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Blasted Conniving Roman
99 Badges
Apr 20, 2007
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October 5th, 1202

“What are you thinking about?”

“There was a lady in King Phillippe’s court. Ermisinde, I think? She had the largest…”

Gregory smiled, his own mind thinking about the miller’s daughter in Falaise. Her father was too wealthy, however, and there was no way he would ever be a good match for her. He looked at his companion as the other young man went on, smiling quietly. The other prisoner who shared his room would have never had a problem with having enough social rank. The miller would likely be thrilled if his daughter had a tumble with someone of that rank.

For Gregory’s cellmate was none less than Arthur. Not the Arthur of legend, but he might as well have been. Arthur was the son of Geoffrey, Second of His Name, Duke of Brittany. His grandfather was no less than His Royal Highness Henry, Second of His Name, King of England, Duke of Aquitaine and Normandy, Count of Anjou, Maine and Poitiers.

Gregory was Gregory, unknown of his name, the son of a blacksmith’s daughter named Agnes and some unnamed knight. If the man had even been a knight. With the wars raging across northern France, many a villain had stolen armor.

One was a boy who had dared to rise for his rightful claim to the throne of England when he was 14, and who know found himself jailed in Chateau de Falaise for his troubles.

The other, well, Gregory thought it was a feat he’d taken down an armored warrior threatening his mother with only his wits and a cudgel. It’d earned him a trip to the local dungeon, then… mysteriously… here.

With the rightful King of England, if one believed the words Arthur swore he heard from the lips of Richard the Lionheart himself.

Not that their stay was altogether unpleasant. The accommodations were surprising to Gregory at least. Real down mattresses and pillows. A hearth and a tapestry. Warm meals each day, and the occasional pudding. Pudding!

All because of what he and Arthur shared.

Their looks - or so Gregory thought, at least.

Both were tall and fair, Gregory only taller by a hair. They shared the same blue eyes, the same nose, the same jaw even. When Gregory was brought to the chateau, he’d even met the duke’s grandmother, a woman whose grey hair was only matched by the iron in her voice. She’d chastised their jailer for keeping Arthur alone, saying that she had more than just King John’s pride to be worried about.

Should something happen to John, she didn’t want the future king of England being an indolent dolt. Keeping someone locked away with no company, that would certainly make them something. Maybe doltish, Gregory had thought. She’d had a long conversation just out of Gregory’s earshot with the jailers. Gregory was convinced that was why he was in here. He was supposed to keep the prince from going mad with solitude.

Or something.

At first, the proud prince and young bastard had clashed. Arthur thought the down pillows were all his, until the day Gregory gave him a bloody nose. The blacksmith’s grandson thought he would be pitched from the tower or worse, but instead Arthur had laughed, and said it was the first time anyone had bloodied his nose like that.

The two bonded in their boredom. While neither could read well, they parsed through scrolls together sent by the duke’s grandmother. Arthur showed Gregory the wrestling his old castellan had taught him. Above all, they talked -- and when you had nothing but four walls and a small window to look at, you talked about everything under the sun.

It wasn’t a spartan existence, but it could be a harsh one. While Gregory could slip out of the room on occasion, Arthur was not allowed around the castle without escort. His every need was attended to, if rudely, by his keeper. Even to this day, the thought of that man made Gregory shudder. Some said Hugh de Burgh was a nobleman once who killed his men supping at his table in cold blood. His huge frame and perennial scowl made Gregory think these rumors were true.

“What are you thinking about?” Arthur asked, staring at the moon.

Gregory considered his words carefully. He had food here, a fire. But try as he might, he couldn’t slip out of the castle. Not without the other boy who he now called friend.

But what he was about to say - well, it make them lose that warm hearth, the nice food. But Gregory wasn’t convinced that the food, the hearth, would be here forever.

“Escape,” Gregory said.

“Escape?” Arthur smirked, looking at the walls around them. Gregory’s eyes followed. Yes, they were four feet thick in the Great Tower, but Gregory did not plan to burrow out like a vole.

There was another way.

“Escape?” Arthur repeated. “What, with Tiny Tim outside the door?” Arthur laughed. “It’s his night you know, and it’s after the tenth bell!”

It was Gregory’s turn to smile.

“Yes, escape, Arthur. Leave this castle.”

It was something Gregory had been thinking about, planning, ever since he’d been taken to this place. Yes, their needs were attended to, but Gregory saw past the soft pillows and saw the cold confines of the truth. Arthur should be King of England, but John was King of England. Something was keeping Arthur alive for the time being, but once whatever, or whoever that was ended, bad things were going to happen to Arthur.

