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Thread: They Who Rise : An Isle of Man AAR

  1. #1

    They Who Rise : An Isle of Man AAR

    They Who Rise : The Isle of Man

    Table of Contents
    • Ruarc Ua Ruairc (15 September 1066 --)

    Things of Note:

    The Self
    • This is my first attempt at an AAR. Why did I decide to do this? It's quite simple, really; I enjoy playing Crusader Kings, and I used to enjoy creating video Let's Plays. The reasons I stopped doing Let's Plays (largely due to processing and uploading while I sit on my hands) do not apply to doing AARs. I also need to work on my literary skills. Seems like a good fit, so let's give it a go.
    • I haven't played an exorbitant amount of Crusader Kings II yet – only forty or so hours – so I'm actually still in the process of learning a few things and I haven't quite streamlined what I have learned all too well. Expect stumbling and mistakes now and again.
    • I am, unfortunately, not much of a history buff. Unless Sweden and Africa somehow switch dynastic places on the map or the pope gets replaced by a rabbi, ahistorical events are largely going to fly right by my head. I'll try to avoid letting my ignorance show too much, but... apologies in advance.
    • This Table of Contents / Preamble section heavily inspired by Valour of the North Star's

    The Game
    • The focus of this AAR is going to be a little bit different – The Isle of Man. In practice, very little changes; I'm not going to do the narrative in the perspective of the island (or am I? huhuhu...), and people are very much so going to be the centerpiece. What changes is that, whenever my current ruler-person passes on, I will follow the person currently in control of the island as opposed to the designated heir of my previous ruler. This will almost always be a member of my dynasty, but it will not always be the most successful one.
    • I'm going to make in-game decisions based upon the personality of the person I'm following. The character's “personality” is influenced, but not solely driven, by their traits and the events surrounding them. Events that cause / remove certain traits are going to be taken into consideration, but as a rule of thumb, a chaste-kind-giving character isn't going to become a horrible person just because he inadvertently receives the cruel trait via in-game event. Not immediately, at least; give it time.
    • I don't plan to reload saves unless something inexplicably buggy occurs. I also don't readily plan to cheat in any way, though Fog of War may occasionally be lifted to present a better overview of the world for my dear followers.
    • I made my own ruler and family. I had a personality in mind from the onset and made a character to represent that (not to game the system). I also wanted to make the family coat of arms (which has a joke in there that I may get to in the future). Both the character's name and family name are courtesy of the in-game name generator.
    • I use the CK2Plus mod.
    Last edited by Kiwi Assassin; 20-05-2012 at 19:18.

  2. #2

    Prologue : The Garden of Man

    Prologue : The Garden of Man

    16 September 1066

    Ruarc tended mildly to his garden, his hands running along the perceived threats with all the voracity of a long-sated hound; his body was moving, to be sure, but his heart simply wasn't in it anymore.

    How long ago had it been that, instead of pests and weeds, it had been rival courtiers he had sought to remove? The Isle of Man, how he had toiled night and day to make it his, to subjugate its bounty for his own purposes. Of rather low status, all he saw possible to catch the eye of the ruling Earl was to decorate himself in combat, a feat that seemed unlikely in the wake of the long reign of peace within the Isle. A testament to peace, a large town and bishopric reigned supreme, leaving the great Castle Rushen more a relic of a bygone era than a necessity. A relic though it was, it was difficult to deny its all-too-necessary impact on the peasantry; it certainly looked impressive, and had most certainly been rendered necessary in times past, so who was to say that the castle – and the man who lived inside and reigned over them – would not be necessary in the future?

    It had been absurdly difficult to catch the grace of the reigning earl, though more out of Ruarc's own pessimistic worldview than any other factor. He didn't exactly stand out; heads certainly did not turn for him, and he had only a passing fancy in books and the church. While conversations themselves tended to be tolerable, there had always been that stinging suspicion that he had been led around by the nose the entire time, or the butt of some cruel joke that nobody saw fit to let him in on, leaving him qualified but altogether unwilling when it came to interpersonal matters. And as for combat, well... even if there had been a war conveniently placed at his doorstep to get in the earl's good graces, it would be a small wonder if he didn't get himself killed in the process; not even in his flights of fancy did Ruarc consider himself particularly well-suited to armed combat.

    It wasn't until well into Ruarc's twentieth years did he realize the error in his prior judgment. There is always battle, war, conflict... the only thing that changes with the ages is whether it is fought with swords, words, or gold, and talent with gold was something that Ruarc had in spades. It was also the reigning earl's chief concern, as it turned out, and so Ruarc had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate himself a fine commander, if of ledgers and not necessarily men.

    Ruarc's efforts had been enough to net the earl a suitably more comfortable lifestyle, which was apparently enough to net Ruarc the position of earl after his death. It had not been expected, to be sure; “lively” was the most common attribution to the man, both for his appearance and his gregarious actions. When he passed on with an age twice that attributed to him and not an heir to his name, it only furthered the opinion of those close to him.

    The peasants, too, talked about the state of affairs, their tones hushed as they regarded the uncertain future without the earl they had come to love. And then they forgot about it a week later.

