Mariano's Dream: The Legend of Italian Rus
Mariano Torchitorio was lost in the vast forest. He had been separated from the rest of his party for some time. They had abandoned the merchant in the depths of the forest almost a month ago (or so he planned to tell anyone he might meet) and he had been heading southward ever since. Eventually, he would hit the coast, or one of the vast and lazy rivers that led to the coast. Thence to Byzantium and home.
Mariano missed his wife terribly. Mariano Torchitorio, often known as Mariano the Sweater, had married very much above his station. The Countess Margherita, daughter of the Doge of Venice, had fallen madly in love with him and, despite her father’s (and higher Venetian Society’s) protests, they had wed. Be happy, Margie had said, with Northern Sardinia – the County of Arborea, the wedding gift her father had presented the pair, but Mariano could not. After all, who could be delighted with permanent exile from beloved Venice, even if such exile came with half of a private island.
No, Mariano would prove himself, to his wife and to his countrymen. He would corner the Amber trade for his new County. Margie had tried to talk him out of his scheme, but Mariano would not be deterred. Leaving Arborea in the capable hands of his son Orzocorre, he set sail in the company of other merchants, both Italian and Greek, from Constantinople and headed north.
They never made it to the fabled Amber fields. Now, alone, yet strangely well fed, Mariano travelled south, ever south, towards Arborea, towards home.
One night, the Count, exhausted, fell into a deep slumber without even bothering to pitch a camp. He simply collapsed into some bushes.
His slumber did not last long, for he was awakened after dark by the sound of something large crashing through the woods. It sounded like a herd of elephants and Mariano trembled in fear, praying to God and awaiting his end, but then, mere yards from his bush, the herd of pachyderms stopped and a great creaking followed by a thunderous crash was heard.
Soon, all was silent, though Mariano suddenly realized he could see. There, a few yards away, he could see the glow of a crackling fire. Forgetting all else but the possibility of rescue, Mariano ran towards the fire.
Well, almost forgetting all else. A few bloody parcels of meat, one of which had fingers still, were first secreted in the bush.
What Mariano saw shocked him to the core and filled him with dread. It was not so much the sudden appearance of the vile peasant’s hut that scared him so. It wasn’t even the fact that this hut had appeared from nowhere.
No, it was the legs Mariano found particularly unnerving.
Indeed, he was about to turn and flee back into the forest when the front door opened and a cackling ancient voice called out, “Hold fast Mariano Torchitorio, we shall have words ‘ere this night has passed.”
The woman's voice spoke almost perfect Italian. Certainly far better than Mariano's. Now, he was more unnerved. "Who are you?" He called out.
Then, the world went very spinny, and Mariano hoped desperately he was dreaming as a terrifying hag emerged from the hut, leaning heavily on a cane and approaching him with her free hand outstreached.
"Mariano, it is I, Baba Yaga, the Bony-Legged One. You are fortunate this night, for I crave the bones of a Greek...and you have one, do you not?"
Mariano wet himself and his knees went wobbly. The old hag cackled and the world spun around him as the Italian Count fell to the ground.
The next morning Mariano awoke. His head hurt terribly. His bush was far more uncomfortable a nest that he would have hoped. The Italian would have dismissed the previous night’s activities as a dream except for three things. First, his pants were still damp, reeking of urine and feces. Second, his parcels of meat were gone. Well, except for Andreas of Milano. Third, he had a mission.
Baba Yaga had chosen him to save Christendom and Russia from a horde that would pour from the East. Short, giant-headed troglodytes were slowly building their armies, hateful and envious of all the good things God had created, they would explode from the East, squat and giant headed, riding on their swift, flesh eating ponies, these demons from the East would destroy the world…unless.
Unless the children, the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren of Mariano Torchitorio created a great Kingdom in the East to block their path and save the world. He had been chosen and his family’s success in this great endeavor would gain him absolution for certain unmentionable sins he’d committed in order to stay alive over the last few months.
Mariano had been chosen because he was an outsider, the witch had said, because the locals were too fractious to ever join together and fight as one. Because only the blood of one as ruthless as he could ever tie them together into an invincible Russian Army.
So the witch said. Had Mariano been Russian, had he known the truth about the evil witch Baba Yaga, he would have scampered home, happy to have survived the encounter, and then drank away the memory of the meeting for the rest of his life.
But since was an Italian, an outsider, an ambitious outsider at that, Mariano decided to tackle this monumental task, much to the everlasting delight of the Bony-Legged One.
Here is the story of Mariano Torchitorio and his descendants and the Legend of Italian Rus.
“Off we go!”
And so begins the AuthAAR’s first foray into Crusader Kings II AARing…the goal of this game is pretty straight forward: to take this Italian Dynasty and make them the Kings of the Rus. If they can culturally remain Italian well that would be even better.