And if those bad things happened to a duke, what would happen to the blacksmith’s grandson who happened to be with him?

“You’re serious?” Arthur said, his smile dying away. Silence hung in the air for a moment. “What do you mean, escape?” Arthur scowled. “Just, walk out of the castle, with no arms, no armor? What happens if you…”

“We,” Gregory corrected.

"We? You mean both of us?” Arthur asked, confusion plain on his face.

“Yes, both of us,” Gregory nodded. “There’s a spot, on the walls, next to the round tower, where the moat goes right up to the stone. I saw it when I was brought here. If get out of here at night, we can jump, swim the moat, and be gone before sunrise!”

“I…” Arthur huffed, “But still, what happens outside the castle. I cannot pass for a peasant, I’ll be spotted in an instant, and no way to defend us!”

“There’s arms, armor, food, and a way out in town,” Gregory continued.

“There’s…” Arthur stopped, raising an eyebrow. “How?” he summed his questions into one.

Gregory nodded to the mirror and grinned. When he was a boy, he’d watched his grandfather hammer out a flat piece of metal for later use. After it cooled, the light played off the smooth parts of the surface, and Gregory had spent hours reflecting beams of light around his grandfather’s shop.

His grandfather had promised to see him every day after he went into the castle, and stood in the field across that black moat. The mirror lined up exactly with the one window to their shared room, and out to that very same field below. Since the village supplied the castle armory, once his grandfather knew he was alive, Gregory only had to sneak down to view the courtyard when his grandfather and others were selling their wares...

“You… clever bastard!” Arthur grabbed Gregory fierce and rubbed his hair fiercely. “A sword and what else? Mail?”

Gregory shook his head. His grandfather was good, yes, but mail - that was beyond his skill even. “The tanner made some buff leather, and grandmama and two of the seamstresses made a stiff gambeson to go under it.”

“Not mail, but it’ll do!” Arthur beamed. “All we need is a horse…”

Gregory shook his head. A horse - that cost the same as a quarter of the town itself. Arthur’s smile narrowed, and he nodded. That was past their reach for now.

“So, when?” Arthur asked.

“As you so cleverly mentioned, Hugh switches our guards at ten bells,” Gregory said, nodding towards the door. “Tonight is Tiny Timothy’s night. Remember how his stomach was gurgling? If there’s a night, it would be tonight.”

Arthur nodded, his jaw clenched the same way he always did when he made a decision. He looked at the door. “We need him in the room.”

“Aye,” Gregory frowned. How to get him inside? In their hours of boredom, Arthur had shown Gregory the same wrestling he’d learned from castellans in his day as a lord. The two of them versus a sick Timothy?

Not a contest.

“I’ll feign sickness,” Arthur said. “I must be valuable. I am still alive, aren’t I?”

Gregory nodded - it was as good as any plan he had.

“And after that… how do we get to the battlements?”

“We run,” Gregory shrugged. “Over the rooftops. The guards will not be looking...”
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Well that is an exciting way to start an AAR
Finally! The event we’ve been waiting for years, the return of @General_BT to CK! This should be good! :D
First time using imgur as the image hosting source. Took a little bit of figuring out, but finally got it working. :)
I can hardly believe my eyes - there he is, the grandmaster of storytelling, the pioneer of 'ways of life' and of the expansion of the games' scene far into the regions of the middle east and asia, ages before those concepts were finally integrated into CK II! Your addictive writing in 'RomeARRisen' gave me a hard time back then, in the preparation period for my exams... ;) I'm looking forward to this new masterpiece of yours, @General_BT - but don't feel pressured! :D
First time using imgur as the image hosting source. Took a little bit of figuring out, but finally got it working. :)
The herald with the chapter name is showing but the two uppermost images are still broken. :(
Great start, @General_BT and I love that you don't even mention Eleanor by name. Your prose needs no introduction and only appreciation and happy to have you here in CKII! This looks to be great, especially with a glimpse at a Man in the Iron Mask vibe. :D

Good luck!
Firstly, everyone is too kind. I am a bit rusty, and I don't have the same software now to make nearly as many illustrations, but I had a story I wanted to tell, so without further ado:


December 21st, 1202

Mehtar Lainez grimaced, his pitch perfect ears assaulted by yet another Frank whistling in their fiendish off-key style. For most of the previous years, the oafish lesser sons of Christendom had assaulted and sacked his ears worst than a Saracen army in Rome. You would think, after over a year of the city being filled with that shrill noise I would be used to it, he moaned to no one but himself, but he wasn’t.

