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theosZA

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300 Years a Prince
Table of Contents
Part 1
Part 2
An introduction to the AAR follows the prologue.

osp48JS.png

The Astrologer
January 1337

The astrologer uneasily paced back and forth across the castle's antechamber. His woollen robes did little to keep out the chill of the Stuttgart winter and the antechamber's fireplace remained unlit. He glanced toward the window, the comet clearly visible in the evening sky, and he once again mentally cross-referenced its position, ensuring his calculations were correct. His audience tonight with the count was undoubtedly the most important of his short career and he could not afford to be wrong.

The heavy doors to the count's audience chamber swung open and a castle guard appeared to usher him through.

The astrologer entered the audience chamber with a small bow, acknowledging the count, seated behind a stone table, and the elder of his two sons standing beside him.

The count looked up from the scrolls he was reading. "So astrologer, you know why I've summoned you today. My courtiers speak of dire omens; my chaplain proclaims it a sign from God; and my son dismisses it as just another unexplained phenomenon of the heavens. But phenomena of the heavens are your business and I would know the truth of it. What does this blood-coloured heavenly visitor portend?"

d7hoSBy.png


Summoning up as much gravitas as he could, the astrologer began his prepared exposition. "The body in the sky is, as I'm sure you're aware, a comet, though you don't dare say it for it is a long-held belief that comets are omens of noble deaths or coming catastrophes. But I have studied the texts of Aristotle and Pliny the Elder, learned from the students of Guido Bonatti, and received secret knowledge from wise men in the Levant. From all this I can safely proclaim that a comet is not such a simple thing to be feared out of hand. Yet the most important thing that I've learned is that this comet has come before, three hundred years ago, and will certainly come again, three hundred years hence. Any fortune associated with this comet are not tied to one man who lives for a mere twinkle on the celestial timescale, but will surely direct the destiny of that man's descendants for three hundred years.

"So I've studied your chart, and that of your good wife, the countess, and those of your sons. In three hundred years the world will be much changed, but your dynasty can be a rock, enduring all the troubles the world can throw at it and emerge the better for it - becoming a beacon of strength and hope for your neighbours. No one man can forge such a dynasty, but through the collective will of each von Württemberg adversities can be overcome and a legacy of greatness established."

His speech finished, the astrologer took half a step back, bowing again, this time with more of a flourish.

Rising from his seat, the count turned to his son. "On the morrow I leave to join the Emperor's armies marching on Istria. I hope you paid heed to the astrologer's words. If disaster should befall me on the battlefield, you will be taking on the mantle of the dynasty and must work towards ensuring its greatness. Our family comes before all else." Then turning towards the astrologer, "Thank you for your wise counsel. You may leave."

As the astrologer departed the castle, he pulled his robes tighter against the cold. But he shivered not just from the chill, but from all the things he left unsaid in his brief meeting: three hundred years of disasters and tragedies foreseen in his charts. But nobles didn't pay good coin for such pessimism. There were also three hundred years of triumphs and celebrations. The wisdom he'd learned as an astrologer was in knowing how to present hard truths to his patrons. For that family's sake, he hoped that tonight his message had indeed been understood.

____________________

About this AAR...

This is a narrative AAR covering approximately 300 years starting with Ulrich von Württemberg, a Catholic count in the Holy Roman Empire. The first 107 years or so will be played in Crusader Kings 2; the remaining years will be played in Europa Universalis 4. I will start the CK2 portion on patch 2.3.4 and will be using the following expansions: Sword of Islam, Legacy of Rome, The Republic, The Old Gods, Sons of Abraham, Rajas of India and Way of Life.

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The focus of play will be on roleplaying the characters and protecting the dynasty. Don't expect a game about continuous expansion. Characters will be played according to their attributes, traits and focus. Heirs will not typically be educated by the player character, so should result in a good amount of variability in characters.

In the event of a "game over", I will switch to an appropriate character, typically another member of the von Württemberg dynasty. Otherwise, no cheating. Well, I did trigger the comet event for the prologue using the console, and I reserve the right to tweak the converted EU4 save to better fit the ongoing narrative.

Chapters will only be written for interesting events or time periods. I will skip large chunks of time if nothing noteworthy occurs. The point-of-view for each chapter will vary between the player character and other interesting or noteworthy characters.
 
