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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

theosZA

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Adalhard von Württemberg, Heir to the Duchy of Swabia
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July 1362

He was Adalhard, elder son of the Duke of Swabia and heir to the duchy. He was tired of just waiting for a prestigious appointment; surely with the right encouragement his father wouldn't deny him. In his childhood his guardian, the Baron of Waiblingen, had coddled him, fearful of upsetting his liege; and since coming of age his father had treated him similarly, somehow fearful that anything might happen to his first-born. But there would be no better opportunity than now and so, after mentally preparing himself, Adalhard marched in to the castle chapel.

His father, Eberhard, was paying his respects to the late Court Chaplain, Bishop Manegold. The newly appointed Chaplain, Bishop Ruprecht, stood a respectful distance away, pretending to be occupied with the sacraments while keeping an eye on his Duke.

Eberhard noticed his son and slowly walked over to greet him. "Adal, the servants tell me your wife gave birth to a boy in the early hours of this morning. Congratulations to the both of you! I will of course visit the Princess when she fells strong enough to receive visitors. And how is your daughter handling this news of a baby brother?"

"Ah, thank you father. Yes, Cecilie is just fine, excited really I think. Um ... Trude and I have decided to name the boy Eberhard. I, uh, I hope you approve."

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Eberhard let out a roar of laughter, clearly upsetting Bishop Ruprecht as the sombre atmosphere of the chapel was broken. "Ha, I don't know whether to feel honoured at the respect or worried that you're just trying to curry favour with me."

Adalhard responded with a weak laugh, but quickly changed tack for fear that this might backfire. "To be honest, father, I'm surprised to find you in the chapel. You rarely attend Mass even on Sundays and it's well known that Manegold was your least favourite councillor."

"Least favourite ... yes, he was a Bishop of the Church, but I respected him for his good counsel. He was knowledgeable in matters of faith and more virtuous than any of the other bishops in this duchy." Eberhard turned his head towards Ruprecht so that there could be no mistaking to whom he was referring. The bishop beat a hasty retreat to the vestry, fearing any further attention from the Duke.

"Father, I understand your dislike for the Church, but..."

"Ha! Dislike?! The purity of the Christian faith is being corrupted by the Church, and the head of the Church, Pope Felix, is at the core of the corruption. He uses his position of power to gather a harem of women, caring little for who knows of his adultery. No, if the Church didn't hold so much power, I'd do away with the lot."

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This was exactly the reaction that Adalhard had been hoping for. But he had to keep prodding. "Of course the Church does have a history of promiscuous pontiffs, what with John XII and Benedict IX, so Felix's behaviour is hardly novel in that respect. But the Church's wealth..."

"Their wealth! Money stolen from our duchy's poor and sent to Rome to be spent frivolously. The bishops, even fully knowing the accusations levelled at the Pope, still choose to send their tithes to Rome instead of using the money to better the lot of their dioceses."

With his father so worked up about the Church and the bishops, Adalhard knew now was the time to strike. "I couldn't agree more, father. The bishops of Swabia must be brought into line, respecting your authority rather than that of the Pope. Obviously you can't trust Bishop Ruprecht as he's clearly beholden to Rome. Instead appoint me as your religious advisor on the Council and I'll do that for you."

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"My boy, you had but to ask. Of course I would rather have you on my council than some lisping, perfidious lickspittle. I'd deliver the disappointing news to Ruprecht myself, but I'm sure he's overheard us already."

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December 1362

Adalhard's father, the Duke, was again away at one of the Emperor's feasts. They were notoriously decadent and he doubted his father would enjoy it one bit. In the meantime the castle was nominally under his control, but the majordomo had the running of the castle well under control. And with Adalhard not due to meet with the dukedom's bishops until Christmas, Adalhard found himself wandering the castles corridors, looking for something to keep him occupied. He was surprised to spot his younger brother, Heinrich, outside in the training yard practising his swordplay. No-one else was braving the cold and so Heinrich was merely slashing at the training dummy.

Adalhard shouldn't have been surprised. Until the first winter snow Heinrich had been spending most of his time training with the levies and castle guards. Heinrich had always been the smaller, easily bullied younger brother, but now he'd put on a lot of muscle and his bladework looked accomplished.

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As Heinrich took a breather, he spotted Adalhard watching from the doorway and called him over. Mindful of the chill, Adalhard stepped outside into the yard which was just lightly dusted with snow.

"Come on Adal," said Heinrich, picking up another blunted blade and throwing it over to his brother. "I've been training for an hour already - let's see if you can overpower an exhausted soldier, shall we?"