No one in Venice was. The city for the previous five years had stopped most merchant trade, the new Arsenal had devoted itself to building men of war, all in preparation for this horde of Franks, Germans, English, and even Danes to descend on their city, pay a handsome fee, then sail out of their city to the Holy Land.

Fat bunch of paupers, these, Mehtar’s eyes drifted over the straggling knights and ne’er do-wells still filling the nearby palazzo. Even now, with the majority of the cash-strapped ‘holy’ horde off pillaging Zara in Venice’s name, more trickled in, just too late for the initial boats. With the meager showing at the call of the pope - only half of the expected number arrived for the 'Great Crusade'- the Venetians would happily collect their toll and ship these latecomers off to join their brethren on the Croatian coast. From there…

Anywhere but staying here, Mehtar thought the plea of most of Venice’s citizens. Mehtar was not so lucky. In a few days, the man who freed him from the galley chains of a Tunisian pirate, the rickety, ancient Enrico Dandolo, would be leaving to join the ‘crusade.’ As his loyal bodyman, Mehtar would join him as well.

He glared at the cause of the terrible noise - a fat Frank laying on a bench, wooden steins sticky with ale laying around him. If it wasn’t daylight, Mehtar cast a sad look at the sun. With no throat, he couldn’t hurt another soul with that awful whistling…

“Good sir! Which way to the docks? I am to crusade!”

Mehtar sighed at the voice behind him. By the accent, another Frank, a northerner likely. Maybe he was a Norman.

As he turned, Mehtar stopped, confused. This one was odd - he was tall, blonde of hair, blue of eye - definitely a northerner or Norman. He had a suit of fine leather covering a thick, lordly gambeson. Why leather on a gambeson - the gambeson was so well made, why couldn’t he have gotten mail?

Then there was the weapon he carried. The sword hilt poking from his side looked worn, threadbare even, the shield slung over his back was beaten and battered, but slung over the young man’s shoulder was a giant cudgel, the symbol of an innumerable number of peasant ‘religious orders’ who proclaimed they ‘fight for Christ’ as the pillage the village next to their homes.

A lordly gambeson, a shoddy sword, a peasant’s cudgel? Odd, odd this one. Odd enough to be worth investigating. If he was a noble, it was the oddest one that Mehtar had laid eyes on.

“Your city has so many rivers, a man could get lost! Just point me…”

“Who are you, boy?” Mehtar interrupted him.

The young man, looked up confused. No, Mehtar told himself, this one was definitely not a noble - no noble would have have taken the term boy with that look.

“I am Arthur Plantagnet, sir,” the young man said after a moment. Mehtar frowned - his French was off, not like that of the other high nobles. It was close, very close, but there was a slight twang to his sir and the family name.

“Arthur Plantagenet?” Mehtar permitted himself an eyebrow raise. He’d heard of that name. Most of Christendom had, there was a mystery there. The King of England had been crying to all and sundry he had not murdered his royal nephew, the boy had merely disappeared.

Yet… here he was, ‘in the flesh.’


“Duke of Brittany?” Mehtar added.

“Yes,” the boy nodded, before a momentarily look of surprise, then a formal noble scowl crossed his face. “And you are?”

“Mehtar Lainez, in the service of Venice,” Mehtar bowed his head formally. If he was lying, why not let this young fool have his pretence? “You come… lightly equipped, my lord.”

The young man looked down, and for a moment, a sheepish look came over his face. “I… escaped from captivity, my lord. No doubt my uncle, King John, has men hunting for me. I have nothing left in France, so…”

“You are seeking your fortune in God’s Work?” Mehtar finished the sentence. If it wasn’t for his bearing, it was an all too common story. The crusade was filled with second, third and fourth sons, men bred for war, armed to the teeth, but no prospects at home. Many were impressionable, young like this one. In the den of Venetian villainy… their false purity has already shown it’s true colors.

“Yes. My uncle was the famous Lionheart. I hope to follow in his footsteps.”

Mehtar smiled. If it hadn’t been for those few looks earlier, he would’ve believed the boy. “Well,” the Spaniard smiled himself, “those are big shoes to fill, but I see you have big boots yourself. God willing, you’ll leave greater footprints than him.”

“God willing,” the boy smiled, showing his age.

The Doge would want to know of this. Even if this wasn’t the real Duke Arthur, with some coaching, he could look the part. Keeping a pretender in court for a rainy day was a Venetian past-time, one that had created many a diplomatic coup for them in the past…

“Well, Arthur, you shouldn’t be supping here in the common mess. A Duke should be at the Palazzo Ducale supping with the mighty leaders of the Crusade.” The boy’s eyes started to light, before Mehtar took the bold step of touching his shoulder as a test.