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Christopholes

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Seems interesting, good luck. At least the poor astrologer wasn't sacrificed to the comet.
 

Asantahene

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Count me in! Like the start :)
 

theosZA

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Count Ulrich of Württemberg
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June 1337

As accustomed as Ulrich was with riding, this army's march through the Julian Alps had taken its toll on him. At 40 years of age he had hoped to never fight in another war. He was no longer as fit as he used to be and out of practice with the lance, but 18 years ago he had fought alongside the Emperor in his civil war against Frederick the Fair, and so for this war Kaiser Ludwig IV had entrusted the Army of the South to him. The levies of dozens of counts, barons, bishops and mayors - over seven thousand fighting men total - were under his command.

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Ulrich stopped his horse briefly to turn around and look at the columns of men behind him, most of them on foot and probably more tired than him. The dust of thousands of marching men obscured the supply wagons at the back. With the levy banners flying in the light breeze, the army looked glorious and he felt a brief surge of pride in the men he led. He then resumed his trot ahead of the army - they needed to keep up the pace if they were to reach the far side of the pass by sundown.

As the road through the pass steepened, Ulrich's thoughts turned to home. Stuttgart had been the Württemberg family seat since the 11th century, with patents of nobility creating the County of Württemberg dated to 1089. He had spent countless hours in the vineyards of the surrounding countryside and alongside the beautiful river Neckar. Besides wars, he had rarely had occasion to leave the county. He certainly had never travelled in such mountainous terrain as this, and the slow pace of both cavalry and footsoldiers was frustrating him.

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In addition the Emperor's orders had come at a most inconvenient time. Believing his days of fighting behind him, Ulrich had turned his mind to matters of administration, trying to improve the productivity of his lands and the fortunes of his family. He had been studying the reports right up until his departure and had left instructions to raise taxes on the local baronies to finance his plans. He did trust his sons to follow through on this - they were both adults now and between the two of them should do a good job of running the county for the months he would be away.

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More than the aches and pains of a long ride, and more than having to leave his home while he had just started investing his time and money in it, what rankled him the most about this war was that it was a fight against fellow Christians for an insignificant piece of land, the peninsula of Istria. Of course the Emperor had his justifications - the peninsula was once a march of the Patriarchate of Aquileia that the greedy Venetians had encroached on over the last century. With matters of trade and business so recently on his mind, Ulrich thought he understood the real reason for the war - Venice had a stranglehold on the trade of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Empire could use the peninsula to gain some small foothold in the trade with the East.

b9FgZve.png


Indeed, if he were to fight another war, he would rather it be in a Crusade for the Holy Land against the infidels. There had even been rumours that the Pope was making plans to declare such a Crusade, the like of which had not been seen for nearly a hundred years. Ulrich knew Ludwig well, and the Emperor was more virtuous than most, but he suspected that Ludwig cared more for the Empire than the Church and so was unlikely to join the Crusade should it materialize. The real cost of mounting this offensive against the Venetians was likely to be strained relationships amongst all Christians, making co-operation for a Crusade quite difficult.

saJkUTS.png


Regardless of his own thoughts on the war, Ulrich remained dedicated to his Emperor and would do all he could to repay Ludwig's faith in him. Armies from Austria and the North were also converging on Aquileia and Istria, but Ulrich was determined that his men should be the first of the armies through the Predil Pass.

The sun was now high in the sky and he had not yet heard back from the morning scouts that had been sent ahead through the pass, and that worried him greatly. As he crested the rise, his heart dropped. The Venetian army was ready for them. Archers held the high ground and mercenary pike held the road. Their army had to be at least as large as the one he commanded and they had taken full advantage of the terrain. He briefly considered trying to withdraw, but then cursed himself for such cowardly thoughts. He had never backed down from battle before and would certainly not turn craven today.

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Runners were hurriedly despatched to send word throughout the army that they were to deploy for battle. But as the minutes passed, Ulrich saw that the men were struggling to take up formation in the broken terrain, particularly along the flanks. The Venetians weren't giving them time to sort themselves out and were rapidly advancing. The nobles leading their levies looked toward Ulrich, waiting for a signal.