    Those of the court did not so readily forget, of course. When they saw Ruarc, all they really saw was a pretender who got a lucky break after sucking up a bit and, while that wasn't exactly wrong in the strictest of senses, he was very well trying his best. His ambitions had, paradoxically, come to a screaming halt once he had the means to achieve them. He simply wasn't in the mood anymore; for the first time in a long while, he felt all too well the grip of age as it escorted him ever closer to his predecessor...

    Ruarc's thoughts came a to resolute stop at that point. Convenient, too, for his hands had since ceased finding banes and had come to clasp around the very greenery he had come to protect. It was a small miracle that he had caught himself in time, and it was with a heavy sigh that he moved to release the object of his affections.

    And, yet... could Ruarc say true that he would have despaired if the unfortunate did occur, if his work was lying on the ground, discarded, as opposed to still rooted within it? It slightly unnerved him that he did not have a ready answer to that particular question, and it was with another heavy sigh that he looked up into the sky.

    “Maybe it's time to settle down...”

    Last edited by Kiwi Assassin; 19-05-2012 at 04:46.

  3. #3
    An interesting start. I'll watch to see where this goes.
    Tá ár lá linn - My Munster/Ireland AAR. (Dead)
    Aquitania Rising - My Toulousian AAR (Dead)
    The Chronicles of House Gwynn - My Welsh AAR (Updated 02/27/2012!)

  4. #4
    Field Marshal
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    Looks like a cool concept! Nice writing, as well. I love the gardening bent.
    CK2 Succession Survival Guide
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    CK2 AARs:
    Dominus Regni Poloniae (8 Feb 1296 Duchy of Greater Poland, finished)
    Lives of the Saints (Various times and places, single-character games)
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  5. #5
    Update coming soon (within ten minutes).

    Just gonna say that this AAR is probably going to be verbose as all heck. This wasn't my initial intent, I swear, but I just started writing. And writing. And writing. And I couldn't stop myself.

    I would like to think that the quality is pretty high, but it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

    This next update (going to proofread, image, and properly format onto the forum) brings me to around 5-10 minutes of gameplay. I expect a good number of hours of gameplay (I have an hour and half of content stored already), so... gonna take forever. For those of you who stick it out with me, I'm going to thank you (and apologize) in advance.

    And a warning. Things turn a LOT darker later on. As I said, I haven't played CK2 so much that I know its ins and outs, and I came across some aspects of the game I had no clue about that is going to make for an... interesting AAR Story.

  6. #6

    Chapter 1 : The Dual Nature of Lists

    16-17 September 1066

    The search for a wife wasn't bearing too many fruit, Ruarc had begrudgingly admitted to himself, and the sudden impetus he had received at the onset had begun to wane to dangerously low levels. The world was a wide place, an observation Ruarc felt he had been making all too frequently of late as he scanned the lists(!) of eligible bachelorettes, many hailing from lands that he hadn't even heard of until now. A faint sense of queasiness overtook the man as he vaguely considered the chances that even half of these women even existed, much less wanted to get married. While he hadn't been made into a victim just yet, he hadn't been earl for too long, either – Ruarc could hardly put it past the other courtiers if they felt the need to get even, if just a little, for the sudden shift in the chain of command. It wasn't like he had been the one to do the late earl in, but that wouldn't stop others from seeing it that way...

    “To hell with these lists!” It was to be the first major outburst he would make as Earl Ruarc, though he had thankfully done so with naught but his bedchamber to witness as opposed to the whole of court. The myriad names fluttered from his hands, leaving themselves strewn in separate, rather distant parts of the room. Just to spite him, Ruarc had decided firmly, peering grimly at the small mess he had made even as he rested his head in the palm of his hand. All he wanted was a wife, but apparently each wife (if they even existed – Ruarc still wasn't wholly convinced on that part) came attached with their own little political strings. Politics was not favored ground in even the best of circumstances; there was no way Ruarc was going to get involved in someone else's land when he hadn't even come to grips with his own just yet. In fact, he would be perfectly fine if everyone just left him and his little island alone. Permanently.

    Speaking of the island, Ruarc hadn't done much of anything in that regard, had he? Almost immediately after becoming earl, he had busied himself in his own personal problems and left the Isle by the wayside. Perhaps he had been going about this the wrong way, burying himself with a single person's troubles when a good deal more needed him. Perhaps, if fortune favored him, someone would find -him- in some list somewhere and offer him a wife. That would definitely take the strain off the whole process.

    It was with a rare cheery disposition that Ruarc addressed the next day, the lists all but forgotten in the untended recesses of both his room and his mind. His good mood remained genuine only so long as he was in his bedchambers, however; nothing ruins a good mood faster than being surrounded by other people who would literally kill to be in your position. Ruarc briefly considered keeping his previously easy-going smile stapled to his face before disregarding the notion as impossible -- it was with a noncommittal frown that he addressed his courtiers, the very same that he had used in the days previous and, he grimly reasoned, the very same others would probably see when he was lain to rest inside his grave.