A test the boy failed. He did nothing, instead looking at Mehtar expectantly.

Unfortunate, Mehtar decided. He was close, so close to seeming like a noble. A story like that, and him not acting haughty and proud like all the other knights? He would be called out as a falsehood in a fortnight, strung up and left hung as a warning to other villains.

Maybe it would be better to simply get this boy off to a quiet place, slip a dagger between his ribs, and pickle his head? A pickled head, if done right, could pass for anyone. The Doge no doubt knew of countless men flush with coin who would pay for the pickled head of some young man they hated.

“My lord, these men are… prickly, I should say. They often are caught on points of honor, etiquette, and of course, chivalry,” Mehtar let no disdain slip into his voice. “Before you join them, perhaps, as a boon to your lordship, I may teach you some of the finer points of...Italian… court etiquette? You may stay at my home, if you wish.” He started to gently move the boy away from the crowd, towards an alley.

Mehtar watched his face, his muscles tensed, ready if the boy moved suddenly. He expected a look of shock, loud protestations that a street urchin might give.

His ears heard nothing of the sort.

The boy’s face suddenly face switched from expectant, to confused, to shocked, then back to… something. His muscles tensed, but he didn’t run. He swallowed hard, but looked Mehtar directly in the eye.

Behind those eyes, the boy’s mind was whirling, deciding. Not just asking if Mehtar was a threat. No, those eyes went further. He wants to know what my game is. This one thinks past fight or flight.

This one is clever.

Mehtar changed his mind. No, this one could be useful. Maybe there was truth there. Maybe Arthur of Brittany made some fantastic escape, crossed Europe to Venice, and was seeking a new life in the Outremer. Even if he was a fraud, with a little genuine polishing, he could pass. And while a genuine Arthur would be a diplomatic boon to the Doge, well, a fake would do as well.

Mehtar leaned close.

“Do not worry, my lord. I mean no ill will, I mean to help you blend in. Besides, you are a stranger, in a strange land. Would it not be good to make a friend, and learn to take a place with your rightful peers?” Mehtar smiled, and added, “A friend of the Doge, no less?”

The boy’s eyes glinted in the sunlight. Yes, Mehtar decided, the boy understood. Mehtar decided he would report this to the Doge when his master was not busy trying to shake down the last of the late arriving Crusader knights for every florin they had. Maybe the boy could add a few florins to the Doge’s treasury - King John would surely pay if he thought Arthur was alive. Maybe the boy would go forth on the Crusade. Maybe the boy would become a squire, or get tossed onto the street after a poor decision.

Mehtar did not question his master’s plans - he merely found tools for Enrico Dandolo to exercise his will, and further the glory of the Serene Republic.

Unlike many flies, this boy willingly followed Mehtar into the spider’s web as they walked away from the courtyard together.
Methar Lainez, hah so you couldn't resist, eh?:D Love it!
Oh what a twisted web is being woven
And left for us readers to beholden
Now this could go in a number of directions, all of them interesting. Surely an Arthur made King of Jerusalem would be sure to piss off King John or subsequently, a pretender could definitely provide a great hardship to him.
But who is this guy calling himself Arthur? Is it Gregory, seeing this one knows a little but not all of court etiquette? Or is it indeed Arthur, for some reason not playing his part as expected? If the former, what happened to Arthur? If the latter, why?
Who am I to pass up an opportunity to get in at the ground floor for a new venture from one of the masters? :) Unfortunately I wasn't exactly as diligent in following Rome AARisen as some others, but I still have fond memories from what I do recall.

I'm also rather pleased by the choice of the main character here: Arthur of Brittany brings back fond memories of Rex Angliae's Arthur's Tale, one of my particular favorites from back in the day. I'm glad to see someone else breathe some life back into a fascinating though oft-forgotten character.

Eagerly awaiting the next update!
But who is this guy calling himself Arthur? Is it Gregory, seeing this one knows a little but not all of court etiquette? Or is it indeed Arthur, for some reason not playing his part as expected? If the former, what happened to Arthur? If the latter, why?
Who knows what the weeks long trip from Brittany to Venice did to the poor boy? ;)
Well this is interesting and you come from good AAR pedigree from what others have said. Saw this on the awards and was intrigued. These 1st two chapters are extremely well written so I’m in!
Nikolai - Nope! Couldn't resist! And... is this Arthur? That's a good question I won't answer! :p

stnylan - I like that little rhyme. Maybe I can use it sometime!

coz1 - I'm fairly sure any title inherited by Arthur would make John fly into a royal rage. The question is, how far can John Lackland's hand reach? Does John know if the boy is alive?

