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Thread: The Rules of Sword and Crown - First song of the Capetians

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    The Rules of Sword and Crown - First song of the Capetians

    The Rules of Sword and Crown



    First song of the Capetians







    This will be a tale of Kings and that of High Lords, of sword and lance, and of whispers and daggers in the dark. I will follow the reign of the Capetian Kings of France in their attempts to bring their vassals to heel and to create a strong Kingdom of France, capable of keeping the German scoundrels at bay and bringing the True Faith to the far reaches of the earth.

    Chapters

    Prologue - To Reign... or to be reigned


    Part I - The Burden of Crowns


    Chapter One - Headaches
    Chapter Two - The King's Man
    Chapter Three - Facing the Behemoth
    Chapter Four - Remember that you shall die Part I
    Chapter Five - Remember that you shall die Part II
    Upcoming! Chapter Six - Long is the road...


    Addendum

    Last edited by Apelstav; 20-03-2012 at 02:26.
    I sometimes attempt this whole AAR-writing thing:

    From the Baltic Sea arises 'The Red Griffin' - a narrative/history-book AAR as Sweden [On hold awaiting the release of M&T]

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    Prologue

    To Reign... or to be reigned




    The summer lingered on through September, warm winds from the far off fields of Iberia struggled across the Pyrenees bringing a hint of snow to the cities of of Aquitaine and the Mediterranean coastline. As the wind continued northwards it shook off that slight chill it had brought down from the mountain peaks and instead brought the smell of a thousand late summer flowers, refusing to acknowledge the impending fall and the winter sleep luring around the next corner. Thus the wind came to the walled city of Orleans, where the harvest just were being brought into the city markets and the storehouses of the Lords. In the market people were singing and laughing, for this years harvest had been a good one, and few, if any, were to go hungry this winter, and the warm winds were like a gift from the Lord himself, bringing them this last week of summer to celebrate a good year. Many toasts were dedicated to the Lord Christ, and quite a few were offered to the boy king who's memory would long be held dearly by his subjects thanks to the bountiful years of his reign.

    The wind continued northwards yet, reaching the great, sprawling city of Paris, City of Kings, City of Beauty. In Paris the celebration was even more joyous than that in her smaller sister to the south, and people danced in the streets until the sun finally set and the coming fall were felt in the night chill, and her people sought the warms of the wine houses and hearths of their homes. Yet in Paris there were some whom did not, nay, could not celebrate in the carefree manner of the lowborn. The feast in the king's palace was in all ways magnificent, for the king did not only celebrate a good harvest and a long summer. The king celebrated the end of his mothers regency, and was now to rule in his own right, and thus he celebrated in the way of young men and before the sun had even set he was good drunk on wine and sat singing with his younger brother and a few sons of the great houses of the realm. His mother had withdrawn early, their relation becoming a bit strained the last few months as the king had taken more and more duties off of her. The Duke of Flanders, Baldwin, had left for Flanders a week earlier after a final fallout with young Philippe and his absence had been noted by many of the guests.

    Raoul sighed heavily, and drank down another gulp of wine, a sweet, dark red sent by the Duke of Gascogne, who had not deemed it necessary to return to Paris to celebrate the ascension of his king. Neither had the Duke of Toulouse found it necessary to make an appearance, and had not even sent word explaining his absence. Raoul remembered the uncaring way Philippe had shook off this insult, then sighed again and drank some more wine. The night seemed a good one as any to get thoroughly drunk, yet he was to old and to wary not to keep an suspicious eye on the feast. Many a king had died in their cups, surrounded by friends, and Raoul was intent on not allowing his young liege come to harm while he stood on guard. It was not really the absence of neither de Poitou nor de Toulouse which troubled him most. Not even the exceedingly rich Baldwin concerned him overly much, though the strong relations between Flanders and the Germans always was cause enough to keep a mindful eye on the northern reaches of the kingdom. It was the fourth empty seat at the high table which was the most troubling.

    The Bastard had never truly been a vassal of the king. The Normans never had been, but rather reigned as kings in their own right from their keeps that had spread like weed throughout their domain during the last century. But now the Bastard had amassed a great army, luring many younger sons and petty barons to his cause, and from the reports a fair number of levies from Flanders as well. Of course, the aim of the army was not set towards Paris. The Bastard had no intent upon the throne of France. His gaze was set upon the Isle of Albion, and on Harold Godwinson. Raoul had never taken much interest in the politics of the Saxons. He regarded England, as most of the french nobility did, as nothing but a battleground of the Northern Kings. Surely he had toasted to the name of Edward when he threw out the northerners, as a final nail in the coffin of those who had once been the scourge of France's coast and rivers, but the Saxons own rule had concerned him naught more when they were independent. However, with the Duke of Normandy also ruling as king of his own realm, England suddenly became a impregnable base of operations against the french heartlands. He had tried speaking to Philippe about this many a time, but the king, as always, seemed unconcerned and Raoul could only hope that Philippe would start taking an interest in the welfare of his realm before an army of Norman knights rode down the Seine.




    Medieval depiction of the coronation of Philippe I



    At least the coronation had gone well, and the king had been amiable enough towards those lords who had come to see him crowned. Maybe the uncaring demeanor was just a facade, Raoul wanted it to be so, but he had known the young man from early boyhood and could not truly bring himself to believe such was the case. Suddenly a loud thump was heard from across the hall, prince Hugues had apparently had one cup of wine to many and know sprawled snoring across a table, the young lordlings and the king laughing loudly. Raoul put down his goblet and decided that he had had enough for the evening and quietly moved towards three of the kings guardsmen.

