the crown, the capital city would relocated to his podunk territories rather than just having him make the sensible move into the palace as would be appropriate.

    My monthly income was now nearly doubled from this added surfeit of holdings, although there were still bishops in the new territories whose support would need to be carefully wooed away from the Papacy.

    I also noticed around this time that there was a warning that certain lands might pass out of my kingdom upon the death of a vassal. The crown authority in Jerusalem was not yet high enough to prevent that sort of thing. The noble in question was none other than the childless Raymond of Tiberias, whose heir was his distant cousin, the Count of Toulouse back in the West. I actually tested it out in my playthrough prior to the patch, and sure enough, when Raymond died, nearly half of the kingdom was frittered away to some useless Occitan twit in the Kingdom of France. I could certainly press a de jure claim to the lands, but I would have to start a war with King Philip Augustus over it, and he had at his disposal more soldiers and income as well as a higher crown authority, while Richard and Sibylla were stuck surrounded by enemy Muslims with their only allies being knightly orders who refused to fight other Christians.

    In other words, under no circumstances could I permit Raymond to die without an heir. His forty-something wife Eschiva of Galilee was unfortunately both barren and menopausal and, barring a miracle, would not be producing an heir any time soon. However, before engaging in any rash actions, I needed to make sure that no lands would be lost from her inheritance. She was after all the Princess of Galilee, and Raymond ruled in Tiberias jure uxoris (or by right of his marriage to her). Fortunately she was the last of her kin, they all having died in years past, so that Raymond was now her only heir. That was good news. What was bad news, at least for Eschiva, was that Sibylla’s Spymaster was still dinking around in the north.

    Poor Eschiva was offered a delectable new local jallab, but something in the date syrup did not agree with her and she immediately fell ill. She had remarked that the drink was unusually fragrant, chalking it up to all the wonderful spices available in the prosperous east. Alas, she took a turn for the worse and the "illness" proved to be her last. Raymond did not have long to grieve, however, because a messenger arrived soon after from Jerusalem with the queen’s most sincere condolences and an appropriate “mourning gift.” The messenger was one of Sibylla’s most supple young handmaidens, and the gift was… well, one of Sibylla’s most supple young handmaidens.

    Raymond accepted the marriage offer without complaint and immediately got to work siring an heir. It was a good thing he had the “Lustful” trait, because his succession would now be ensured: Tripoli and Tiberias would remain within the bounds of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. But perhaps this was not such a good idea. Did I really want half a dozen sullen little Raymonds running around to challenge the as yet unborn child in Sibylla’s womb?

    And then a missive arrived from Kerak: Reynald de Chatillon was calling in his favor. The Lordship of Oultrejordain, he claimed, had always held the rights to the nearby province of Madaba. However, their rightful claims had long since been denied by the reprehensible heathens who occupied the citadel there. This insult had been allowed to go on for far too long, he added, and would Richard and Sibylla please press his claim to these lands by challenging the deplorable Sultan Saladin once again to battle? Reynald and Etienette would be ever so grateful.

    Well darn. Just when things were looking up.




    ***

  20. #60
    From wich film are the images? (especially the first one, and the one with man in metal masque.)
    Thanks!

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