Specialist290 - One, you are too kind with your praise. Second, I remember that AAR from way back - I loved it! Hopefully this will end up half as good.

Maxim Cherepanov - Well, take a relatively sheltered noble boy, make him journey across Europe and see the world for what it really is, and who knows what could happen?

Mirick - Hopefully you've had a chance to read some since then!

Asantahene - I didn't realize I had an AAR pedigree - one good one, one good start, and quite a few false starts. Thank you!


July 17th, 1203

Arnaud, son of Arnaud, backed away from his charge, their latest round of blows still ringing through the camp. He did not wear his mail, or wield his fine sword, only a thick cotton shirt and a wooden practice sword in his hand. His charge was clad in the same, towering over him.

Arnaud eyed the young man. On first look, he was imposing - blonde of hair, a head taller than most anyone else in the army. It wasn’t until you noticed his beardless chin, and his almost shy smile one realized he was a mere boy - perhaps 16, perhaps 17, Arnaud was not sure. Counting Arthur, Duke of Brittany’s years was not Arnaud’s job.

He was to keep him alive - none less than Mehtar Lainez, the bodyman of the Venetian Doge, demanded it. And when Lainez said to do something, on pain of his master’s displeasure - well, Arnaud did not want to think of the unpleasant things Enrico Dandolo would do to him if he failed.


Arnaud was so distant from his more illustrious cousins they did not acknowledge him with a formal surname. An experienced, if worldly knight, he came on crusade for wealth, not faith.

So, while the great crusader host, motley as it was, camped beneath the walls of Constantinople, Arnaud took off his practice helm, and eyed the boy he was training with a sword.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Arnaud was still in his prime, but life had dealt him defeat after defeat, and it showed in the lines on his face. He was the sixth son of a sixth son, scion of a penniless son of a penniless baron. He had arms, a horse, but little else. He’d served for coin to this lord and that lord, but the crusade was supposed to be Arnaud’s path to his destiny, a way to earn wealth, status and honor.

Instead, it’d become a cesspit. Even Father Valeran, the priest of his parish who’d run away with him for Venice, would say so openly.

The Venetians had driven themselves to near ruin provisioning for the army, and fleeced Arnaud and the other crusaders of every florin they had. When that wasn’t enough to repay Venice’s loss, they’d demanded the crusaders sack their rival, Zara. Even that did not even gather enough loot to pay the Venetians back.

It was then that some Greek whelp named Alexios had come to the crusaders in those desperate days, with a proposal seemingly from heaven. His father had been dethroned by another Greek - also named Alexios, just to confuse everyone - and the young prince promised them 200,000 gold florins if they would restore him to his rightful throne.

For an army with no money, little food, and no purpose, it was music.


Alexios Angelos, Fourth of His Name, was the son of Isaac II, who was deposed by Alexios (Third of His Name). In the mind of the Crusaders, used to the clear cut primogeniture of their homelands, their crusade had now become a mission to restore a usurped son to his father’s crown. For riches and wealth beyond their dreams, of course…

God, we were idiots, Arnaud cursed at no one but himself. They’d followed the indolent boy’s banner, and boldly sailed to Constantinople, the Queen of Cities, and demanded that he receive his father’s throne or face their wrath.

The Greek’s simply retreated behind walls older than the families of the most ancient noble houses, and let the crusaders be. So now they were in the bowels of Greece, laying siege to a city that was far too large for their small army to contend with on the mere promise, a promise of riches beyond their wildest dreams. All without food, and still without money. The only prospect of payment was victory.

And that’s if that little whoremonger Alexios delivers, Arnaud told himself as he held up his practice sword in a defensive stance. He didn’t think the so-called ‘Emperor of the Romans’ would. Arnaud had only met a handful of Greeks, and they all seemed dodgy at best.

“Arthur, ready?” he called to his student and charge.

“Ready!” the Duke grinned, donning his helm once more

Arnaud grimaced behind his own. He’d been young like that once, when he’d first joined a company. The world was his oyster then - he had mail, he knew how to use a sword, and it seemed like nothing could ever happen to him.

Too many ghosts, too many dead had changed that. And no how often that sin-filled Valeran uttered one of his bad prayers, nothing would change that.

“Don’t grin,” Arnaud said, “prepare yourself.”

“Yes Arnaud.”

Slowly the two circled, Arnaud watching the boy’s stance. Still too wide Arnaud noted. Without warning, he swung. The Duke awkwardly parried, but brought his shield forward to take the rest of the blow.