His brother knew him too well; goading him like that almost always brought out the fight in Adalhard. Today Adalhard was just looking for something to break the winter tedium and so picked up the blade and donned some of the practice armour.

It had been a while since he'd swung a sword; he'd spent too much time learning the business of running the duchy and herding its bishops to keep in proper shape. So Adalhard started defensively while parrying his brother's quick strikes. Clearly Heinrich wasn't as tired as he appeared as he started a conversation, no doubt trying to distract Adalhard and get him to drop his guard.

"So Uncle Ulrich's left for Sundgau - you going to miss him?" Heinrich asked.

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"Of course," Adalhard responded. "He reminds me of you, you know - as cowardly as a woman." This had obviously touched a nerve, and provoked an unbalanced lunge from Heinrich, which Adalhard was easily able to parry and riposte.

Heinrich quickly recovered. "Ah, well, with Uncle gone, it's just Father now. And even you must be able to see that he's changed since he returned from the Emperor's civil wars."

Adalhard was now into the rhythm of the fight, the regular clashes of their blunted swords punctuating the quiet of the day. "Remember I never spent much time with him growing up - not compared with you whom Father seemed to devote his life to." With half of his attention devoted to the fight, Adalhard struggled to hide the bitterness he held against his brother's strong relationship with his father.

"Fine, I know Father doted on me; but he was good to others as well. The whole court, even the servants, admired and respected him. But spending a year in captivity has turned him resentful and uncaring of the feelings of others."

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Heinrich was slowly getting the upper-hand in the fight, his extra strength steadily wearing Adalhard down. Heinrich continued, "Where once he put his family first, now he spends all his time planning some kind of revenge."

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This was an area Adalhard was actually quite familiar with from the recent council meetings he'd attended. "It's not even his captor, the Duke of Austria, that he's working against," he responded. "All his ire is directed at the 'Accursed' Duke of Bavaria who he blames for their defeat at Salzburg. 'Wouldn't be able to lead troops out of his own castle,' Father says of him.

"And it's not just his time he's wasting. You wouldn't know this from all the time you've spent here in the training yard, but the duchy's finances are ruined as well - funnelled into buying the support of the burghers of Nürnberg which he hopes to steal from Bavaria. Of course the Emperor will never allow it, so the whole enterprise is in vain."

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"Well, exactly my point," Heinrich responded. "Father has changed, and the duchy with him. I don't won't to become like that. Look - you'll inherit the Duchy of Swabia when Father passes on, and I'll receive the County of Schwaben ... except I don't want to be any kind of ruler, especially not if it leads me down the same dark road as Father."

Adalhard didn't like where this conversation was headed, but he was too tired now to interject, focusing all his efforts now on defending himself.

Heinrich continued, "I've ... I've decided to seek glory elsewhere. When Father returns from the feast, I will beg his leave to go to Iberia and join the Order of Calatrava."

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This did catch Adalhard by surprise. He stumbled and Heinrich landed a solid blow to his shoulder, knocking him flat on the ground.
 

Asantahene

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I like how you are mixing up the narrative from different points of view-a nice update
 

theosZA

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Duke Eberhard of Swabia
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December 1369

Eberhard couldn't sleep. He wished he could blame it on nerves for the upcoming battle, but by now he'd lost count of the battles he'd fought in and rather than fearing combat, he actually looked forward to it. He wished he could blame it on the deprivations of living in a war camp, but anticipating a long siege he and his fellow nobles had taken over a small farmhouse within sight of Leiningen and it had been furnished with all the comforts of home.

The reason Eberhard couldn't sleep was the wound in his side. A siege can be particularly boring and he'd filled a lot of the time keeping his sword-arm strong by training with his young aide, Welf von Urach. Welf was only getting better with a blade, while old age and other duties meant Eberhard's own skills were slipping. With no deference to rank, Welf had managed to land many blows on Eberhard, and though blunted blades and leather armour are usually plenty of protection, one strike did result in a large cut just below Eberhard's left rib.

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He hadn't worried about it much at the time - especially not when news of the approaching army of the Emperor had reached him. Yes ... here he was, besieging the Emperor's own castle while waiting to face the Emperor's own army in battle tomorrow. Twenty years ago he would never have imagined he'd be in this situation, but times had changed ... and Eberhard had changed.

Once he'd been content to let others involve themselves in the politics of the Empire while he would be a good Duke and a good Prince Elector of the Empire. But even while the Princes squabbled amongst themselves, their rights within the Empire were being eroded by an Emperor who feared his Princes growing too strong. And when Kaiser Ludwig refused to entertain Eberhard's claim on Nürnberg, he realised the Emperor had gone too far.