He had to try find a way to break the Venetian defensive position, but as the gap between the two armies closed he couldn't think of a plan. He was no scholar of strategy; his learning had been on the grassy and forested battlefields of Germany and so felt wholly unprepared. With arrows starting to rain down their flanks, Ulrich cried out to his men to follow his lead, and charged the formidable block of pikemen ahead. The battle might not go his way today, but by God he was going to give a full account of himself.

S0RQkfo.png
 
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Asantahene

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Oh no! Disaster! I still haven't worked out a way to decline your liege' conscripting you into leading his armies but fully share your frustration...
 

Asantahene

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I think you might need Autonomous Vassals maybe?
Hmmmm yes that means you can make war on other vassals but this is more a case of being called to lead Royal armies. In my game my Duke spends most of his time leading his liege' armies and I have no say. Means not many kids and me fretting all the time that he will die. Quite annoying
 

MiasmicMoose

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With autonomous vassals the top liege can't appoint army leaders, so you might be able to step down from the army
 

theosZA

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Thanks all for the comments and discussion. I am by no means an expert on the game mechanics but I try to understand them as much as needed to write an AAR. The lowest level of crown authority (autonomous vassals) means that the liege can't appoint army/flank commanders. However vassals will automatically be appointed as commanding their own liege levy, so your character will be in the combat regardless. For the purposes of an AAR, I don't actually mind this - it can add some unexpected drama. And at least in the HRE in the 1337 start, you have fairly well populated families (based on actual historical data) instead of the (random) freshly minted single-character dynasties of earlier starts.

Anyways, onward with writing up chapter 2.
 

theosZA

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Count Eberhard of Württemberg
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April 1339

The Emperor had established his court in Leiningen, a barony not far from Württemberg and so conveniently close for Eberhard to travel to; but as he was seated on the hard benches of the castle's hall for the Imperial Diet, he wished Kaiser Ludwig had chosen somewhere a bit more opulent. Dozens of the Empire's princes were all gathered together in these relatively close confines, and the atmosphere was stifling.

Eberhard had arrived early and secured himself a seat in the second row. He had been excited to attend his first Imperial Diet, but now that he was here, he was already missing the beautiful green eyes and red hair of his wife, Elisabeth, and the adorable toddler antics of his little boy, Adalhard.

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The princes were waiting on Kaiser Ludwig himself who was expected to make some important proclamation. With the proximity of Leiningen to Württemberg, Mayor Michael of Reutlingen had been making frequent visits to the Emperor's court on Eberhard's behalf. Eberhard's father, Ulrich, was well respected by Ludwig, and so he hoped that Ludwig would continue to look on the von Württembergs with favour. Michael had assured Eberhard that this was indeed the case.

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There was a sudden tenseness in the crowd as Ludwig entered at the front of the hall. The Emperor was getting on in years and didn't command quite the same presence as he did in his youth, but he still had the respect of the nobles and they hung on his every word.

"Princes of the Empire, I hereby welcome you to the Imperial Diet. May you be blessed with wisdom as you discuss matters that affect us all.

"First, let it be known that the Empire's armies have been victorious on the peninsula; the Venetians having been driven back to the sea." Cheers went up from the assembly, many of the Princes having recently returned from that war. Eberhard cheered with the rest, though without warmth - he still mourned his father, lost on a distant battlefield, his body never recovered.

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"In addition, we are honouring our alliance with King Edward III of England, the true heir to the French crown through his mother Isabella. He has been denied his right to rule in France only because the French aristocracy have preferred Philippe, the Count of Valois, and ruled that the crown couldn't pass through the female line. Your men will be given a few months to recover but then the levies will need to be reraised to fight for Edward's claim.

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"There is one final matter - an official proclamation concerning the apportionment of lands within the Empire. We desire some measure of consolidation within the south of the Empire to improve administration in that area. As such we will be raising the Countess Margaret of Tyrol to the rank of Duchess, and two old duchies will be re-established: the Duchy of Alsace under Humbert von Kleve..." Eberhard knew of von Kleve; minor nobility only recently raised to Count of Sundgau. "...and the Duchy of Swabia under Eberhard von Württemberg."