    “Right, right. Time to assign positions.” Ruarc gave the courtier a brief wave of his hand in dismissal, bidding silence while he mulled over the situation at hand. The courtier gave him a sour look in response to the forced interruption but said nothing more, a fitting – and reasonable – reaction, to be sure. A small twang of guilt ate away at the new earl as he pressed forward to address his immediate subjects; maybe he would catch the man afterward, when he actually had time to listen to his drivel.

    It was at about this point that Ruarc realized – truly realized – just how little he knew these people. He was supposed to assign them positions but, well, the most he'd interacted with these people for a non-financial issue was to ask for directions... when he had first arrived, many springs ago. Thinking on it, actually, Ruarc seemed hard-pressed to find the face of that balding man from within the crowd of onlookers, so maybe even that bit of experience didn't count for much in this situation.

    “Let's start with the chancellor, shall we?” He had already made to sit, trying to mask the lengthy silence that had followed his prior announcement as one of nonchalance as opposed to the more accurate cluelessness. Some of them were actually waiting patiently as they eyed their new earl... or they were doing a good job of not showing their irritation in the face of the man handing out promotions. Ruarc favored the latter as more likely.

    Much to his surprise, a list found its way into Ruarc's hands, their contents considerably less than a few other lists he would rather not think about at the present time. A small number of valid candidates, their noteworthy accomplishments, and a brief gauge as to their general qualifications. It certainly was a handy tool to have – especially in this kind of circumstance – and Ruarc begrudgingly felt his earlier hostility towards lists abating under this marvel of the modern day.

    “Kolbein?” Ruarc's voice rang out clear above the onlookers, their dutiful silence at last broken as a few broke into muffled bouts of converse between each other. A man with a rather impressive display of facial hair stepped forward past the throng of people and into view, his head slightly bowed as he awaited final word. The man certainly hadn't caught Ruarc's eye before, though perhaps that was a good thing considering his precarious position and the buzzards guised in human skin that had begun to form his little entourage. No, this man in particular seemed rather unaffected by the situation around him; if not pleased, at least he showed no errant hostility towards the new earl. How rare to find an ally so soon.

    “My new chancellor,” a slight pause at this, giving it time to ring true, “I have many more positions to hand out, but I have scarce had time to become acquainted with little more than my sleeping quarters.” Ruarc had steeled himself for the murmurs of the crowd following his continuation, and the ensuing silence – punctuated with the many stares of the courtiers – caught him unawares. Ruarc felt himself grow flushed and agitated under the vassals' mute scrutiny, and it was with a deliberate smile that he forced himself to continue, wishing to lighten the stifling mood. “I doubt the people would very much care for my bed to lead their combat training, so if you would come up here and give me a hand with the rest of these lists..?”

    More silence. More scrutiny. More effort needed to keep that ill-displayed smile on his face. It was a small wonder he even tried, really, though perhaps he had been acting under a false impression the entire while. These people didn't want another earl, they just wanted to forget he existed and go on with their daily lives and he, with his poor jokes and lengthy deliberations, was making it far more painful than it had to be. Maybe he was just trying too hard...

    “That would be wise,” the bearded man – Kolbein, Ruarc had to remind himself – replied at last, a kindly expression on his face that held both a touch of sympathy and the humor that had been lacking in the others gathered. The man gave a small bow of his head and moved to take the proffered position nearby, though he, too, seemed a touch unnerved by the intensely public place they both shared. For the first time in a long while, Ruarc felt a kinship, and an easy, genuine smile found its way to his face without him even noticing.

    Last edited by Kiwi Assassin; 19-05-2012 at 03:18.

  7. #7

    Chapter 2 : A Counsel For One's Council

    17 September 1066

    Though Ruarc had long since assigned the full extent of his council, he continued to leaf through the lists, names and faces falling into place as his courtiers became less a pack of strangers to him and more the unfortunate bunch they were. It was rather disconcerting, if Ruarc were to be honest with himself; everyone had a story, and just about every one was similar to his own. There were a few oddballs of the bunch – he would have to speak of the bishop to Kolbein later – but so many of these people had simply been putting their all into their work for the off chance that fortune would favor them, that things would work out for the best. And things hadn't worked out for the best, obviously; their earl was dead and some random steward had taken the spot that was rightfully theirs.

    Brooding on that particular subject didn't really help things, though, and it was with great effort that he turned his mind elsewhere. “Say, Kolbein, is the Bishop of Peel really the best candidate for marshal?” It was something that had caught his attention from the onset, as he had caught the rather boisterous man of cloth on more than one occasion and – though the man's deafening voice had proven its worth many times over – he had deemed the bishop to be relatively harmless.

    The newly decreed chancellor gave a brief smile before his hand moved to rub along his beard, a movement that Ruarc had determined to be more unconscious than deliberate even in the comparatively brief span of time they had gotten to know each other. “Hard to say,” came the deliberate reply, a look of concentration crossing the bearded man's features that implied the matter more delicate than Ruarc had initially thought. “It's not always about how well you can swing a sword, though I hear Loingsech's outdone Ainmere in that area, too.” The man's voice was hushed, and Ruarc's gaze moved about the surrounding area on instinct, expecting to find another courtier that Kolbein had noticed before he had. The search was fruitless – everyone else had long since vacated the area – and Ruarc briefly wondered about his companion's odd behavior.