A foolhardy war by the Emperor against King Edward the Wise of England and France was the opportunity Eberhard had been looking for. Allying with other Electors in the Empire, their request for Ludwig to return certain liberties to the Princes was backed up with a military force whereas Ludwig had just lost his army in the marshes of Flanders.

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Kaiser Ludwig II was not known for his courage on the battlefield, but he was never one to back down in the political arena. The request was refused and Eberhard and his allies were branded traitors to the Empire. They had no choice but to fight for their rights.

In the end, the numbers who would join their side were pitiful, and although exhausted by his war with King Edward, Ludwig had the resources of the whole Holy Roman Empire from which to draw. For the rebels to win the war would require masterful strategy.

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The rebel faction was led by Baldomar, the Archbishop of Mainz. As mistrustful as Eberhard was of the Church, he trusted in Baldomar's desire to weaken the Emperor and so deferred to the Archbishop's leadership while Eberhard tried to dictate the military strategy.

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This arrangement was problematic: Archbishop and Duke each had control over half the army, and while Baldomar had some grasp over matters of warfare, Eberhard had devoted his last 15 years to it almost to the exclusion of all else. Eberhard wasn't too humble to admit that study and hard-won experience had forged him into one of the best generals in the whole Empire.

And he certainly had to be one of the best, for to lose even a single battle would make the war irrecoverable. The last two years had seen a string of victory after victory, including the major battles of Frankfurt, Nassau and Schweinfurt, plus numerous lesser battles and skirmishes. His skill in command and ruthlessness with his enemies had made Eberhard well-feared.

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Eberhard wasn't blind to his own reputation; he knew that life and war had changed him ... hardened him. His younger son, Heinrich, had left for the knightly Order of Calatrava, disinheriting himself and swearing a vow of chastity. His elder son, Adalhard, who showed so much promise, had died of an illness while still in his youth.

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Adalhard through his wife, the Princess Trude of Bohemia, had left behind 3 daughters and a son. Eberhard's grandson, also named Eberhard, was now the heir to the Duchy and in the care of Archbishop Baldomar. Eberhard wasn't entirely happy with this arrangement, but the harmony of their little alliance was, for now, important enough to override Eberhard's misgivings.

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Having now lost his parents, wife and both his sons, and his brother now gone to rule in Sundgau, Eberhard felt that there was little else to live for but to see this war through to the bitter end and hopefully leave the Empire better off for it.

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Despite all the victories, the rebels had not been able to take any territory from the Emperor, which unfortunately left the Emperor free to replenish his troops and keep the support of the other princes. That was why the siege of Leiningen was so important - if the seat of the Emperor could be taken, it might prove he was vulnerable as well as deny him the core of his material support.

Unsurprisingly the Emperor was marching to its defence with an army that outnumbered the combined forces of Eberhard and Baldomar. Eberhard had faced worse odds before and won the day, though the open farmlands around the town weren't conducive to a good defence. And they couldn't abandon their siege, so they would have to face the Emperor and trust in Eberhard's skill and Baldomar's God to see them through the day.

A knock on the door lifted him from his reverie. The door opened and by the lantern-light Eberhard could make out his aide, Welf.

"Ah, Welf, it's good you're up," Eberhard said, "I think you should call the physician to bleed me some more as I fear my wound has only become worse through the night."

"My Duke," Welf responded unusually formally, "I regret to inform you of an unfortunate event that transpired during the night. The Archbishop of Mainz has decamped with his two thousand men, fleeing in the direction of Stuttgart. Our scouts report the Emperor's army is likely to attack shortly after sunrise and panic is already starting to spread among the soldiers who are awake. They know you haven't lost a battle all war, but they fear you're bedridden while they're now outnumbered more than 2 to 1."

Eberhard silently cursed, not caring for the increased pain in his side. He cursed Baldomar for his cowardice; he cursed himself for believing he could trust a man of the cloth; and most of all he cursed God for everything in his life that had let to this moment.

Eberhard did his best to rise, to put on as brave a face for Welf as he could. "Baldomar might have betrayed us and doomed us all, but we will not go down without a fight ... I will not go down without a fight. Fetch my manservant to dress me - I will lead this army in such glorious battle today that none shall forget it."

K5qMN6y.png


Even as Welf hurriedly left the room, the energy left Eberhard and he had to sit down again. He looked down and saw that yellow pus was now oozing out of the wound, a sure sign of trouble the physician had warned. He would like nothing more than to rest up and recover, but Eberhard had no choice - he would be out in the thick of battle and he just hoped his body could handle it.