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Eberhard could hardly believe it. In one breath the Emperor had created three new prince-electors with Eberhard himself raised to the rank of duke and acquiring the status of prince-elector! As the Emperor continued with the details, Eberhard also realized some of the problems he might face. Ludwig had just betrayed the Swabian League of Cities to whom he had promised freedom from any imperial vassal in exchange for their support as the new Emperor. Now with his rule over the Empire more secure, he had broken his promise as Ulm and some of the smaller cities would now fall under the reformed duchy.

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And why? Eberhard was never one to take the Emperor's words at face value. He certainly had another motive and Eberhard suspected it was to do with the Imperial succession. Ludwig was in his late 50's already and was surely worried that his own son would not succeed him. Although the Emperor had a lot of support, for the heir to the Empire many preferred Johann, King of Bohemia, now known as 'the Blind' after an eye disease picked up while campaigning against the eastern pagans, and he was the eldest son of the previous Emperor, Heinrich VI. He was also known as a supporter of the French King Philippe VI in the conflicting claims over France with England.

Although no official vote would be held until after the Emperor's death, it was still much discussed and support was pretty evenly divided between King Johann and the Emperor's son, named Ludwig after his father. Three newly created prince-electors were almost sure bets to support the younger Ludwig and would probably be enough to swing the vote.

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Eberhard stopped speculating. He just wanted to return to Elisabeth immediately with the news. However, lying ahead were many more days filled with discussion and debate over the business of the Empire. And now as the Duke of Swabia he had an even greater obligation to get involved.

The Emperor's speech ended and the princes responded with muted applause. The announcement had no doubt annoyed many in attendance, but Ludwig seemed confident. As he was walking to the exit, he spotted Eberhard and acknowledged him with a nod and a smile.


June 1342

Eberhard was now a Duke and much of his time lately had been spent trying to manage the greater realm that he'd been granted. But he preferred spending his time in Stuttgart with his family. Even while he tried to distract himself with work at his desk, he could hear the excited voice of the 4-year old Adalhard echoing throughout the hallways of the castle.

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Elisabeth had fallen pregnant nine months ago and now was in labour. Adalhard's birth had been difficult and Eberhard wanted to be in the room with his wife, to be by her side through the pain of birth, but the attending midwives had insisted he remain away; that the birth-chamber was no place for a man.

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And so he sat at his desk, sorting through reports and missives - from his vassals; from his liege, the Emperor; and then he spied a message from the Papacy. With Ludwig declining to support the new Crusade, the Papacy was looking for support from Imperial princes directly. Now Eberhard had a solid understanding of leading troops, but he would not die on some foreign soil chasing after some foolhardy idea that Jerusalem somehow belonged to the Christian faith. And he certainly didn't want to leave his children fatherless.

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Before he could get too bothered about the Pope's desperate plea, one of the midwives entered, a look of great concern apparent on her face. "My Lord, please come quickly; your wife..." she urged and Eberhard was on his feet immediately, following to where Elisabeth lay.

As he entered the room, he heard the heart-warming squeal of the newborn but he could see that his wife was very weak; much worse even than after Adalhard's birth. He knelt by Elisabeth's side, uncertain what to say. She turned to him and whispered, "Eberhard, my love. God will look after me now, but you must look after the children."

A midwife stepped up with the baby. "A healthy boy, my Lady."

No response from Elisabeth. Slow seconds passed and then she stopped breathing. Eberhard closed his wife's eyes, then stood up and took the baby from the midwife.

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"I will name him Heinrich after Elisabeth's father. She'd like that I think. And I swear by the Virgin Mary and Saint Boniface that I'll do right by him. Heinrich will want for nothing."

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Asantahene

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Awwww that's so sad man. Well written there and good promotion. Let's see how your Duke uses it eh?
 

theosZA

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Baron Hans of Waiblingen, Steward of Swabia
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October 1342

The coach came to a stop as it reached the gates of Hohentübingen Castle. Baron Hans stepped out into the bracing wind atop the Spitzberg. The town of Tübingen arrayed below the castle, though quaint compared to Stuttgart, made a glorious sight as the rising sun's rays lit up the buildings.

Hans turned away from the coach and towards the castle gate with some trepidation. He was not known as a warrior, but had done his fair share of leading troops in the War for the French Crown, and had shown no fear then. This ... this was different. Here he was walking into a lion's den not knowing whether the lion might be tame or vicious. It wasn't for the boy-count that he was afraid, it was for the boy's distant uncle, Konrad von Tübingen, the intimidating Marshal and Regent of Schwaben. Not for the first time Hans cursed himself that he had reached this situation.