    "You men! Carry the Prince to his chambers. I believe he have had enough," he paused in thought. "And make sure the queen mother does not see him in this state. She is troubled enough."

    The guards nodded, and moved to wake the prince. The boy however was utterly passed out and ultimately they had to gather a few servants so they could carry Hugues on their shoulders. Raoul shook his head, wishing he could smile at the scene as a act of youth's folly, but royalty could not afford such luxuries. He then summoned the captain of Philippe's guard, told the man, a young knight of a low house, to guard the king with his life and then left excusing himself with a inspection of the gate.

    The night had done away with the lingering summer heat and was crisp and cool. The chill somehow served to invigorate Raoul who actually found himself smiling at the feast in the courtyard, surrounding a massive fire, where the servants and most of the guards were singing and dancing. He saw one of his own guardsmen dancing with one of the cooks helps and the carefree joy of these men and women seemed so much more earnest than that of the nobles inside, and much less troubling than that of the king. As he walked across the yard he even found himself whistling with one of the tunes played by one of the many troubadours who had not gained entrance into the king's hall. The music was a virtual cacophony of different songs, and none of the bards actually managed to sing strong enough to be heard over the broken voices of the drunk.

    Finally at the wall he climbed the stairs to the watchtower and found the guards playing dice while keeping an eye on the streets outside.

    "Go!" He told them. "Go and drink and sing. I will keep watch until the next guard changes." The men's faces broke up in big smiles and they almost ran from the tower in their eagerness to get down to the fire. He then looked out over the glowing city beneath the castle and wished that he had brought a wineskin with him to keep warm.

    "So you couldn't stomach it any more either?" The voice came from the shadows on the stairs. Raoul's hand went to his sword by pure instinct but he soon recognized the bent figure emerging into the light. "Our young king at least seems to be enjoying himself, but ah? This is what troubles you old friend, is it not?" The worn face of Robert de Bourgogne looked grim in the light of the torches. "He is not his father's son, is he?"

    "No." Raoul did not like where this conversation was leading. "No. That he is not."

    "Not that old Henri did not have his faults, but I would have wished for someone less... drunk." The old duke laughed a dry little laugh. "Yet he is king. And maybe we can even make him a good king," Raoul finally relaxed at these words and nodded solemnly.

    "Yes. I hope so. We will need a strong king in these times."

    "That we will. I presume that you were no less fooled by the lord's feigned celebration than I? It takes a fool not to notice four of the seven High Lords missing from a coronation feast, and our brethren in the nobility may be much, but they are no fools." Robert sighed. "He could have done so many things to repair it. He could have become wroth with them, or belittled them. Just acknowledging their absence in some way would have been better than this... debacle."

    "So you came out here to share your grief concerning our liege's political sense, is that it? Or maybe just to get some fresh air?"

    "When you are as old as I...", Robert glanced at Raoul. "Well, when your body has gotten as old as mine, you rarely wish for fresh air. The chill bites into my bones in a way I did not think possible ten years ago. No, I came here to speak to you. Were the situation different I would have brought this directly but alas, I think he is beyond comprehending this matter tonight." The bent old man, looked out over the city and suddenly Raoul longed ever more for that wineskin. "The Bastard have set sail."




    Depiction of the Norman fleet from the Westminster Tapestry





    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Floki_Vilgerdarsson.jpg‎  

  3. #3
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    Oh, by the way. If anyone knows if there is a Hi-Res blank map for CKII yet I would be really grateful. Could use the 1024x1024 one but it seems to require a bit of cleaning if it is to be used for smaller regions. I would really like to include quite a lot of maps in the future.

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    Moody and dense. Great start!

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    Thank you! My hope is that it will get moodier and denser still. I've plotted out the first twenty chapters or so which will cover some ten years. Seems kind of necessary so I can keep on playing without forgetting all the twists and turns.

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    During the reign of Philippe in the mid 11th century France was, at least nominally, the mightiest kingdom of Western Europe. However most historians today agree that Philippe hardly could be considered commanding the allegiance of all of his vasalls. The Great Houses of medieval France was during the time virtually independent, and as Philippe's reign he would be in near constant conflict with some of the highest layer of the nobility. We also know that neither the powerful dukes of southern France, Guillame de Pouitou and Guillame de Toulouse, did not attend his coronation, nor did the Duke of Flanders nor William, the Bastard of Normandie. In fact the southern dukes seem to have spent most of Philippe's reign fighting eachother over dominance of a few border castles between Toulouse and Gascogne. The strongest sign of the weakness of the early Capetian kings is maybe the invasion of England by William de Normandie, supported by many of the lower nobility as well by Baldwin van Vlaanderen.