    “Wait, Ainmere? What does Ainmere have to do with this?” The man in question was the newly elected steward and, like the bishop, had seemed pretty harmless. Perhaps not the most qualified for the position – a quick test had illustrated all too painfully why the late earl had favored Ruarc as his steward instead – but harmless, at least.

    “Ah, Ainmere de Rushen, not de Sulby.” Kolbein clarified, a few moment's pause allowed to catch wind of the misunderstanding. “Your marshal. Though de Sulby might be better than him with a sword, too, now that I think about it. Only thing that man's got is the work ethic...” a pause here, and a brief look of uncertainty crossed his features, “if you can call it that. Overzealous, I say. I'm surprised he didn't start a riot when you'd mentioned Loingsech as a potential candidate for marshal. Then again,” another pause here as the bearded man's face relaxed, a well-humored chuckle spilling from his lips before he pressed on, “I'm not so sure if he could have managed anything even if he did.”

    Ruarc gave a chuckle of his own, more out of a sense of obligation than out of shared feelings on the matter; this was his marshal, after all, and very little could prove more disastrous than – as Kolbein implied – an overzealous incompetent. Maybe it would be a good idea to review the lists again, make sure there wasn't somebody he'd missed on the first pass...

    “He's not so bad, really.” It seemed as though Ruarc had failed to hide his unease at the sudden turn of conversation; Kolbein's face had turned serious once more, and his tone had taken on a distinctively soothing touch. “The volunteers appreciate a man like him, and he's capable, if not overly so. You didn't make the – ”

    “I don't need consoling.” Ruarc cut the kindly man off before he could speak further, a single hand raised to bid silence even as the earl continued to stare intently at the list. His brow began to furrow in concentration even though his eyes had long since stopped their scan of the parchment. “I need a marshal, Kolbein. A real marshal, not some pretender in want of a title.” Ruarc's head raised from the parchment as he turned a pointed look to his companion, an expression that soon gave way to a deep, weary sigh.

    Silence hang over the two men for a good period of time, Ruarc's troubled thoughts turning him introvert and intensely interested in the ceiling, Kolbein's gaze growing slightly more guarded as he took in his new earl with a scrupulous expression. Finally – and not without another deepened sigh – Ruarc returned his attention to the other man, “Speak true, Kolbein. I won't regret this?”

    Silence reigned once more, its good pal awkwardness setting itself comfortably between the two men. With no reply forthcoming, Ruarc resigned himself to his fate and renewed his search for a valid candidate – the fourth time in what would be little over half an hour. It was no sooner he had passed the third that Kolbein cleared his throat, breaking a determination that had been nearly trance-like in its intensity. Slightly irritated at the enforced pause, Ruarc looked up from the documents to give a brief nod and an even briefer dismissal, “You can go.”

    Kolbein gave a nod of his own at this, moving to stand up even as he began speaking. “I can't be certain if you'll regret it or not, Earl, but I do know this.” Another pause, his voice heavy with the weight of the conviction in his words. “His motivation to the position is genuine, and he's not addled enough to make the same mistake twice. Of all the candidates, he is no worse than second or third of the bunch – and that's including the very same bishop we spoke of earlier, who would easily be first pick if one were to account for skills alone.”

    Neither man spoke, though the awkwardness and unease had all but dissipated completely in the wake of the bearded man's declaration – Ruarc mute in contemplation, and Kolbein in respect thereof. The earl spent only a few moments' time in thought before moving to discard the lists, a brief, appreciative nod supplied soon after. “Thanks, Kolbein. That's what I needed to hear.”

    The chancellor responded to the gesture in kind before turning to leave, his movements placed with a practiced ease that left the footfalls nearly inaudible even to the nearby ruler.

    “Say, Kolbein.” the chancellor paused, turning himself slightly to better hear Ruarc's wishes, an expression of polite inquiry on his face as he took in the ruler speculatively. “You wouldn't happen to know a good way to find a wife, would you?” The chancellor's eyes seemed to sparkle at the unexpected question, the same, lighthearted smile he had displayed earlier coming to the fore.

    “I know someone who might be able to help.” Kolbein responded in amusement, turning himself now to fully face the other. “Are you looking for yourself, or for another?”

    “Myself.” The earl responded quickly, not entirely comfortable with asking for help with what was very much a personal problem but relieved all the same to find it. In afterthought, the earl's eyes moved again to the discarded lists of council applicants, his thoughts turning naturally to the unfortunate similarities he shared with his courtiers. “And a few others, too, if possible.” Already the earl was searching through the lists for his comrades in bachelorhood, picking out the names of the few that had caught his eye previous.

    Throughout it all, the chancellor continued to watch Ruarc with the same bemused smile on his face, his hand moving to rub absently at his beard as he was once again forced to reconsider his view of the new ruler.