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The Empire had reached a time of peace. Well, there was still some fighting up north where the Emperor was aiding Denmark in skirmishes with Novgorod, but the "great war of our time" was over. With the aid of the Imperial levies, Edward had defeated Philippe and claimed the crown of France. However many of the French nobles continued to support Philippe and so the recalcitrant nobles formed an independent Kingdom of Aquitaine and proclaimed Philippe their king. There was little doubt that there would be wars involving the English, French and the Empire again in the future, but at least for now there was peace.

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This time of peace had just given time for Duke Eberhard to stew following his wife's death. He certainly would not entertain any thoughts of remarrying and reproached any of the debutantes who presumed to entice him. He had grown increasingly unconcerned with the administration of his Duchy and seemed to spend all his time doting over his baby boy, the second-born son of the von Württemberg family.

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This had left Hans dealing with most of the matters of administration within the Duchy and, as far as Hans was concerned, he was doing it most efficiently. Additional taxes collected in the capital had done little to cheer up the Duke, but the ducal treasury was looking better than ever.

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Duke Eberhard rarely attended his own council meetings, but he had shown up at the August meeting, a fire burning in his eyes that immediately told Hans that something was up. After the councillors had delivered their reports, Eberhard stood up for an announcement.

"You no doubt are all aware that our dear friend, the Count Gottfried of Schwaben, has been struggling with an illness since winter. A message reached me last night and it is with deep regret that I must inform you all that Gottfried has fallen to his illness. The matter of his succession will need to be considered as his son, Alois, is but a newborn babe.

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"I will leave the remaining matters for you all to deal with but, when you have concluded your meeting, I would speak with you Baron Hans."

Surprised at being singled out by the Duke, Hans could hardly concentrate on the current business. Instead he had been alternately excited and afraid for what the Duke might be planning. His eventual discussion with the Duke had done little to change these mixed emotions for Eberhard intended to take the county for his youngest boy, Heinrich, who would otherwise inherit nothing.

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Before Hans could even respond to his liege's plans, Eberhard started talking about Hans's reward for supporting him in this endeavour: "The position of High Almoner, normally reserved for a churchman of course, but we all know you would be most fair in distributing alms within the Duchy. In addition to the regular stipend, a sum of 550 gulden should be sufficient to reward you for all the excellent work you've been doing and your continued service in the future." Hans had almost winced at that for he had known what Eberhard expected of him.

Seeing Hans's hesitation, Eberhard had continued, "And guardianship of my eldest, Adalhard, when he is old enough. Because I trust you."

With the Duke willing to bestow him with so many honours, and no little amount of gold, how could he not help him? And so that's how he found himself at the gates of Hohentübingen Castle this autumnal sunrise.

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The guards at the gate recognized the Baron and waved him through. There, in the castle courtyard, clad in his battlefield regalia, was Konrad, little Alois's Regent. Standing a full foot taller than Hans, Konrad was a veteran of numerous wars, never spared his enemies and was merely unpleasant to his friends. Right now, in clear breach of any diplomatic protocols, he was using his dagger to pick at dirt under his fingernails. Clearly word of Hans's mission has already reached Tübingen.

Hans was never comfortable with exchanging pleasantries and now seemed the best time to be brief and to the point. He pulled out the prepared proclamation and began reading: "To the loyal and understanding subjects of Schwaben, the unfortunate passing of Count Gottfried has left the County without suzerain and we, the Nobles of the Duchy, can not accept a newborn as Count of Schwaben. We have determined that the County of Schwaben be granted to the selfless Duke Eberhard to hold in trust for his son, Heinrich."

As Hans raised his eyes from the scroll, he could see Konrad's fury bubbling up. Pointing his dagger at Hans, Konrad shouted, "Lapdog, go back to your master and tell him we won't give up the von Tübingen birthright without a fight."

Hans held Konrad's gaze for a few seconds; foolish defiance perhaps, but Hans needed to prove to himself that this mere mortal did not frighten him. In his own time, Hans passed the proclamation scroll to one of Konrad's attendants and steadily walked back out through the gate, which immediately closed firmly behind him.