    - Excerpt from 'The Reign of the Early Capetian Kings




    The Realm of France during the 11th century. The vassals considered de facto independent shown in grey, and those loyal to the throne and the King's domain in orange

    Chapter One
    Headaches


    Someone was bashing his head in. Philippe had never been so sure of anything in his entire life but that someone, at this very moment, was bashing his head with a warhammer, yet when opened his eyes the dreaded sight of the guilty marauder was nowhere. However something much, much worse met Philippes eyes at that very moment. Sunlight. The young man groaned and shielded his eyes, trying to see where he was. He had very little memory of the feast the night before, a mix of memories of smiling faces and singing was all he had. No chronology. No meaning. Only pointless glimpses. He sat up in the bed, immediatly regretting this rash decision as the world seem to twirl around him as his guts twirled in an opposite direction. He felt the taste of vomit in the back of his throat. Apparently there was nothing more in his belly to throw up, or at least so he hoped. Philippe looked about him and realised that he had at least reached his own bedchamber the night before, and from the look of it, he had done little else here than simply falling into bed. He tried to call out for the guards that should be stationed outside the door but the only sound he managed was a weak croaking. He coughed violently.

    "Guard!" After the coughing fit he finally managed to cry out, and after just a few moments a man in chainmail entered.

    "Yes, your majesty?"

    "Water... Water now!"

    The guard hurried out of the room, yet Philippe could not help but to notice a faint smile on the man's lips. He should have the man beaten for that. One did not mock a king without answering for it, yet having the man beaten would require him to get up, to walk and after all the guard was getting him water, so Philippe decided to be magnanimous and let this one incident slip for now.

    It was not the guard however who entered the room, but a large man with long greying moustaches and stony eyes. Raoul had always intimidated Philippe, for as long as he could remember. There was just something about the man's simple grey dress and the ease with which he wore the longsword at his side. Somehow the sight of his master-at-arms inflamed Philippe with fury. The king had few teachers he did not silently hate, but Raoul was different in one way. Philippe needed him.

    Unlike what many of his vassals thought Philippe was no fool. He knew that he had been slighted by no less than four of his strongest vassals the day before, and he knew that the ensuing festivities had made many of them think that they too could get away with treating him disrespectfully. This had of course been quite intended, Philippes very own plan to lull them into a false sense of security, and the next act of this play would finally end his charade. He smiled.

    "Have your majesty slept well?" Raoul asked. Philippe tried to see if the warrior was mocking him, but the Marshal of France was as stone faced as ever.

    "I have slept, at least. Last night... last night was a night to be remembered, was it not, old friend?"

    "Yes, your majesty."

    The shortness of Raoul's reply was infuriating. Why had he come here? Was it just a visit to see if his liege was feeling well the day after his coronation? No. Philippe could not believe it. Raoul rarely did anything with out a reason. This the many hours in the yard, training at swords with the man had taught Philippe.

    "What do you want, Raoul? Why do you disturb me at this early hour?"

    "I am sorry your majesty, but it is well past mid-day and the council have been summoned by Duke Robert."

    Robert? That old fart. Whatever could he want? Philippes uncle was one of the few staunch supporters behind the king, or at least so it seemed, and Philippe had fonder memories of him than of any other man he knew. A few years back, when Philippe was but a child and before Robert had taken up his near permanent residence at court, uncle Robert had often visited his young nephew. Robert was the one who had taken Philippe hunting, and he had given the young king his first falcon and his finest destrier. Somehow the old man had changed in the later years, and he now rarely had anything for Philippe but grim tidings of the acts of Philippes vassals. Like I don't know that they are always scheming behind my back? However Philippe knew that he needed Robert as well as he needed Raoul, and he knew that Robert would not summon the council for naught, and so he sent Raoul ahead and summoned a servant who brought him fresh clothes and then went out.

    The council had gathered in the small hall of the castle, the room where the nobles and foreign dignitaries dined when they wished to get away from the bustle of the main hall. The room was sparsely furnished, not meant to impose the king's wealth upon those who entered it, since the only ones who went here were those already in the king's trust. The only table inside had been covered in maps this day and around it was seated both the dukes who had been present at the coronation as well as a few of the court nobles. When Philippe entered they all rose and looked at him.

    "My Lords, Duke Robert, why have you summoned the council?" His uncle looked at him, rubbing his face, looking quite nervous.

    "Your majesty, during the late festivities of last night a rider came from Rouen. It appears that William de Normandie has set sail for England with an army some fifteen thousand strong." Philippe had been expecting this. William had after all been preparing the invasion for months. "My liege," Robert continued. "Duke Folques wishes to invade Normandie, punishing William for his insubordinance. He has offered to provide you with all the men he can muster."

    "And what do you want in return for this... support, Folques?" Philippe looked at the pale duke of Anjou.

    "My liege, you know that the region of Maine rightfully should swear their allegiance to me and not..." Philippe raised his hand to stop the man. He wished to hear none more of this.

    "My Lords. I will not stab William in the back while he is not even in the country. He has been granted the blessing of the Lord Holy Father in Rome for this invasion, and the Bishop of Reims have written to me explaining that the Pope will be most wroth with us if I in any way hinder William in his God granted pursuit." Folques opened his mouth to speak but Philippe continued. "No, I will not oppose the church in this. However it is well that you have gathered here today for there is one man that I wish to be dealt with."

    Robert looked sharply at the young king. Good, Philippe thought. He was not expecting this.

    "Duke Baldwin refused to answer my summon to the coronation. I hereby declare him a traitor to the realm and an outlaw. He is to given no quarter, and all of those who aid him or gives him shelter shall be brought down with him."

    The uproar in the room was quite pleasing. Philippe almost could not help to smile as all of these powerful men tried to make themselves heard over the others, trying to explain the folly of this, to demand that Philippe respect Baldwin's rights. He had been expecting this. A strike against anyone of these men was a strike against them all, and by weakening one they were all weakened. Finally it was Raoul who managed to silence the others and who spoke out.