    Last edited by Kiwi Assassin; 19-05-2012 at 03:20.

  8. #8

    Chapter 3 : Sans The Beard

    5 July 1067

    “Rumors claim it a daughter, Kolbein, and a healthy one at that!” Ruarc exclaimed, his voice raised out of necessity to overpower the general clamor of the great meal taking place just a few feet away. Though the celebratory feast had been arranged post-haste, one would be hard-pressed to notice; alcohols of various flavors and strengths flowed freely between the common people, and only a few men from the garrison and key servants had been barred from participating – to keep peace amidst the raucous event and to clean the inevitable mess, respectively.

    Kolbein, to his credit, seemed almost embarrassed by the attention Ruarc had been pressing on him, his eyes never straying too far from his own food and drink. It had scant been morning when his wife had successfully delivered, the climax to a long and violent episode that had left the poor man nearly dead on his feet. Not quite as well-rested as he would have liked to be, the man had little in him more than to nod and take another healthy bite of his meal, downing it with a quick swig of wine.

    Ruarc responded with a wide smile, pressing forward to clap the other man on the shoulder, nearly causing the latter to choke on his meal. “Knew you had it in you, my friend!” The earl leaned back into his chair, chuckling lightly to himself before raising his own liquor, “May she age just as well as her father, sans the beard!”

    The chancellor managed a weak smile – the edges of his eyes crinkling slightly from the effort – though they, too, shined with humor. “Think it may be too late, Earl; Ingrid popped out with stubble just as thick as yours, though that's not saying much.” Another swig of alcohol and the man's smile grew a little wider, a little less strained – rather positive signs, Ruarc noted.

    “And how is Karin?” Dub-Dil interrupted at last, an eyebrow raised slightly even as she took a small sip of wine, herself. “I heard it was rough; how is she doing now, Kolbein?” Though her voice held a measure of genuine sympathy, it was more for curiosity's sake that she made to ask, her attention focused squarely on the disheveled man in spite of her husband's sour glance. From what she'd heard – hearsay, and nothing more – the prospects of the newborn coming into the world with a mother intact was growing slimmer by the moment. If anyone had reliable information on the situation, it would be the spouse.

    The chancellor paused in his movements, his expression growing clouded even as his food hang suspended just before his mouth. It was with care that he replaced the morsel where it had come, closing his eyes as if in pained thought.

    Ruarc did his part by remaining completely silent, watching his wife with a very wary eye lest she add further salt to the wound she had so graciously torn from his good friend's mood. He had no desire to get into a verbal altercation with her in so public a place – especially considering the festive atmosphere that had permeated all of the hall, save three. While Ruarc didn't exactly favor himself a drunkard, the alcohol was going to prove itself an attractive companion tonight.

    “You heard right, Lady Dub-Dil.” The chancellor's voice was even and held an enforced politeness that sounded almost foreign to Ruarc's ears. If it wasn't for the look of steadfast on his friend's face, he would have bid the end of the conversation then and there. “I pray that your own child comes easier.”

    Now it was Dub-Dil's turn to grow sour, at a loss at how to respond to the words – steeped in kindness, aimed with malice – that had been so accurately directed her way. Though her time as wife had not as of yet passed a year, the fact that she still remained noticeably without carriage – despite her many valiant efforts to the contrary – had become a notably tender spot to both her mood and ego. Though Ruarc silently dreaded his wife's inevitable outburst after the feast, he nonetheless congratulated his friend on the minor victory, if only in mind and not in voice.

  9. #9
    I didn't have a clear plan before I started (to see what came naturally as opposed to pushing into a path I would later find distasteful), and it seems as though things are going to largely be of an episodic nature. In-game events are tied together (sometimes bending a few dates for the sake of story), forming the basis of each chapter.

    In-game information and events are given when they are referenced by the story itself, which will not necessarily be tailored *just* to give said information. For example, you have yet to see Ruarc interact with (or even talk about) the current spymaster, so he has yet to be shown in detail (the most you've seen is his name and intrigue on the council list).

    After each person's reign, I am entertaining the notion of having a history-book interlude of said character. Whereas each chapter would offer a glimpse into the character's life on a more personal level, the history-book interlude would be more objective and focus on the character's impact as a ruler, not necessarily as a person. Certain information that would otherwise remain unmentioned -- due to the character's naturally flawed perception or preferences -- will become more well-known. If I decide to go through with this (which is somewhat likely, as it solves quite a few issues while remaining conceptually pleasing to write), it will be best used as a supplement to the main story as opposed to the main attraction.

    The history-book interlude would be crafted after the leader's reign comes to an end, as to allow for a comprehensive look at the entirety in one go.

    Current worries of the story's progression :
    • Chapter Length -- Looking around, the story seems more verbose compared to AARs in general, but shorter than other Narratives.
    • Information -- Something I had planned to solve with the historical interlude. Not sure how people feel about having some things not readily revealed.
    • Images -- Similar to the above, I am curious as to whether the current use of images might be creating an imperfect balance -- breaking immersion by giving too much, but giving too little to be of much use.
    • General Interest -- Compounded by the above. Not sure if others are interested in the progression of the story and for what reason they are / are not.