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Once they had left Tübingen behind, Hans let the coachman know that they wouldn't be returning to Waiblingen. Hours later they reached the Swabian army encamped on the far side of the Danube. Hans went straight to the Duke's pavilion with his report. And as he concluded he could see that Eberhard was quite satisfied.

"So it has all gone as expected. The von Tübingens are now traitors to their Duke. Well I know Konrad - he won't stand for this. He won't hide behind his castle walls; he'll be mustering his troops as we speak and bringing them north. We'll engage them at the crossing at Ulm; with twice his forces there's no way we can lose.

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"A single defeat won't deter the man, but with his army crushed he won't be able to hold his castle.

"Thank you, Hans. You did splendidly."

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Asantahene

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It's all coming together well my Lord :p
 

theosZA

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Ulrich von Württemberg, Marshall of Swabia
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October 1349

Ulrich was waiting as patiently as he could by the riverside. It had been hours now and there was still no sign of his father-in-law, the Count of Anhalt. Doing no favours to his rising temper was the stench coming from the Lauch River. Ulrich's party was downriver from both the 5,500-man Swabian army and the town of Kolmar which was housing the 2,500-man Alsation army. Weeks of encampment had turned this pristine mountain river to filth.

But even as the sun began to set behind the mountain, Ulrich knew he would wait as long as it took. His brother, the Duke, had told him to await his father-in-law and so that's what he would do. He didn't blame Duke Eberhard. No, he blamed Count Bernhard who should have been here with his army days ago.

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Hell, at this point he was even willing to blame the Emperor whose squabbles had led to armies marching across the Empire. The death of Kaiser Ludwig I five years ago had thrown the Holy Roman Empire into chaos. It should have been a straightforward succession since King Johann the Blind of Bohemia had also recently died, leaving Ludwig's son and heir to become the undisputed Emperor, Kaiser Ludwig II. However a faction led by Heinrich, Duke of Bavaria, sought to have the Empire changed to follow a dynastic succession that gave equal priority to the Bavarian branch of the House of Wittelsbach.

Their revolt had made early gains with battles won at Breda and Havelberg, and they'd even taken control of Dresden. But the war had long since dragged to a standstill and a peace had been settled the previous month.

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Of course the Duchy of Swabia had contributed its share of men to helping the Empire maintain the status quo, but Eberhard had little more than a vague interest in that war. Instead, he'd appointed Ulrich as Swabia's new Marshall, insisting he train replacement soldiers as quickly as possible. The Duke never seemed to share his long-term plans with anyone, so quite why Eberhard felt he needed such a large force had been a mystery. But Ulrich had found that he actually quite enjoyed mixing in with peasants and hopeful nobles alike as he worked to turned them into a battle-ready force.

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When the order had come from Eberhard that the army was to march west, his goal was finally revealed. The recently ennobled von Kleves, now Dukes of Alsace, had displaced the von Pfirts as rulers over Sundgau. Eberhard and Ulrich's mother, Sofie Scarponnis, was the daughter of the last von Pfirt Count and Eberhard had declared war on the 3-year old Duke of Alsace, Maregold von Kleve, for their mother's claim to Sundgau.

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The night was now inky black with only his party's torches for light. Just as Ulrich's fury was turning to despair, he spied an approaching set of torches borne by the shadowy shapes of nobles on horseback. Keeping his men close to him, Ulrich waited until the nobles had dismounted and he confirmed that it was indeed Count Bernhard who led them.

He still couldn't get over how different his wife and father-in-law were to each other: where Sofie was curvaceous and homely, Bernhard was gaunt and stern; where Sofie was kind and welcoming, Bernhard was haughty and quickly dismissive of Ulrich. "I have my two thousand men mere hours behind me. Take me to the Duke at once."

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Only two thousand men? Ulrich had been hoping for more, though he fancied this would probably be enough. Regardless, it was now well after sundown and he imagined his brother was asleep by now.

"But ... but surely you are weary from your days of travel. A large tent has been been prepared for you, and I can organize some cooked food to be brought to you shortly."

Bernhard just continued walking on past Ulrich and toward the camp. "Silly boy. The enemy army is already on the move. We will have to engage them tomorrow before they can hole up in the Castle of Ferette. Now my daughter is waiting for you back in Stuttgart and has not given you a child yet. You will be returning to her at once and leave the fighting of wars to those better suited."