“You were slow.”

“Fast enough!” the Duke quipped, launching his own swing. The blow was quick, but Arnaud slid past it, launching a swift strike that was only barely stopped by the Duke’s shield. He’s thinking more on instinct there, good, the Frank grimly noted.

The Duke was always good for a quick retort during sparring - he was clever, Arnaud would grant him that. When he wasn’t with Arnaud sparring, that Lainez creature was teaching him to read - something Arnaud couldn’t do. He was also nimble for his size. He may have been a boy giant, but he moved with the speed of a cat.


Duke Arthur was only 16 in 1203, but he’d grown to six feet, two inches tall, a full head above most of the knights in the crusader force.

But one needed more than cleverness, size and speed to be a good swordsman.


“Stance, my lord!” Arnaud barked. The boy shuffled his feet, and without warning him, Arnaud started to attack in earnest, raining blows on the lad. Arthur’s shield came up.


Basilieos, King.”

Arnaud shook his head. Whatever that was, it was muffled, Probably one of the Greek camp followers muttering something inane.


Kyrios, Lord,” he thought he heard the Duke say.

“What?” Arnaud heard himself ask as he continued to rain blows on the giant man’s shield.

“I’m…” Clang “...trying to remember my Greek…” Clang “If I…” Bash! “...can remember it in a…” Wham! “...fight, maybe I can remember…” Thud! “...when…”

“Focus, my lord!” Arnaud snapped, pivoting around the taller boy’s defense. With a dull whump he delivered a sharp blow to the back of the Duke’s lower thight. The boy didn’t yelp like he did months before, but Arnaud backed away.

“Killing blow,” Arnaud pronounced, taking off his helm.

“Killing blow?!” Arthur yanked his own helm off. “How was that a killing blow? If I had armor on…”

“It would have sliced where you only had a gambeson, and the sword would have sliced through into the back of your thigh,” Arnaud continued before turning to one of the camp-followers. “Water!” he barked. “You would have been bleeding out before you knew it. Five minutes, no longer.”

“But my hauberk…”

“Comes up when you swing in that stance you take,” Arnaud cut him off as a goblet of water was thrust into his hands. “Leaves only the gambeson. May I speak freely, my lord?” Arnaud asked out of habit. Arthur had never refused him, something that still surprised the lowly knight, considering Arthur’s station.

“Of course…” Arthur said, before gulping down a goblet of water handed to him

“You started late, that is sure,” Arnaud took a swig of his own water, “your father did you a misservice. I can make you a middling swordsman,” he turned, and stared up at the giant, “but only if you focus!” He pointed the practice sword at the boy’s legs. “And you keep your stance! You make it wider than a maid on seeing her first knight!”

“I’ll try Arnaud,” the boy sighed.

“Do, or do not. Trying alone will get you killed,” Arnaud shot back. “Narrower stance, or,” he gently thumped his sword into the boy’s crotch, “you shield can’t protect you, and you’ll make no little dukes and duchesses in the future.”

The boy’s face paled.

Arnaud started to grin. Maybe, after six months, some of the finer points of swordsmanship were sinking in...

“The Greeks are sallying! The Greeks are sallying!”

Ice slipped into Arnaud’s veins. Yes, the Greeks were decadent, committing sins such as deposing their patron’s father, but he’d seen them on the walls of that palace! They were as armed as well as any Norman, and fought with courage and tenacity…

He looked up at the source of call. Already men were throwing aside dice, women, their meals, and grabbing sword and shield. A hand grabbed his shoulder, he spun around to find himself face to face with Valeran, the wayward priest’s latest conquest handing him his shield as he hurriedly buckled his sword in place.

“Greek’s coming!” Valeran said, eyes rooted on those formidable walls to their front.

“I heard, how many?” Sparring was long out of Arnaud’s mind as he tossed aside his practice sword. Already, his mind was racing - he’d seen maces when they were last on the walls, he’d hoped some of the camp followers had sewn his gambeson and…

“17 battles!” Valeran said, his cross clinking against his mail as he strapped on his shield “Augustino counted! That’s what…”

“Thousands,” Arnaud said simply as his woman of the week (Sophia, was that her name?) ran up, that gambeson in hand. He looked up at those imposing walls - banners were waving, and trumpets blared. No, no time for mail. He raised his hands up, and she yanked the thick cloth over his head. Unceremoniously she handed him sword, belt, and his helm. This one was good, hopefully she...


That bellow yanked Arnaud back. Damn, the Duke! The young man was stalking towards the front lines already, as one of the haggard pages that passed for squires to the impoverished nobility handed him a huge hammer used for pounding in stakes.