    "Your majesty, my king, this is not the way. Baldwin left because of a slight and as he has already sworn himself to you, you cannot demand his presence like this." Raoul paused, as if uncertain if it was wise to continue. "The man served as your regent for most of your life, your majesty. Do you really want to go down this road?"

    "He will be brought before me, and you will not aid him, none of you. I am king and I have spoken. And you Raoul, you shall bring him before me. I demand this of you as my marshal. You shall bring him before me or you shall be considered outlawed with him!"
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails GreatHousesofFrancein1066.jpg‎  
    Last edited by Apelstav; 07-03-2012 at 03:29.

  7. #7
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    The persecutions of the southern dutch population by the Frankish kings seem to have roots all the way back and well into the 11th century, and many historians have pointed to the arrest and trial of Baldwin van Vlaanderen as their starting point. Before this it seems as at least the nobility of Flanders was an integrated part of the realm and staunch supporters of the monarchy, visible through several land grants to sons of the lower nobility in service of the kings made by the Flanderian dukes as well as Baldwins service as regent of the realm during Philippe I Capet's infancy. This was to change during the early years of Philippe's reign. One must however remember that this early persecution was not aimed at the general population of the region, but rather the upper strata of the nobility, and the burnings and mock-trials so accosiated with the subject did not occur until at least a century later.

    It is clear that the relations between the regent and the young king soured as Philippe began to take on more and more of the responsibilities of the crown as he matured. The fact that Baldwin did not sign any proclamations at or after the coronation of Philippe have made some historians claim that the duke was not even present at the coronation, and the fact that the trial of the former regent took place only a few months after Philippe's ascension to the throne seem to support this claim.

    The reason for the arrest have however been shrouded in much mystery, as the documents from the trial have been largely lost to history, except for the actual conviction on the grounds of treason. Historians in the past have often pointed at the nationality issue, however as I have shown above this has little ground in history. Some early 20th century historians claimed that the reason simply was a personal rivalry based in personal animosity or a secret relationship between Baldwin and the Queen Mother, Anna Rurikovich, however these claims have largely been disregarded as groundless. Most modern historians claim that it was simply an early example of the centralisation attempts made by the early Capetians, as Flanders was the richest region in the realm with a remarkable far-reaching trade network that filled the coffers of the duchy.




    A 17th century painting of the by then francofied city of Brugge's, with several dutchmen clearly visible, making some culture historians believe this was intended to depict the city during the middle ages. The Dutch are recognized by their characteristic black hats.


    Excerpt from 'Dutch – The Sorrows'

    Chapter Two
    The King's Man


    Rain against chainmail made a strange sound, or so Raoul had always felt. There was something foreboding about it, it brought with it a strange pocking feeling that something would soon go wrong. He shivered from the cold, and maybe just a little from the fact that he was riding straight into a hornest's nest.

    Philippe had been adamant, to the surprise of all the high nobles, and Raoul as well. Raoul had of course hoped that Philippe would do something to bring the lord's back into line, but had rather favored the idea of invading Normandie or bringing Guillame de Toulouse to heel. Attacking Baldwin was a daring act, and an utterly foolish one, since the Duke of Flanders had several grown sons as well as the gold to raise an army equal to the rest of the realm, and was there anything Philippe would not get from his vassals now it was troops. Raoul had actually considered refusing to even go, but such an act would actually be treason, unlike the acts of Baldwin, and though Raoul was many things he was not a traitor.

    So he found himself here, on the road north, trudging north at the head of less than a thousand men, and far less than required if things would come to open conflict. With a thousand men Raoul had no hope of besieging the border fortresses in southern Flanders, let alone the gigantic city of Brugge or the fortresses along the border to the Roman Empire.

    The troops had been gathered outside Paris and marched quickly at the urging of Raoul, in an attempt to reach well into van Vlaanderen's territory before Baldwin could summon his levies. He did not expect to succeed in this. In just a few hours they would pass the border between his own land and Flanders, and he expected to meet resistance the day after tomorrow, and that was if he was lucky. Baldwin surely had heard of Philippe's plans just a day after the the king's proclamation in the council – the duke had many friends among the nobility, and the king had very very few.

    "My Lord," it was one of the outriders Raoul had sent into Vlaanderen land. None of them was expected back for hours. This cannot be good. "My Lord! There is an army marching down the road from the north, three thousand strong. At least three hundred of them are horse." This is not bad. This is hell. We cannot hope to win this.

    "Who is it?" The voice was that of Aumery de Gien'Chateu, the son of one of Philippe's barons and one of the kings closest friends.

    "Who do you bloody think it is, you oaf?" The young man's face turned a dark red shade but Raoul had not time for it, and wouldn't have cared even if he had the time. He was sworn to Philippe, not to the buffoons the king insisted to surround himself with. If he was to die he would at least do so with the little fighting chance they had.

    "Captain! Tell the men to ready for battle.

    ** * **


    Robert was nervous. He had not been able to relax for several days and it was taking it's toll on his old body. He had awoken to see dark rings under his eyes had he had been feeling slightly faint. Why would he do this? What can he possibly think this will achieve? He was sitting alone in the dark in his chambers. The dark had always had a way of easing his tension, but not this time. I am getting to old for this.