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Asantahene

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Oh no! That said he was most Likely to die in battle or be imprisioned as I really can't see him winning that battle. At least the CB the emperor had against you dies with him lol
 

theosZA

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Thanks HREmperor; and thanks for the comments Asantahene - indeed events that are personally bad for the characters can actually work out pretty well from a gameplay point of view.

Anyway, before I start on the third ruler, I thought I'd post up a family tree so you all can see how we've progressed in the 33 years so far.
VsmThYb.png


And also a note that I've updated to the 2.3.6 patch. I don't believe there are any significant gameplay differences compared to 2.3.4.
 

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Looking good so far. Look forward to the next update
 

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Thanks Asantahene. This next update has been a bit slow in coming as RL intrudes. But I should have it done some time this weekend.
 

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Trude de Luxembourg, Princess of Bohemia
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October 1376

The rain was pouring down on the city of Mainz and the roads were being turned to mud. A lone carriage was making slow progress through the streets with the footman providing assistance every time the carriage got stuck. Eventually it pulled up in front of St. Martin's Cathedral and the footman rushed to its side as a middle-aged woman alighted.

She was Trude de Luxembourg, daughter of the King of Bohemia and mother of the Duke of Swabia, and garbed appropriately - an expensive, voluminous dress, black to suit the occasion. Despite the footman's best efforts, the rain was quickly ruining the dress and he tried to hurry her inside. However a princess would not be rushed - well aware that she would be arriving late, Trude was determined to make her appearance as distinguished as possible and she sauntered toward the cathedral entrance.

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The sheer size of the cathedral (bigger than any other she'd visited) and the congregation's focus on the recitation of the Dies Irae meant that few people noticed Trude enter. Not wanting to draw any more attention to herself, she took up a position at the back among the wealthy commoners.

In the middle nave was the focus of the congregation's attention: Baldomar, the former Archbishop of Mainz, lying in repose.

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There were fewer people in attendance for the Archbishop's funeral than she would have expected, the small congregation dwarfed by the cathedral. Perhaps the weather kept many away, or perhaps it was because for nearly eight years the Archbishop had led his bishopric in a seemingly hopeless war against the Holy Roman Emperor.

Baldomar had at least secured a peace with the Emperor that let him stay on as Archbishop. At the time it was believed Kaiser Ludwig settled for this compromise to preserve relations with Rome, particularly with the appointment of the new pontiff, Pope Agatho II. More likely though was Ludwig looking to continue with his Dutch ambitions and he could ill afford to simultaneously fight both the Dutch and the Mainz-Swabian revolt.

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The court gossip in Stuttgart was that the Archbishop had gone mad in his last few months. Some said that God was giving him visions, but most just believed that after his failure in the war, his own mind betrayed him, tricking him into believing alternate realities.

Fortunately his madness was short-lived. He led the bishopric's levy in the Emperor's war and was killed in a clash with the Dutch army. Those same court gossips say that the Emperor was also maimed in that battle.

As the requiem continued, she scanned the pews where the nobles were seated, looking for her son, the young Duke Eberhard II. Because of the war and his guardianship under Baldomar she hasn't seen him for eight years. He was just 6 when he left Stuttgart, fearful of leaving the safety and comfort of Stuttgart. Despite this she was easily able to pick out her boy, stocky like herself rather than slender like her husband.

Until now she had only had the reports from her late father-in-law and, of course, the late Archbishop himself. Naturally they focused on the good aspects of the boy's development and education, praising Eberhard's honesty and courage.

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The rain wasn't the only reason Trude was late to the funeral. Determined to know more about her son, she had tarried too long at their previous night's stop in Eppstein Castle. The Baroness was too old to travel to Mainz but was quite happy to entertain Trude and share all she knew of the goings-on in Mainz. She had told of how Archbishop Baldomar had protected Eberhard, and how in turn the boy loved and respected the Archbishop; but that many in the bishopric held the nobility in low regard. When the Archbishop was away he was incessantly bullied by his peers. Eberhard had taken heed of the gospels and instead of fighting, he would turn the other cheek.

With the mass ending the nobility followed the clergy in filing out of the cathedral. As they passed her pew, she got her first close look at her son. It seems the Baroness of Eppstein's words were true. Eberhard's face sported a number of bruises and a black eye. She could also see streaks from tears, though she couldn't say whether that was because of his injuries or for mourning the loss of the Archbishop.

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Trude cut into the procession behind Eberhard and as soon as they left the nave she spoke with him. "Eberhard, my son, it is so good to finally see you again. It's me - Trude - your mother."

He turned around to face her, looked her up and down, and said, "Are you sure you're my mother? Your dress is mud-spattered and your hairdo looks a frightful mess."

This wasn't at all how Trude expected their reunion to go. No affection from the boy; no relief at being rescued by his family; just coldness and cutting words.