“Arthur!” Arnaud barked. It was unseemly! He was a Duke! He shouldn’t wander into battle with only peasant’s maul! “My Lord! Your sword!” Arnaud called again.

“Again?” Sophia (yes, that was her name), looked after the blonde giant, then back to Arnaud.

Arnaud sighed, but didn’t say a word.

Six days before, when they scaled the walls of some place named Blacharnae in the name of their patron, Arthur had grabbed that maul then as well in his haste for the front. Unlike some of the so called barons, he’d tried, and failed, to get to the battlements. If it wasn’t for the highborn knights holding back, by God, they would’ve taken that wall!

“I’ll be back,” he murmured, stalking towards the front line.

“You’d better!” Sophia called, “You haven’t paid me my pence for the week!”

Arnaud raced after his charge, but Arthur was taller, and his longer legs took him at a pace Arnaud couldn’t match. Horns blared, and the Duke disappeared into the hastily assembling spear-line of men half,armored, half armed, as pages, camp-followers and others streamed into the mass with helms, bucklers and other items forgotten in haste.

“Arthur! You stupid bastard, where are you?!” Lainez had made Arnaud promise, on pain of death, to keep that boy alive! You’re a head taller than everyone else, why in the name of St. Michael’s balls can’t I see you? he fumed as he pushed into the mob that was slowly taking formation.

He pushed, he shoved, and suddenly, he was in front.

And there they were.


Arnaud tried to count, but past a certain point, it was useless - there were many. Thousands. An army that outnumbered the hastily assembled porcupine of half-armored men by a two to one margin, pennants with the grim faces of saints he couldn’t recognize was already in battle formation, glowering down at the crusaders. He looked back - the great lords and their knights should have been to their rear, the armored core of their own army. He could see the squires running through the camp in a panic, and men hastily donning mail as pages pulled whinnying horses up to their riders.

“God damn it!”

He turned to see the source of the worst curse he could imagine. Valeran’s eyes met his own, and the priest repeated himself. “God damn it! God damn them!” he grumbled as fastened a nasal helm on his the cap that hid his balding head.

“Where are the knights?” Arnaud called, eyes looking at the shaky spear line - The men were in formation yet, but by their faces, no Deus Vult would hold the line if those Greeks came down. His eyes went back to the Greek host. They came with spear and shield, helms, good mail, glinting in the sunlight. At their front was a man in resplendent armor, mail blinding in the morning light.

The King of the Greeks had finally come.


Long gone were the days of Manuel Komnenos, when the West truly feared the Eastern Empire. Now, the Emperor was merely called ‘King of the Greeks,’ yet Alexios III intended to make these crusaders fear him once more. He sallied from besieged Constantinople with 8,000 men in 17 battles, intending on driving the crusaders off.

There were shouts, something different than the bellows of sergeants desperately trying to get the spearline ready to receive a charge. The air changed.

Then Arnaud saw him.

Arthur, alone, walking forward from the line, no shield, only holding that maul in his huge hands. He was shouting something in Greek, something Arnaud couldn’t follow. Something about sons and whores and children.

“What is he doing?” Arnaud craned to see as more strange Greek came from Arthur’s lips. “Your Grace!” he shouted, pushing towards the young man toying with death. You fool! Get back! If they… Arnaud’s eyes flashed back up to the Greek host, and watched as their King pointed to one of his companions, rider and mount covered in mail. The man’s helm bobbed as he nodded, and, at a walk, armored horse and rider started towards the Duke of Brittany.

“He’s going to die, He’s going to die,” Valeran hissed, his knuckles white around the hilt of his sword. “Ave Maria...”

“Save your prayers!” Arnaud snapped, unsheathing his sword, and starting forward. Lainez told him he was to keep that boy alive, and if God was kind…

...the Greek rider spurred his horse, and dust rose in the summer air as he plunged forward to a gallop, his lance lowered, deadly tip pointing directly to the Duke.

“St. Peter’s ass! Don’t just stand there!” Arnaud roared to the wavering line behind him, “We’ve got to save him! Move! Valeran! Theoderic! On me!”

For a moment, the two men he’d called stood confused, before Valeran’s face darkened.

“God will’s it!” Valeran shouted, his own sword out as Arnaud broke into a run. His tactical mind tried to think, to find a way, but there wasn’t one he could see as Arthur brought his maul back, eyes locked on that rider. If he survives the first pass, maybe we can grab him and pull him back! If the spears can form, maybe we can hide behind them…

On that colorful rider came, death in full panoply. The rider stretched out, the tip of his lance reaching, a point of doom in the summer sun.