He didn't look back as Ulrich remained rooted to the spot, shocked by his father-in-law's words. He knew he shouldn't have been surprised by the man's disdain for him, but this had just brought it home. There was no real danger in this battle - they outnumbered the enemy 3 to 1 - but even if Ulrich were to stay, he knew that to keep this alliance his brother would defer to Bernhard and send him home. Regardless of how it played out, Duke Eberhard would be getting the glory again, while he, as the younger brother, would get none.

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August 1352

Once again Ulrich found himself waiting patiently. He should have been comfortable, seated in his own room in Stuttgart castle, watching for his brother's arrival through the window. But it had been a long wait. The war had dragged on for nearly three years and his exclusion from it was making him increasingly frustrated and irritable. Just this morning he had found himself snapping at his baby daughter's wet nurse though she had done nothing wrong.

The war should really have ended shortly after the battle of Kolmar - the Castle of Ferette was very defensible but couldn't survive a siege for long. Things had taken an unexpected turn when a large army of Italians had arrived, catching his brother's army unawares.

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Although the men he'd trained had, by all reports, given a good accounting of themselves, they had lost near 5,000 men and with his brother's retreat the siege of Ferette had been broken.

The real tragedy was that the battle was entirely pointless. Kaiser Ludwig II had sided with England against Navarra over some Norman province. The Veronese had joined Navarra's side and when their army marching north had spied the banners of Swabia and Anhalt, they'd assumed this was an Imperial army and attacked in force.

With some tense negotiations ensuring a mutual understanding between Swabian and Veronese forces, orders had been relayed to Ulrich back in Stuttgart to muster more troops to replace their losses.

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Eberhard had visited Stuttgart briefly the previous year while the army was setting up again for a siege on Ferette. With the danger of battles out of the way, he had only come to pick up his youngest son, Heinrich, who at 10 years of age was deemed old enough to learn of siegecraft first-hand. This perfunctory visit had only served to increase Ulrich's frustrations.

Rumours of the fall of Ferette had reached Stuttgart nearly a week ago and every day since then Ulrich watched for Eberhard's return, determined that this time he would confront his brother. He spied yet another group of horsemen approaching along the south road and he was almost ready to dismiss them as ministeriales when the Swabian banner was unfurled, heralding the Duke's arrival.

With only a bare minimum of decorum, Ulrich hustled to the castle gates to greet his brother. As soon as he was through the gates, Eberhard dismounted and embraced Ulrich. "Little brother, I know I have been away too long , but we have taken Ferette and our mother may make it her home."

Again Eberhard's brotherly affection threatened to disarm him, but Ulrich had sworn to himself he would follow through: "Eberhard, my brother, your joy is my joy. But I must confess some small amount of resentment. You are Duke of Swabia; your sons will both inherit titles; and now even Mother has a county in Sundgau. What is there for me?"

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"But little brother, don't you understand? This war against the Duke of Alsace wasn't for me or my sons. Our mother is not so young any more and when she passes on, Sundgau will go to you."

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Asantahene

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Aha-great news! I am really liking the style of this AAR-you have a way that makes me believe in these characters-bravo
 

theosZA

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Duke Eberhard of Swabia
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September 1353

The sun was streaming through the window when Eberhard woke up. Although the bed was soft and comfortable, his body was still tired and sore, every muscle aching. I must be getting old, he mused as he slowly got to his feet. Just a couple years ago no battle could have left him so battered and bruised.

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But then the Battle of Salzburg was unlike any battle he'd previously fought. The Army of the South under the command of Duke Johann of Bavaria had been directed by the Emperor to wait on reinforcements from the north, but Duke Johann, on seeing the main rebel army and a chance to win glory for himself, had attacked near Salzburg.

It was true that they outnumbered the rebels, but the rebels held a good defensive position and Duke Johann's strategy of a frontal assault had been a disaster. Eberhard's levy had been flanked and quickly overrun.

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His horse had been felled in the fighting, collapsing atop Eberhard's left leg. He now gingerly put his weight on the leg and found it wasn't as bad as he'd feared. He started carefully pacing the room to ease the soreness in his muscles.