    That was a truth if there ever had been one. At fifty-five he was the oldest among the High Lords, and about as old as most of the nobility got, give or take a few years. He had once hoped to spend his waning years in his hunting castle in southern Bourgogne, in the mountains that he had loved to ride among in his youth, when he first recieved the land from his brother. Oh brother dear, what would you have said to this? His brother had hated the High Lords – maybe it was the destiny of kings to do so – but Robert didn't really care if Philippe hated them or not, but the king had to realise that he needed them if he was to remain on the throne, and a succession war would utterly devestate the realm. He could only hope that it would not come to that, that Raoul would succeed and do so quickly, so Philippe's power was augmented, not squandered.

    Did the king realise the gamble he had going? No, probably not. This was the recklessness of youth, so Robert was sure, yet a king could not afford recklessness. He had to get the young man to settle down, to find him some other distraction than the game of politics. If he had to be a fool why could he not just be the fool who doesn't understand instead of the fool who thinks he understand. Philippe's will had to be tempered, but how?

    Robert tried to remember being young. It was hard to tear through the veils of memory and the illusion of eternity wisdom gave once it had been won but finally a long lost dream of a dark haired girl bathing in the mountain lakes of Bourgogne came to him with a warmth and sense of loss he had not felt for many years. He would find Philippe a wife.



    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Brugge.jpg‎  
    I sometimes attempt this whole AAR-writing thing:

    From the Baltic Sea arises 'The Red Griffin' - a narrative/history-book AAR as Sweden [On hold awaiting the release of M&T]

  8. #8
    This more than anything has inspired me to follow the AAR community more closely -- and post in it, as this indicates, and look into possibly trying it myself. The narrative right now is almost hypnotizing, to the point where my chief complaint is that the pace leaves me wanting for more, which isn't the worst of things. I'm looking forward to the macro-level as much as the micro.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JuvenalianSatyr View Post
    This more than anything has inspired me to follow the AAR community more closely -- and post in it, as this indicates, and look into possibly trying it myself. The narrative right now is almost hypnotizing, to the point where my chief complaint is that the pace leaves me wanting for more, which isn't the worst of things. I'm looking forward to the macro-level as much as the micro.
    Welcome and thank you! I'm kind of in the same position as you as with the pace, constantly longing to get to the twists and turns around the corner. I have to admit that Part I, which probably will last some seven or eight more chapters, will be kind of slow as of the developments in France, and I kind of view it as the opening of a chess game - all the major players are positioning themselves to advance their agendas. My current goal is however to write at least three chapters a week, so things will get going kind of soon. I'm gonna try to get a new one up tonight or tomorrow.

    And good luck to you if you do start an AAR, it is really a lot of fun and takes the gaming experience to a whole new level.
    I sometimes attempt this whole AAR-writing thing:

    From the Baltic Sea arises 'The Red Griffin' - a narrative/history-book AAR as Sweden [On hold awaiting the release of M&T]

  10. #10
    Man feel sorry for Rauol he should be serving under a lion instead of this young peacock of a King. Hopefully you can make something out of this situation. Also question will you be taking screen shots and the like or will you be using picture from movies to represent your characters?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedRoman View Post
    Man feel sorry for Rauol he should be serving under a lion instead of this young peacock of a King. Hopefully you can make something out of this situation. Also question will you be taking screen shots and the like or will you be using picture from movies to represent your characters?
    Might it be that he lives to serve another king, but alas, who would know? Except for me then.

    I haven't really considered this, but I don't really like the in-game portraits, not that they are bad but they are simply not differentiated enough. Everyone's looking kind of the same. So I guess I will go for pictures, which will make finding pictures for updates about happenings at court much easier so thanks for the idea! I can already see the possibilities yet another season of Game of Thrones will offer.
    I sometimes attempt this whole AAR-writing thing:

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  12. #12
    I like it so far. Its opening very nicely. I am wondering what Phillipe has under his sleeve and I really like the cliff hanger you left Roul with.
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  13. #13
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    Chapter three
    Facing the Behemoth


    It was nearly nightfall before Baldwin's host arrived, and Raoul found himself thanking the Lord Christ for the rain. If Baldwin had brought his archers, and he was sure to have done so, fine weather would have been their death but now the evening was almost as dark as the deepest night and the perpetual rainfall should leave the archers all but useless.

    He had positioned his host at the top of a small hill on the eastern side of the road, in reality it was little more than a slight elevation of the field but it would simply have to do, Raoul could only hope that the muddy sludge the grasslands had turned into would work in their favor when the enemy horse arrived. He had even ordered his own men to un-horse, trying to become the anvil that breaks the hammer rather than the sword he usually favored, yet no matter what he did he knew they had little hope of standing against this enemy.

    The thing that really worried Raoul though, was not what he viewed as his imminent death, he had long since reconciled himself with dying in the service of his king, but rather the fact that this death would not only be useless but thouroughly pointless. When he fell the road would lie open to Paris, and Philippe would have little hope of raising any kind of defense before Baldwin stood beneath his gates. The realm would bleed and for what? A proud man's folly, that is the cause of this. Ever shall pride lay kings and serfs down into dust, or so the priests says. It would be a long war, and one that would have no true winner, at least not if Philippe couldn't sway the other High Lords to join him. Robert would raise his banners, of course, and so would Raoul if he was still alive, but Folque and de Blois? No, they would not come. Not now, not to him. He rubbed his hands together in an attempt of getting the blood running through them again. He would really have preferred to die with warm hands.