    I'm putting the next chapter to word as we speak, but I would most certainly appreciate some comments and criticisms so that I can improve upon things.
    Last edited by Kiwi Assassin; 19-05-2012 at 18:09.
    They Who Rise -- My Isle of Man AAR

  10. #10
    How odd..... my Isle of Man based game uses the Unicorn as a COA.

  11. #11

    Chapter 4 : Overcast Skies

    10 November 1068

    Though an escape to the woodland encircling Castle Rushen had seemed a good idea at the time, Ruarc was beginning to have his doubts; a persistent layer of cloud cover blanketed the sky, leaving the earth dour and slightly chilled. It even looked to be that rain was a coming possibility and, though the clouds appeared scarce heavy enough to drop more than a few moments' showers, it would be far from pleasant should it catch him unawares any time soon.

    Ruarc shuffled himself under a tree that looked particularly reliable for shelter, settling himself against the trunk as he made to relax, his eyes scanning the trees for hints of any local wildlife that hadn't been scared off by his presence. A steady autumnal breeze began to pick up in the area, a soft instrumentation of sighing leaves following soon after, a few errant rays of sun breaking through the otherwise mottled gray.

    It was all-in-all a beautiful sight, Ruarc noted; artistic in its simplicity, impressive in its abundance.


    Ruarc turned to the voice, giving a brief nod of acknowledgment before returning his gaze to the forested horizon. “Come to bask in nature with me, Kolbein?” Ruarc queried, his mouth stretching into a wry grin that didn't quite touch his cheeks. He had known the answer before he asked, of course – Kolbein wasn't the type to idle outside in such cold, dreary weather. Kolbein, too, must have known that such a question was in jest; true to form, he remained silent, his expression remaining atypically stern.

    Ruarc turned himself to better address his chancellor, curious. “What is it, Kolbein?” The earl brought a hand up to his chin in thought -- a gesture he had long since picked up from the other man. “I didn't come out alone, I've guards stationed a small distance away.” As if to illustrate the point, Ruarc gave a short wave behind Kolbein's back. Three of the four men were so engrossed in their sentry duty that they didn't notice the gesture, though the one remaining who did gave a tentative wave of his own in return. With a satisfied grin, Ruarc returned his attention to his friend, only to be met with much the same.

    Kolbein simply shook his head, his solemn face proving remarkably sturdy; not so much as a crack appeared in his gloomy demeanor. Not one that Ruarc could see, anyway.

    Alright, maybe it was finally time to address the teeny tiny problem that had turned him refugee in the first place. “Sorry, Kolbein. It's hard to deal with her sometimes.” The earl gave a deep sigh, his body sagging with accumulated wear and tear. “It's not like I have any more control over it than she does, so I don't know why she sees fit to pin all of the blame on me...” Another deep sigh, an averted gaze before he finally manages to ask the question of import, “What did she manage to do?”

    “This isn't about your wife, Earl.” Kolbein interjected at last, a hand raised.

    “What?” Ruarc barely managed to whisper out, a profound degree of surprise on his features. Kolbein typically reserved that look for natural disasters and his wife, and Ruarc certainly didn't see any natural disasters around.

    “Áedh!” A great shout echoed throughout the castle's bailey, steeped with enough raw urgency and anger to put to pause the few people that had remained outside. “Where are you, Áedh?!” Ruarc continued to press quickly through the castle grounds, a stern-faced and slightly winded Kolbein just managing to keep pace behind him. “If you don't show, so help me, Áedh, so help me..!”

    The earl doubled over, his hands moving to his knees to support him while he made to rein in his labored breathing. While he had admittedly not been the sterling example of fitness as a simple steward, he hadn't thought that becoming a lord would have left him so much further out of shape. It was fortunate for Ruarc that Áedh appeared soon after, engaged in a brisk trot with a face holding equal measures concern and irritation.

    “Áedh! Where –“ the earl was interrupted as he was made painfully aware that he had started talking short on air, leaving him with a brief cough before he managed to better control himself. “Áedh, where is your wife?” Ruarc managed to stand now, though just barely; a hand was clutched to his chest in a pained manner, each breath telling again of the aging man's limits.

    “Slaíne, m'lord?” The newcomer replied, an expression of great shock melting quickly into dubious curiosity. “Why would you wish for Slaíne, m'lord? Has something happened to her?” Áedh swept the surrounding area with nervous eyes, his composure paper thin in contrast with his thick, heady voice.

    Ruarc's eyes bored into the younger man,“Slaíne seeks Ainmere de Sulby's life.” The earl practically began to spit as he continued his tirade, pointing a finger accusingly in the spymaster's direction. “Has for some time now, in fact! Know you anything of this, Áedh?!”