To the crusaders, the Eastern Roman cataphracts would have been a known, but still terrifying threat. As armored as any knight, mounted on horses covered in barding, if they charged in formation they could punch through the entire crusader line… let alone a single man standing alone…

Then, just before that lance of death made contact, Arthur stepped aside with blinding speed. Lance passed through open air as the Duke’s maul swung up, its metal head catching the armored rider in the side. Even from twenty yards away, Arnaud her the crack of metal breaking as the rider reeled back, then fell off his mount. Freed of his rider, the horse panicked and bolted through the Latin lines, scattering men.

Arnaud skidded to a halt, mouth agape, as the Duke walked, walked next to the man that had merely seconds before been trying to kill him. Metal crunched across the field yet again, as the maul came down on the man’s head, leaving a ruin of blood and mail. That noise yanked Arnaud back.

“On the Duke!” he called, as his trio sprinted the last of the distance, a tiny triplet of shields and swords fanned out towards the Greek army. Just as they reached the Duke, horns blew.

The Greek line started to move.

“Why did you have to go and do that!” Arnaud hissed, glaring at his charge as he huddled behind his shield, waiting for the storm of arrows he was sure was coming.

“The line was wavering. I had a hunch that…” Arthur started, hunkering just behind him.

“I don’t care what hunches you had, idiot!” Arnaud snapped, not caring about their stations. We have to get back to the main line! If they charge while we’re out here alone, we’re doomed! “We withdraw,” he called staring at his impetuous companion, “steady, no running…” He started to edge back, but bumped into Arthur.

“I said we withdraw!” he snarled as his charge stood up, mouth wide. Fury filled him. Why in the name of St. Peter’s guts are you… Idiot! “Why the bloody hell are you all not...”

“Arnaud! Look!” Valeran called.

Arnaud followed the so-called-priest’s finger, and his mouth fell wide open again.

The King of the Greeks was wheeling around to the safety of those great bronze gates, his horse at a full gallop. Behind him, the great armored cavalcade of men and horses followed. Arnaud swore he could see them staring at their mangled comrade.

“St. Michael’s balls…” Arnaud cursed, for a moment just as stunned as everyone else, as a huge, ragged cheer rose from the haphazard crusader line behind them. “Why in the hell are they running?”

“Don’t care!” Valeran laughed. “Don’t question the work of the Lord, I say!”

“Or the work of a coward,” Arnaud spat into the dirt. That Greek king outnumbered them three to one! He’d caught them with their leggings off, and he’d retreated when one man knocked down one of his riders! “Cowardly,” Arnaud said again, before turning to the Duke.

That stupid boy!

He roughly grabbed the boy by the shoulders, and hauled him down to eye level, adrenaline making his rage hot.

“I swore an oath, on my life, that I would keep you alive, you fool!” Arnaud snapped.

“I… thought you were to train me in…”

“That was extra!” Arnaud hissed, shaking the far larger young man. “No swordsmanship can save you if you run out and beg to be skewered by a lance!”

“I…” Arnaud watched as his charge’s face fell. The fearsome warrior went back to a boy in an instant. Instantly, the Frank felt a measure of regret wash over him. The boy had dodged a lance, and swung true. The Greek’s were running away.

“That… was a hell of a swing, Your Grace,” he forced a small smile on his face as way of apology. That small smile turned to a grin. “I… I have never seen an armored rider felled like that,” Arnaud said, not lying. Now that adrenaline was fading, the true measure of what he’d seen was dawning on him as the other crusaders began to filter forward. There were gasps, awkward hushes, but Arnaud was only looking at his charge.

“You… think so?”

“Yes,” Arnaud sheathed his sword clapped both the young man’s shoulders. He felt a laugh come to his lips, unbidden - a long bellowing laugh of relief, shock and happiness to simply be alive.

“Holy Mother of...” Valeran called. Both Arnaud and Arthur looked up. The priest was standing over the fallen Greek cavalryman, sword poking the man’s side.

What was left of it.

Arnaud had seen a man’s body caved by a mace, but he’d never seen someone’s ribs caved in to their spine.

Someone who had been wearing a gambeson, mail, and lamellar.

He looked back up at Arthur.

“Sweet Christ,” he made the sign of the cross.

Maybe the boy did not need to learn the sword at all.


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A two-handed maul would certainly play to Arthur's strengths -- a tall man with good upper body strength can put quite a bit of momentum behind that swing.

For a novice warrior to get a kill on foot against a mounted opponent... Arthur must seem to be protected by the hand of God in the eyes of friend and foe alike.