    ** * **


    Robert had not felt so alive in years. There truly was something energizing in finally having a plan, a goal to work towards. It had soon been clear to him that Philippe would have to wed a daughter of one of the High Lords, the king had devestated their hesitant support in this fool's errand against Baldwin and only a marriage could serve to strengthen their bonds to him again, however he would face one great problem – there were few unwed daughters among the Great Houses. Raoul had three daughters, all unwed and all ideal candidates if it was not because Raoul already supported the king, and such a marriage would most likely serve to further alienate the nobility. However among the other houses there was a near total lack of suitable matches. De Anjou had no daughters, and his sisters and his nieces were all wed, and so was the daughters of de Blois. Robert's own daughter would be no different from Raoul's and thus there truly was but one choice. Ainés de Poitou.

    Robert had met the girl just one year ago and she seemed amiable enough but more importantly she was heir to half of the realm. A union between the monarchy and de Poitou had been one of his brother's more brilliant plans and shortly before his passing it had actually seemed like he was going to persuade Guillame to agree to it. Could such a thing come to be? Well, Guillame has not gotten any younger, and neither has his wife. He must know that his death would be the end of his family if Ainés is not tied to a strong man. Robert had dispatched an emissary to Bourdeaux this very morning. The whole affair had left Robert with a feeling of great satisfaction, and for the first time in many weeks ha actually looked forward to speaking with his nephew that day.

    He found the king in the throne room, sitting langingly upon the throne while Hugues and a few of his cronies surrounded him. The chair the king sat upon was of heavy oak, inlaid with golden lilies, and the slouching figure of Philippe made the chair seem gigantic, towering over the crowned head of the man. At the sides of the king stood two guardsmen, both dressed in fine blue garments with hand at swords. He has bodyguards this close even here? Does he not realise most men would see this as weakness and not strength? Robert shook his head. Philippe was constantly finding new ways of doing the wrong things. As he approached the throne he caught the king's eyes and Philippe lifted his arms, silencing the young peacocks around him.

    "Dear uncle! To what do we owe this pleasure? My man Louis brought us news from the emperor's court just this day. It seems Heinrich is having some trouble in Saxony. It appears that the high Caesar cannot even keep the barbarians of his own nation in line." Philippe looked around at the men around him and they all laughed at this apparent jerp of his. "But I'm sure you wouldn't have come unless there was something important to speak of? What are you doing here?

    Robert could not help to notice the strange tone of Philippe's voice. It seems I might be overstaying my welcome now when he believes he has the realm in his hand.

    "Your majesty," Robert kneeled in front of the throne. He had long ago learned the power kneeling could give. "I came to thinking last night. You are now a man grown, and through your coronation you have been made one with the realm." These words seemed to please the king. I think I got him. "Yet a man is not whole without a woman at his side, one to bear his progeny and birth his legacy to the world. And as the man now in question is one with the realm neither can the kingdom be whole without a queen besides it's king."

    Philippe looked... amused. Or at least he was smiling.

    "Yes, good uncle, I do believe that you are right." Philippe rose and walked down the steps leading from the throne. "And am I right when I say that you have now seeked through all the realm and wishes to propose a bride for me?"

    "Ainés de Poitou, my liege. To heal the wounds..." Robert never got to finish his sentence before the king sprung around, the smile replaced with a contemptous mask.

    "Leave us!" Philippe shouted at the nobles in the room. "LEAVE US! I must speak to my uncle alone."

    The young men quickly left the room. Robert did not believe that this was all that uncommon to them, or at least their faces showed little surprise at this outburst. He himself could not understand what had happened. It had all been going so smoothly, had it not?

    "Uncle, uncle uncle dear." Philippe sounded as if he was speaking to a child. What is this? Is the boy mad? "You cannot truly expect me to marry that whore's child of de Poitou? To defile my own bloodline with that House? No, surely you must jest."

    "I do not understand, your majesty. Guillame de Poitou is your vassal and one of the most powerful men in the west. What could possibly be wrong..."

    "What could be wrong? WHAT COULD BE WRONG?" The shout took Robert completely off guard. "Guillame is a traitor to the realm, uncle, and the only fact preventing me from dealing with him at the moment is this betrayal of Baldwin's. The moment Raoul return I will send him against Bordeaux to depose that maggot of a man and drown him in his precious wine. The men can have his cow of a daughter after that."

    Robert did not hear his king continuing. He was silently praying in his mind. Lord Christ who art in heaven, protect us...


    ** * **


    The three men approaches Raoul's forces as the downpour finally stopped, they were riding carefully across the muddy field, leaving behind the safety of their army's lines. Raoul did not really know what to think, but he finally saw the possibility of living to see yet another dawn. I was dark now, and Baldwin could not want a nightfight any more than he did, yet dawn was still sure to bring death, and maybe an even quicker one if the rain stopped. He would however have to ride out to meet these men, and parley with them although his orders left him little hope of gaining anything with words.

    "Charles, Henri, with me!" The two men flanked him, carrying torches to light their way across the field.

    As they approached Baldwin and his two retainers Raoul felt glad he would get the chance of speaking to van Vlaanderen one last time before his death. The two had not always seen eye to eye, and many little conflicts had marred their relations as their demesnes bordered eachother, but still Raoul had always had a profound respect for the man that had served as Philippe's regent for all those years. He had only wished that the king himself could share an ounce of that respect. But then again kings will be kings.