    The younger man continued to fidget in place, his eyes never quite managing to stay focused on the older man's face. “Are you certain it is Slaíne, m'lord? Perhaps it is someo-”

    “I know very well who it is, Áedh.” Ruarc interrupted, a hand held up to bid silence before pressing forward. “What I don't know is how my spymaster – who is married to the culprit, don't forget! – seems to not know anything about what goes on the very castle he resides!” The hand at Ruarc's side had by now tightened into a sturdy fist, its form trembling with promised violence though the man attached still had enough good sense to keep it in check. “What in God's name do you do around here, Áedh, that somebody else found this out before you did?”

    Though the younger man remained rooted in place, it looked to all the world as if he wanted nothing more than to bolt, consequences be damned. “You're mistaken, m'lord.” He managed to get out, small beads of perspiration running down his face all the while. “M'lord, Slaíne is a good person. She wouldn't even think of such things.”

    Ruarc turned a questioning look to Kolbein who, catching the glance, simply shook his head at the pitiable display. Growing ever more frustrated at the impasse, the earl gave a violent shrug of his shoulder and set off, setting a brisk, deliberate pace that the chancellor soon moved to follow. “We'll find her on our own, Kolbein. I'll turn this castle upside down if I must.”

    The abandoned spymaster watched the two retreating forms with a clouded expression upon his face, his trembling abating quickly at the earl's departure. Sparing Kolbein's back one last dirty glance, Áedh turned and headed in the opposite direction, striking a purposeful stride that nearly matched the pace of the two older men.

    “He's up to something, Kolbein.” Ruarc intoned lightly under his breath, momentarily pausing in his tracks both to address his friend and catch his breath.

    “Áedh?” The chancellor raised an eyebrow at this, looking to the disheveled man curiously. “The boy's always like that, Earl. More squirrel than man, as the children say.”

    Ruarc shook his head resolutely, his brows pressing his eyes into menacing slits. “I have my doubts about this whole affair. He's a bit of a mess, but he's not addle-minded; I didn't care for that little act of his.” A look of surprise crossed the other man's face and, of habit, his hand moved naturally to his facial hair, a decidedly thoughtful expression overtaking his features as he stroked at his beard.

    “You... needed me, my lord?”

    Two pairs of eyes turned as one to the direction of the soft, feminine voice, both men staring in mute appraisal as Slaíne stepped hesitantly closer. “I... Áedh told me you were looking for me.” She scanned the earl's stony face, her eyes brimming with confusion and worry. “He looked p-pretty upset. Is something wrong?” Though the woman managed to hold her form up with poise and dignity, it seemed every bit a herculean task; her voice managed only just over a whisper and carried with it a slight tremor that betrayed her failing nerves.

    Ruarc – confronted with a woman who looked every bit a victim – was at a loss of what to say. The righteous anger that had filled him completely mere moments before had largely subsided, leaving him worn and empty. The aging man's eyes closed and, though ultimately a futile gesture, he began to rub absently at his forehead to stave off his encroaching headache.

    “Slaíne, do you seek Ainmere de Sulby's death?” Though the words was notably free of accusation, still, too, did it carry a tone of finality; no longer a question, it was the prelude to judgment.

    Slaíne's confusion grew nearly palpable as she slowly worked to absorb the gravity of those deceptively calm words, of the situation she had found herself inexplicably caught in. Though it took a few moments, the woman's knitted brows turned upward in surprise and – inevitably – fear. Her countenance paled, her hands clasping together before her in a pleading motion even before she began to speak.

    Or attempt to speak, as it were. Her first attempts were unintelligible – too low to make out, too garbled to understand – and only served to leave her out of breath. The Earl of the Isle of Man settled a hand atop her shoulder; firm in its placement, merciful in its grip, he silenced her mumbling with a single gesture. “Speak clear, Slaíne.” Though his words was still carefully lacking in hostility, there was a faint undercurrent of irritation that proved difficult to miss. Kolbein pulled his eyes away from the woman, his gaze instead settling curiously on the earl.

    “I'm so sorry, my lord.” Came the soft – but very much perceivable – reply, the woman's head bowing as she took to looking to the ground. “I only w-wished to help my husband.” A brief stumble in her words left her more careful, more articulate afterward, “He speaks of Ainmere as if possessed, can hardly experience a pleasant night's sleep without waking to dreams...” A distressed sniff, a lone tear floating silently to the ground. “I just wanted to help, but Ainmere refuses to speak to me, to either of us. I... I...”

    The hand at Slaíne's shoulder gripped tighter, renewing the reign of silence and paving the way for Ruarc's own monologue. “I am not to tolerate actions against my people, Slaíne. That very much includes Ainmere de Sulby.”

    Ruarc's words hang ominously in the air, stifling the woman, leaving her naught but a choked nod as a valid response. Seemingly satisfied with this, the earl retracted his hand from Slaíne's shoulder, pulling himself a more respectable distance away. “You should come to me with such worries, Slaíne. That is what I am here for.”

    Ruarc made a brief gesture to the nearby chancellor before turning to depart, ignoring the muffled sobs of the woman that came soon after his leave. His pace was slow out of necessity – never before had he felt the accumulation of years as keenly as he did now, its weight wrapped securely around his body as a leaden cloak, its tightened drawstrings a noose about his neck. His breath was shallow and his eyes closed of their own accord – it was not by coincidence that he was headed towards his chambers.