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Rather than get flustered, she turned to acting out her role as mother, much as she would for any of her daughters. "With the passing of your guardian, the Archbishop Baldomar, may he rest in peace, I have come to bring you home - to take you back to Stuttgart."

Eberhard shrugged his shoulders and started to head out of the cathedral. Trude kept pace, thankful that at least the rain seemed to have stopped.

Trude kept up the small talk. "On the journey here, I managed to arrange an excellent match for you. Hildeburg von Zähringen is the daughter of Friedrich the Hunter, Count of Baden. She's such a sweet, young girl; I know you'll just find her delightful. She's still a girl now, but the Count has agreed to a marriage as soon as she comes of age."

Trude didn't mention that Hildeburg was also the last surviving child of the aging Count of Baden and likely to inherit the County one day. At his age Eberhard didn't need to be bogged down with the intricacies of dynastic politics.

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It appeared they were headed towards a smart house near the Cathedral, probably Baldomar's residence where Eberhard would have been living. Eberhard, seeing that Trude was not about to just let him go, asked, "So what is to become of me in Stuttgart? Will I be Duke now?"

Trude saw the chance to start getting Eberhard interested in his return. "Well, it will be good for you to start learning the ins and outs of managing your duchy, but for now your Chancellor, Mayor Michael of Reutlingen, is serving as your regent. However the man is old - he's now in his 70's - and conservative.

"There is an issue in Württemberg needing your attention that Michael is unwilling to deal with. The Baroness Cecille of Asperg, a little girl at 3 years old, was murdered by her aunt, Cothilda, so that she could take the title for herself. Mayor Michael is unwilling to upset the other nobles by giver her the justice she deserves."

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Eberhard stopped in his tracks, his face turning red. "That ... that vile woman! To kill a child is the most evil sin imaginable. Surely she must be burned at the stake to purge of her such wickedness?"

Trude was actually surprised by such a strong reaction from the boy, especially for a toddler that he had never known. She wondered if this was somehow because of him being bullied - and was it empathy for the girl or just a desire to inflict suffering and death?

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Well Trude was now going to be the boy's guardian and she could see that he still had a lot to learn if he was to run a successful duchy. He was clearly too cloistered here in Mainz and she had to explain the reality of the situation: "You can't just go around killing nobles, particularly your vassals. The other nobles wouldn't stand for it and without your nobles' support you have no power. No, arresting her and holding her in suitable accommodations should be sufficient."

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There was less than two years before Eberhard would be of age to reign as Duke in his own right. It wasn't long for Trude to instruct him, but he was her son and by God she would do her best.
 

Asantahene

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Ooh intriguing how the young lad will turn out....a nice little update. As ever like how you tell the story from multiple viewpoints :)
 

theosZA

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Duke Eberhard II of Swabia
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March 1380

Eberhard couldn't believe how dry and hot it was despite it being just the start of spring. The city of Al-Karak was now two days march behind them and the only thing keeping his four and a half thousand men in line was their fervent belief in the righteousness of their cause - the Crusade to liberate Jerusalem from the Saracens.

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And Eberhard also believed in their cause. His mother had in the last few years tried to teach him the skills necessary for administering the duchy, and how to placate his Mayors, Barons and Counts, but he hadn't really cared all that much for her lessons. His childhood studying in Mainz under the Archbishop Baldomar hadn't been easy but he had deeply admired his guardian before his untimely death. He continued to spend more time with the clergymen of his duchy and Abbot Franz of Zwiefalten Abbey in particular. Eberhard made sure that his duties as a Christian ruler came before all else.

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So quite naturally this meant that Duke Eberhard II was among the first of the lords to heed the call of Pope Agatho II. And with the Empire still busy with a war in the Netherlands, he was the only German ruler heading for the Holy Land. This wasn't terribly surprising as Kaiser Ludwig II's relations with the papacy were notable for their frostiness.

Their long overland march through Anatolia had been interrupted by an easily won battle over the city of Nicopolis, called Afyonkarahisar by the Turks who lived there now. Filled with confidence, his army of nearly six thousand men had entered the Holy Land.

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Eginolf, his field marshal, joined him atop the small rise to watch over their army and survey the terrain. It was dry scrubland as far as the eye could see. For the moment at least there was no sign of any enemy forces.

Their first months in the Holy Land had been quite encouraging. Even over winter the climate had remained quite pleasant, and they had been supported by other crusading armies - many from the Italian city states, but also from Portugal, Denmark, and even as far afield as Scotland. With Eginolf's battlefield acumen there had been a string of easy victories. While Eginolf lead their footsoldiers in the centre, Eberhard would lead the horse from the flank, and when they had greater numbers the strategy was efficient and dominating.