    "Ah, Lord Valois. I thought I recognised your banners. Bloody hard in this light is it not? How is our dear king?"

    "My Lord," Raoul nodded in recognition.

    "Short for words, de Valois? Well, I would too have a hard time keeping myself from vomiting if I was on a quest such as your's." There was something reckless in the man's voice. Something which had not been there only a few weeks past. "Well, why are you here Raoul? Bringing an army unto my land is not what I would call furthering the peace between neighbours."

    "I am here under orders from our king, Philippe, son of Hugues, the first of his name, to place you and all those who follow you under arrest and bring you to Paris to face the king's justice." He had almost choked on the words. Baldwin's calling him out like that had brought him off balance and he wished for a chance to speak with the man in private.

    "Well, I do not recognise the legality in this arrest, and neither do I recognise any superiour force being able to drag me to our liege," Baldwin paused, apparently hesitating. "Look here, I want this no more than you and you know this, but I cannot just meekly go before the king when he lifts his blade against my throat but... but neither do I want to see our realm bleed. I kept it together for ten years while that king of your's spent his days chasing washer-women around the courtyards."

    "I know, my Lord, but I cannot go against my king when he ordered me to do this."

    "Ever the king's man, eh Raoul?"

    "Ever."

    Baldwin sighed heavily. "Then this is how we are going to do this. You and I will send our armies back to their homes, except the king's men and one hundred of my own guard. Then, when they have left we shall march slowly down the road to Paris, together, the men serving as our honor guards. When we arrive in Paris I will humble myself before Philippe, as much as I can without losing face in front of my own vassals," he looked sharply at Raoul. "Does this in any way contradict your orders?"

    "No, my Lord, I believe not," Raoul found himself smiling. "And I see a few weeks away from court had not dulled your senses."

    Baldwin spat. "I wish. That place has ruined me for life. I used to be a happy man, can you imagine that?"

    Raoul laughed heartedly before they parted and rode back to their men to arrange for matters on the morrow. Now maybe he could even get those bloody hands warm again.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sematary View Post
    I like it so far. Its opening very nicely. I am wondering what Phillipe has under his sleeve and I really like the cliff hanger you left Roul with.
    Welcome and thank's for the comment. I think this last entry will show a bit more of Philippe's nature, though I almost feel it got a bit out of hand a bit quickly, but he just isn't taking to this whole power-thingy all that well as of yet, but might be that he will turn around in a little while.

    ---

    About this last update I would like to apologize for the lack of pictures, I've had some serious problems getting this one as I wanted it and after writing half of the night I just wanted to get it posted and not look at it for a day or so. If I find the time and energy I will backtrack in a day or so and edit in some images then to make the read a bit more accessible. Next up we go back to Paris before we change the main scenery for little while!
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  15. #15
    I don't really mind the lack of pictures, lends a novel-like atmosphere that, incidentally to your references, reminds me of the Song of Fire and Ice series. Of course once the geopolitical situation changes, cartography can speak louder than words.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by JuvenalianSatyr View Post
    I don't really mind the lack of pictures, lends a novel-like atmosphere that, incidentally to your references, reminds me of the Song of Fire and Ice series. Of course once the geopolitical situation changes, cartography can speak louder than words.
    Personally, I feel kind of the same from an authors point of view, however I also find it a bit hard to read pure text in a browser without any pictures to make natural sections, it's simply more appealing and less daunting if there is a picture or two in the post. Yes, cartography will be featured more heavily in a while, but more on a micro or mid-level as the developments during the first century or so were mostly regional except for in a few arenas. The fact that I modded the game to make Gascogne and Toulouse de facto independent made my poor France something of a rump kingdom for a large portion of the game, mostly focused on not being gobbled up by the big bad neighbor to the east while carefully taking chunks out of my more powerful vassals.

    ---

    Will try to get a new chapter up today, but no promises.
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  17. #17
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    It is slightly hard to read without pictures as pictures help break up the wall of text, but it just means it requires a little more focus which isn't a bad thing.

    I like the start, I'm a fan of the Capetians and it'll be interesting to see what Philippe has planned to secure the glory of France's crown in Europe.
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  18. #18
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    Good stuff.

    Subscribed.
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  19. #19
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    Chapter Four

    Remember that you shall die


    The City of Paris - Late October, 1066

    Their entrance into the city had been a strangely quiet one, and Raoul knew that he should have suspected that something was awry the moment they passed through the city gates. The streets were not empty, the streets of a city the size of Paris was never empty, but not far from it, and those who were out went about their business quickly. It was not as if they had expected a grand reception, but the lack of any at all was strange.

    "He wishes to shame me," Baldwin had said, and Raoul had only been able to agree. "Well, I should have expected this. He was always... crude... in these ways."

    Passing beneath the grey stonework of the walls Raoul could not help but to feel a slight shiver of uncertainty. There was something about the still streets, the silence of the guards and the strange taste of blood and steel in his mouth which refused to fade. He picked up his wineskin and drank deeply, attempting to soothe his nerves while looking out over the city, and to drench that unexplainable taste at the back of his throat. Failing in this he moved his destrier through the gateway and toward the captain of the guard.

    "Captain! Have the king sent word to us?"

    The guard, an old, greystained bear of a man bowed, suprisingly graceful, first to Raoul and then to Baldwin.