    “Are you well, Earl?” Ruarc looked over his shoulder at the chancellor, slightly unnerved in his excitable state; Kolbein's footsteps were carefully placed to mirror his own and, if it weren't for the sudden address, he may very well have been traveling alone for all he would know. It wasn't a particularly new characteristic of his friend, but it wasn't quite as welcome after such an engaging talk of assassinations. Ruarc returned his attention forward, intent on hiding his discomfort.

    “I'm no good at this, Kolbein.” The voice that he had managed to force out was but a pale shadow of its normal self, born of gravel and sand, barely higher than whisper. Ruarc was quick to bring a hand to his throat and work to clear it, littering the air with offhand “ehem”'s before he gave up altogether, deciding it futile.

    “You handled it well.” The chancellor replied when at last the fit had passed, his gaze never wavering from the earl's back. “She expressed desire for penitence just after your leave.” Kolbein's brows grew furrowed as he spoke and, for the briefest of moments, he paused to look behind him, towards the woman that had begun to move from her rooted position at last.

    “Keep an eye on Áedh for me.” Again Ruarc was forced to bring a self-conscious hand to his throat as he spoke and, briefly, he wondered as to whether a drink would be enough to right it. His companion returned the command with a brief nod, a movement the earl only just barely managed to catch from the corner of his eye. “I don't want this to happen again.”

    Last edited by Kiwi Assassin; 21-05-2012 at 15:46.
    They Who Rise -- My Isle of Man AAR

  12. #12
    Lady of the North Star Demi Moderator Saithis's Avatar
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    Very nice stuff so far, Ruarc seems like a fairly typical noble and I really like the way you introduce his court in detail with his takeover of a new land. I wonder what the Isle of Man will achieve with his leadership - there's a whole Irish coastline to raid and England will be in chaos quite soon.

    I was quite comfortable with the chapter length/verbosity, myself, and with the image counts, although I'm not personally very demanding as a reader. Your style flows smoothly to the eyes.
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  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Saithis View Post
    Very nice stuff so far, Ruarc seems like a fairly typical noble and I really like the way you introduce his court in detail with his takeover of a new land.
    My appreciation. I will note that the court wasn't quite as vicious in reality as it was detailed in the early story; that was an example of Ruarc's paranoia and self-conscious doubt coming into play. His court has actually been rather tame -- the whole reason why Ruarc acted so violently to the assassination plot against Ainmere was because this was the very first time anything like it had come up.

    I wonder what the Isle of Man will achieve with his leadership - there's a whole Irish coastline to raid and England will be in chaos quite soon.
    All of my in-game decisions were based entirely on the character's personality and Ruarc, as demonstrated thus far, has had a relatively comfortable time as earl without much to push him towards the global scene. Without interest in either war or politics, his attentions thus far have been focused on the Isle itself and the people that reside on it. With actions taken to improve upon the local economy and the typical living conditions of the people (even those of the Peel and Douglas), he's managed quite a few feats that, while often unappreciated by nobility and peasantry alike, are most likely to set the foundations for future rulers, whatever their aims may be.

    A little bit of a teaser to his historical interlude, I suppose. Since Ruarc sees this as less a burden and more a simple obligation of his current occupation, you won't see any episodes with it as the central focus, much like there won't be an episode with him taking a bath or eating an average meal.

    I was quite comfortable with the chapter length/verbosity, myself, and with the image counts, although I'm not personally very demanding as a reader. Your style flows smoothly to the eyes.
    That is high praise for one such as myself, on two counts. As may be inferred by the preamble, I have oft referred to Valour of the North Star as a sort of measuring stick for my own work when dealing with chapter length and verbosity (of which I feel I am sorely lacking in comparison, but incapable of fixing). As for the flowing nature of my writing, that particular characteristic is a primary reason why it actually takes me quite a while to write out my chapters. It is good to hear that it is not for naught.


    Side Notes :
    you may notice that the women of my court would be vastly superior on my council to the men, if such a thing were available. Kolbein's wife actually has as much stewardship as Ruarc does (19), while Ainmere's wife has 15 intrigue.

    The creation of the Ua Ruairc family crest basically went like this :

    "Oh, cool, if you put these two crest formats together, it looks almost like the end of a bridge."
    "I'm starting off on an island in the middle of the sea. I'm gonna need bridges. Huge bridges."
    "Now all I need is a troll to guard the bridge and collect taxes. Taxes are good, and it'll keep the enemies away."
    "No trolls... but this unicorn is pretty scary, I guess. It's got a horn and is apparently bipedal. Heck, if I'm lucky, that may even be a boxing stance or something. I know I wouldn't want to meet a boxing unicorn underneath a bridge in the middle of the sea. No way."

    Ua Ruiarc. We've got gold, bridges, and boxing unicorns.
    They Who Rise -- My Isle of Man AAR

  14. #14
    Sol Invictus Shaytana's Avatar
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    I like it so far, keep it up! I don't think you need to change anything.
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