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The arrival of the Egyptian Sultan's army had changed everything. More than twenty thousand men had been reported as approaching from the direction of the Sinai peninsula. The crusading armies had scattered rather than face such a massive force. Eberhard had withdrawn his army east around the Dead Sea and into this accursed land beyond the Jordan. Edward, King of England and France, had pledged his armies to the Crusade, and Eberhard still held out hope that those armies might arrive swiftly enough to distract the Saracens.

Eager to hear his marshal's thoughts, Eberhard turned to Eginolf only to see that the man was no longer watching their own army but was staring back in the direction from where they'd come. Eberhard followed his gaze and for the first time he saw the Egyptian army. They were clearly moving much faster than their own men and would likely catch up to them within a day or two. And even at this distance he could tell that they were vastly outnumbered with perhaps as many as four times their own numbers. That quiet confidence and hope that had always been with Eberhard finally evaporated.

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They had no choice now but to fight. They would make whatever defensive preparations that they could, but Eberhard knew enough about battle to know it would be futile. And out here, even of those who managed to survive the battle, few would be able to make it back to civilization.

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January 1382

Despite the cold outside, the feast hall in Stuttgart Castle was kept warm by the roaring fireplaces and the body heat of a hundred local nobles, all celebrating, drinking too much of Eberhard's wine and eating too much of his venison. But Eberhard couldn't care less, for this was his wedding feast and he had never been more happy.

Eberhard and Eginolf had returned last year with the remnants of the Swabian army, and Eginolf had immediately set to working at rebuilding a capable fighting force for a return to the Holy Land. With plans being made to leave in the spring, he learned that his betrothed, Hildeburg, daughter of the Count of Baden, had come of age, and Count Friedrich was eager that the two marry before any further foreign adventures.

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It seemed that the wine had now run dry and the servants were bringing out the ale. Seated beside Eberhard was his new bride who happily accepted some. Still a young lady, she was no doubt finding the experience quite daunting and the alcohol would certainly help with her nerves.

Eberhard had met Hildeburg briefly before leaving for the Crusade and he'd found her most agreeable. An accident had left her with a scar on her left cheek, though it did little to diminish her youthful beauty. In fact her looks made Eberhard even more self-conscious of himself - he was already balding and sported a paunch that no amount of campaigning in the Holy Land could diminish. She was of course much too well bred to bring up his faults in his presence. The time in her company had convinced him that the two had much in common: they both preferred quiet and solitude to the bustle of court life; both were slow to anger; and she had been brought up with a comprehensive knowledge of the Christian faith and was actually able to engage in meaningful theological conversations with him.

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Seated next to Hildeburg was her father, the aging Count Friedrich 'the Hunter'. He was the only guest from her side of the family as her mother had died a few years ago. Neither Friedrich nor Hildeburg had been willing to talk about her death and he knew enough not to push them on it. Though he had heard that she might have been responsible for her daughter's scar, so Eberhard could start drawing his own conclusions.

Also at the high table were many from his own family: his mother Trude; his eldest sister Cecilie along with her husband Albrecht who is a son of the Duke of Mecklenburg; and Agnes, the sister of the Count of Sundgau making her his aunt once-removed. Agnes had been residing in Stuttgart for a few years now and was still a spinster at 28. And for that he had hatched a plan.

Despite the man being lowborn, he had invited his field marshal, Eginolf, to dine at the high table. The man had received more than a few odd looks, especially with his uncouth eating habits, but now that everyone present was in good cheer, Eberhard was ready to make his announcement.

When Eberhard stood, the hall quietened down for his speech. He had never been a man of eloquence, but he felt like he could sing Eginolf's praises all evening. He spoke of the man's courage, his martial acumen, and how he had been the architect of so many of their victories in the Holy Land. Quite a few of the nobles present had actually been with them on the Crusade and with their cheers of support Eberhard knew he was making the right choice. "Before we return to the Holy Land, this Scipio of our generation, is to become part of my family. I give him my aunt, Agnes von Württemberg, as a bride so that his children might carry the Württemberg name. A fair reward I feel for his dedication to this duchy."

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Eginolf had the good grace to look surprised, though Eberhard had made sure to make him the offer in private before tonight. But before he could publicly accept, a flustered messenger burst into the hall, heading straight for the Duke. Eberhard gave an icy stare at the man, upset that his planned drama had been interrupted. To the messenger, he asked, "Why are you interrupting us? What could be so important that it couldn't wait for tomorrow?"