To take his mind off his body's pains, Eberhard surveyed his surroundings. The room's furnishings were spartan. Bread and cheese left for him last night still sat on a small table by the door. It had been pre-cut and no knife had been left for him. Glancing out the window, he saw that his room was on the castle's third floor; too high for him to safely jump. With the door barred from the outside, there wasn't going to be any easy escape here.

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Eberhard had been too exhausted to eat last night, but he'd been more than a day without food and was now ravenous. He sat down to eat the bread and cheese, and while greedily devouring the food, he noted its excellent quality - fresh bread and the smoothest cheese. It certainly was better than anything he'd eaten since departing from Stuttgart with his levy.

A noise at the door was enough to distract Eberhard from his meal. He glanced up to see Duke Albrecht of Austria entering the room. The rebel leader wasn't what Eberhard had expected at all. He had been known as Albrecht the Wise before his rebellion and since the war had started had not lost a single battle. He was certainly considered one of the best battlefield commanders in the Empire. And yet here he was: grey-haired, overweight and hobbling in on deformed feet. Eberhard couldn't help but feel a little sympathy for the man.

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Albrecht gently eased himself into the empty chair opposite Eberhard. "I hope the food meets with your approval. I want your stay in Austria to be a pleasant one."

Eberhard wiped the crumbs from his beard and tried to maintain his composure in the face of the unusual greeting by his captor. "Um, yes, thank you. What is this? Am I not your prisoner?"

Albrecht laughed heartily, his whole body shaking. "Well of course you're my prisoner. I just want you to be comfortable while you hear me out. Let me tell you the story of this so-called rebellion from my side."

Eberhard gestured for Albrecht to go ahead.

"Now the problems begin with our Emperor, Kaiser Ludwig II who the electors chose to rule us 9 years ago. Of course only God can see into the hearts of men, but the signs were there if the princes had the wits to see it. But our princes were blinded by their loyalty to his father, the previous Emperor, and so we chose a bully and a tyrant for our overlord. And that's to say nothing of his philandering ways.

CDVMFMS.png


"He pushed through his reforms, asserting greater control over the princes, and no-one was willing to stand up to him. Well when he demanded the Duchy of Austria, he had gone one step too far. Someone had to take a stand against him rather than bow to his powermongering."

yg9LR2l.png


As Eberhard finished the last of the food, he looked up and interrupted. "I remember your messenger arriving, begging for aid against Ludwig. I wouldn't be surprised if you'd sent messengers to every prince in the Empire. And how many joined you? You were crazy ... still are crazy. No one will join you because you can't win this war."

Q4dSn88.png


With that Albrecht jumped to his feet almost in triumph. "That's where you're wrong, my valued guest. As our Emperor's corruption becomes increasingly apparent, more will take arms against him. Sure, most princes couldn't care two hoots for some down-on-his-luck duke on the frontier of the Empire, but sooner or later everyone will be upset by Ludwig.

"Just the other day news reached us that Gerhard the Old, Duke of Holland, has led a group of unhappy counts and dukes in rebellion against the Emperor. Still small of course, but the numbers opposed to Ludwig are growing.

N4B0ts5.png


"Maybe we'll win - and maybe we'll lose; the point is the princes of the Empire have to take a stand together against the Emperor or he'll pick us apart one-by-one."

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Albrecht was puffing and his face was red at the end of his impassioned diatribe. Eberhard remained unconvinced. "Listen Duke Albrecht, you're not going to turn me against the Emperor so you might as well save yourself the effort. What do you really want? I have money and I can pay a good ransom. My duchy has been prospering of late and you need silver to run your army. Word has it you already owe many moneylenders for the coin used to hire mercenaries."

"No thanks". Albrecht turned and started walking to the door. "You'll be here for a year. I'll visit every day that I can, just to check up on you and continue our conversation. After a year I'll accept your ransom and you'll be free to go. And then you can make up your own mind about the future of this Empire."

epNfu0n.png
 

Asantahene

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Ooh intriguing! Does the old Duke feel he can win over the younger one through exposure?

Either way a well written chapter. Bravo!
 

theosZA

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Thanks Asantahene for the comments so far. I do tend to play some way ahead of where I am in the write-up so that I can tie some threads together. Eberhard has definitely changed for his time in Austria and we'll see that in the next couple chapters.