    "My Lord Marshal," then facing Baldwin, "my Lord Regent, welcome both. I have sent word to the king of your arrival an hour past, but he has not yet answered. Are you heading towards the castle? Shall I send another runner?" Rould could not help himself from feeling a bit slighted himself, though he knew that Baldwin was right in his assessment of the situation. Philippe most certainly meant to humble the duke in an attempt to bring the other High Lords to heel.

    "No. The king will be expecting us." He threw the wine-skin to the captain, sensing that his nerves might do with a bit less dulling. "Keep warm men. The night will be a long and chilly one." The guards saluted him and then the party passed, filing into the street leading toward the small castle near the center of the city wear Philippe was residing.



    Ivory miniature of Raoul de Valois and Henri 'The Old King' II Capet, most likely made shortly after the Siege of Brugges in the late 11th century



    "We should have sent a runner, you know," Baldwin said after a few minutes of strained silence. "You must come to understand that the true nature of Philippe is not the man you trained in the yard nor the man who surrounds himself with friends who flatter and praise him. Philippe is neither the sword nor the crown but rather daggers in the dark and poisoned words..."

    "Baldwin... We have been over this. I will not stand for such talk. I know that you and the king do not see eye to eye, and no, I do not..."

    "I know, I know. Your liege's honor is your honor. You are a man of true heart Raoul, and I do not wish to shame you, but to serve the realm you must understand the nature of that man, for that man is the realm as true as you are his man." Baldwin sighed and for a moment he looked as old and frail as de Bourgogne. Duke Robert however had, if any man had, taught Raoul that appearence was deception. "I will serve him as well. Not for honor nor love but for the sake of my house. Flanders need Paris if we are to stay strong." Roul did not know what to say to that. This was an old argument by now, going on and off for several days ride, impossible to avoid and unable to reach any sort of conclusion. A few moments later he would curse himself for not noticing how the small trickle of people in the streets had disappeared. A few days later he would curse himself for letting himself grow old and unattentive.

    They at them from the sides of the street, fast as shadows they hit Baldwin's guardsmen and suddenly men and horses were screaming in the street. Raoul turned his horse around, drew his sword and swung at the first shade of grey who ran towards the duke himself. The blade drew blood and the shadow fell to the street with a thump. Some men were to shocked by death, even to scream. Raoul swung and swung again, and the foes fell around him. Baldwin had drawn his sword too, dancing his horse closer to Raoul's to protect the marshal's side. Suddenly one of the shadows reached out a hand and gripped the reins of Raoul's horse. Raoul swung at it but before the sword hit flesh someone had torn him from his saddle and thrown him down unto the street.

    "Lord Marshal, stand down on order of the king!" Raoul wanted to laugh at the young noble, he recognized the man as one in Philippe's inner circle, but the fall to the ground had struck the air out of his lungs. Reaching for his dagger, while forcing air down i short gulps, he tried to rise but soon strong arms lifted him to his feet. "Stand down I said. I am here on the king's direct orders!"

    Raoul looked at the man for a long moment. Jean, I think his name is Jean. Then he drew the dagger and lunged himself towards the man, gripping Jean's neck and pushing the daggers point to his throat.

    "Order them to stop," he weased. A large man, probably the one who had lifted Raoul off of the ground, looked questioningly at Jean. "One step closer and this little lordling will have a brand new crimson gown to wear to court. I said order them to stop!"

    Jean shouted to his men, and the one's closest, those surrounding the duke of Flanders, actually backed away, and lowered their weapons, but most of the fighters were either to far away or to deep into the fight to hear the panicked command from the man whom Raoul at least assumed was in command. Baldwin rode up to them, pointed his sword at Jean's chest.

    "Pick up your sword Raoul, I've got him."

    Raoul lowered the dagger and released Jean. The man first moved, as if to jump to the side, but then Baldwin motioned his horse closer and pushed the edge of the sword against his cheek. Raoul reached for the sword on the ground and looked for his horse, the destrier having strayed but a few yards yet too far away for him to mount the beast now. He turned to Jean again.

    "This man is under my protection. He entered the city under my watch and you dare to challenge my authority, nay, to attack us, in the city of our liege? I will have your heart for this, boy!" The fighting was almost over, more and more men seeing what was transpiring at the head of the skirmish. In the corner of his eye he saw one of his men breaking away from the group, carrying their banner towards him. Aumery, he thought, again focusing his eyes on Jean. "You dare to break the king's peace and to assault two of his vassals on an open street?"

    He saw Jean smile before he looked back, before hearing the scream of Baldwin and seeing the horse fall beneath him, as Aumery drove a spear through the leg of the man and well into the side of the animal.

    Raoul did not see the large man before he struck him over the head and the world went dark.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 11thcenturyivoryminiatureofRaouldeAmiensbesidesHenriIITheOldKing.jpg‎  
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saithis View Post
    It is slightly hard to read without pictures as pictures help break up the wall of text, but it just means it requires a little more focus which isn't a bad thing.

    I like the start, I'm a fan of the Capetians and it'll be interesting to see what Philippe has planned to secure the glory of France's crown in Europe.
    Yeah, I generally feel it's a bit daunting to read texts without pictures on a computer screen. Happy to see you've ported The North Star to CKII by the way!


    Quote Originally Posted by Sarayakat View Post
    Good stuff.

    Subscribed.
    Thanks!

    ---

    Sorry for the delay on this one, and honestly the post is only what was intended as half a chapter, but school and life have been luring me from writing this last week. Will try to do better during the weekend.
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