To his credit, the man wasn't intimidated by Eberhard. He stopped by the high table, half-turned to include the rest of the hall, and announced, "The Crusade is over! The Holy Land's been won and returned to Christian hands!"

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And so another round of cheering and toasting began, and Eberhard couldn't have interrupted it even if he wanted to. From the messenger he was able to learn some more details. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, a title unclaimed since the Holy Land was lost to the Saracens in 1291, had been re-established. For saving the Crusade when all had seemed lost, the wise King Edward had been granted the new Kingdom.

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Of course Eberhard had never met the man, but he had a reputation. King Edward was still a campaigning warrior nearly into his 70's - and there was no doubt that with the vast resources of his lands to draw on he could hold Jerusalem indefinitely. Indeed he was now the most crowned monarch in Europe, simultaneously holding the thrones of England, Wales, Ireland, France and Jerusalem.

Eberhard would need more time to think through the long-term political consequences, but for now the feast hall had become bedlam. He turned to his bride who was cheering as loud as the others. Looking at her he realized how happy he was that he didn't have to return to the Holy Land after all and that he'd have more time to spend with Hildeburg as they tried to produce a son together.
 
Last edited:

Asantahene

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Goodness me. Edward III: the hammer of the Saracen!

Another great post matey. Loving this story
 

theosZA

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Still working on the next chapter. In the meanwhile, an appendix to the last chapter just to show the Crusade contributions. I tried my best to secure my little slice of the Holy Land, but honestly if it wasn't for the English-French army, we couldn't have won it, so guess they deserved it.

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Pedrinluigi

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This is such a great AAR! Always like to play as a humble lord and such in my games, and I'll surely be following this AAR!
 

theosZA

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Bishop Franz of Zweifalten
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March-May 1390

Franz was enjoying a dinner with the Duke's family in the Stuttgart castle dining hall. And while the food was very good, he hadn't really come to make small talk with Eberhard's mother, wife and sisters. In fact, he felt really awkward dining with all the women of the castle. The Duke hadn't joined them for the meal - having just returned from feasting with the new Emperor, Kaiser Lothar II, Eberhard had said he had some Duchy matters to attend to first but insisted Franz join his family for their evening meal.

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Bishop Franz and Duke Eberhard had been friends for a while now. They'd met briefly in Mainz as youths, and become re-acquainted when Franz received his appointment to the bishopric of Zweifalten (which was in the county of Ulm within Eberhard's Duchy of Swabia). Since then they had frequently corresponded on many matters of theology, though rarely had they had the chance to actually meet in person.

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The servants were just clearing the table at the end of meal when Eberhard arrived. "You can leave us," he dismissed his family. "The Bishop has business to discuss with me. Servant, bring me some of that pheasant ... and some wine for both the Bishop and myself."

Despite their best intentions, the next hour was merely spent drinking, with Franz probing Eberhard for all the news from the Emperor's court. Lothar II was a Carinthian von Habsburg, the great-grandson of Albrecht, King of the Germans, though Lothar traced his lineage through the youngest son of each generation. With such a tenuous birthright, his election had been contentious and he had much to prove. Rewarding his loyal princes with lavish feasts was just the start of it by all accounts.

With most of the wine consumed, Franz turned his attention to the actual matter for which he'd come. "You may not have heard the news while on the road, but Pope Anacletus is dead, may God rest his soul. His successor is Conon II, a man said to be more concerned with administering Christendom than with throwing down the gauntlet against the Saracens. With the establishment of my bishopric so recently, I intend to travel to Rome to sort out several administrative details."

"What an excellent idea!" Eberhard cried out, startling Franz. "I'd just been thinking the other day how God has blessed me with a healthy son, for which I had so fervently prayed, and a healthy daughter, for which I know my wife had secretly hoped. I think a pilgrimage to Rome would be just the thing to show my thankfulness and devotion to Him."

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Well, a pilgrimage wasn't exactly what Franz had in mind. That involved a lot of walking and Franz considered himself ill-suited to the privation of the road. But now that Eberhard had the idea in his head, there was no dissuading him. He was already ordering servants about to get things ready as if they were to leave in the morning, and when Eberhard's mother, the Princess Trude, was officially designated as the Duke's regent, he realized that a rapid departure was exactly what Eberhard intended.

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March 21. We have stopped at the end of our first day and already my feet are weary and my stomach craves nourishment. However, I have made a solemn vow to set all the happenings, trials and tribulations of this journey down on parchment, and I'll do so before I eat lest I forget this duty. This is the true journal of Franz, recently appointed Bishop of Zweifalten, and it is for recording the pilgrimage from Stuttgart to Rome made by myself and my travelling companion, the Duke of Swabia, Eberhard II. Although a man of the cloth, I know I am not without my faults for which I must frequently confess. And while my Duke is no saint, he is certainly a better man than me. Best of all the man doesn't follow Church dogma blindly but has a sophisticated reasoned faith that is rare in a nobleman.

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March 22. We are still within the bounds of Swabia and the roads remain familiar. This has left our minds free to engage in serious discussions on matters of Christianity and religion, faith and virtue. Even now that we've stopped for the day, Eberhard has his head in a book. He tells me it is the "Expositio in Epistolam ad Romanos" by the reputed 12th century French theologian Pierre Abélard. I've been immersed in religious matters all my life that I'd actually forgotten that brand of excitement that can come with scholarly pursuits.

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April 12. We have finished our day in the Lombard town of Vercelli where we have had a chance to visit the beautiful Basilica di Sant'Andrea. This marks the point where we join the Via Francigena, the pilgrimage route that will take us all the way to Rome. This region has not been part of the Empire since the Lombards victory over Kaiser Frederick II last century, and there are few here who give any credence to the von Württemberg name. But all pilgrims, whether German or French or English, noble or low-born, are granted succour here in the abbey.

April 20. It has been a month now since our departure, and I have long since lost track of the miles we have covered. The weather is frequently poor with every day being punctuated by spring showers. Today's downpour was more persistent and even the optimistic Eberhard was in a maudlin mood. He felt the need to talk of his middle sister, Adelheid, who last year had died from pneumonia following the birth of her first child. I could offer little but worthless platitudes with which to console him.

April 27. The road has become somewhat easier now, though still hilly as we approach Lucca. Tonight we have made camp with a group of knights from the Hospitallers of Saint James who are returning to Altopascio. Eberhard is always keen to trade stories of the Crusades and he does so eagerly with them now while I write. I have noticed that he is focusing on the victories rather than his army's disastrous end in the desert beyond the Jordan, though I can't really blame him for that, for it does one little good to dwell on past failures.

e8OTVVZ.png


May 10. We are now on the last 50 miles of the Via Francigena. Opportunities to restock our supplies are plentiful and we keep little food on us. Other pilgrims share the road with us, and tonight we share our camp with some of them. These pilgrims have even less food than us. To be honest, everything I know about Eberhard would have led me to believe he would be stingy with our food but, despite being on the road for nearly two months, he seems to have truly embraced the pilgrim spirit and he shares what little we have. His fellow nobles might not respect his Christian charity but surely the man will be rewarded in heaven.

tQDwj1e.png


May 15. We have done it! 56 days on the road and we have finally arrived! Nothing could have prepared us for the size and wonder of Rome. Truly Eberhard seemed less than comfortable with the seething mass of humanity that fills the city's streets. Tomorrow we will formally complete the pilgrimage as we visit the final resting place of the apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul.

jg92uuE.png


Franz put down his quill while he reflected on the hard journey that they had taken. No doubt Eberhard would be returning to Stuttgart by some easier means, perhaps by ship to Triest and then by carriage on to Stuttgart.

oE3XXYb.png


Eight weeks of being Eberhard's constant companion and Franz had learned much about the Duke. He could see that the trip had changed Eberhard: what had started as a grand lark for a pampered noble had matured him into a more godly man from whom the people of Swabia could take inspiration.

1XD86aQ.png


Franz refreshed the oil in his lamp and pulled out the pots of coloured ink from his travelling bag. With the pilgrimage complete, he could put the final touches to his map marking the long route that they had traced.

jUzjZ6O.png
 

Pedrinluigi

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What an excellent chapter! This is some great storytelling you've got there, linking up events so nicely :)
Looking forward to more! And when do you intend to export the save to EU4? 1444? 1453? Just asking.
 

theosZA

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What an excellent chapter! This is some great storytelling you've got there, linking up events so nicely :)
Looking forward to more! And when do you intend to export the save to EU4? 1444? 1453? Just asking.

Thanks for the support. The idea is to convert in 1444 unless something particularly interesting is happening at the time such as an important war.
 

Pedrinluigi

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Thanks for the support. The idea is to convert in 1444 unless something particularly interesting is happening at the time such as an important war.

Very well. Just keep at it, you're a great writer. If everything goes well would you consider extending it into Victoria 2?
 

theosZA

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Still in CK2 times and you're already thinking of Vicky? :p For this AAR I've specifically decided to keep a constrained scope, just 1337-1637 as indicated in the title so no EU4-Vic2 conversion. If I get around to doing a full mega-campaign one day, it's going to be from a higher level view (i.e. more years covered per chapter but in less detail) just so that I can feel it's reasonably achievable.