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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Chapter 1~ Early March (1043 AD)

High King Peredain

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The Normans. A people that have earned their place in history from the moment Charles the Simple and Rollo the Walker negotiated a treaty, granting the latter and his followers the land that would eventually be known as “Normandy”. Famous for their Conquest of England under the leadership of William the Conqueror.

But before the Conqueror there were other Normans, those that sought fortune and glory in the lands of a politically fractured Italy, the southern portion which had become a battleground between the Lombards, Greeks and Moslems. They conquered Sicily, eventually giving rise to the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130 under the reign of Roger II.

There were many adventurers, the most prominent families being that of the Drengots and de Hautevilles. Robert and Roger de Hauteville earned their place in history, but this is not their story. Of all the de Hauteville brothers...this is a tale of the founder of their fortunes, William, known to his Norman contemporaries as Bras-de-fer, or “Iron Arm”. The year is 1043 AD, and the rising son of Tancred de Hauteville stands alone with his fellows amongst the sea of Lombard princes and the Greeks that style themselves as Romans.

___________________________

Welcome to Arm of Iron, a HIP AAR set during the life of William Iron Arm. I thought I would pick up once again with the Normans of Southern Italy, but before Robert and Roger I's spotlight in history, focusing on one of their brothers instead. It was a difficult choice between William, Drogo, and Humphrey, yet in the end I went with the Iron Arm to see what he could've done in a world where he survived a little longer.

I'll mostly be playing to the character's traits as well as a blend of events and gameplay. I'm coming into this with several objectives, though a few are optional. One of these objectives is to forge the Kingdom of Sicily. Failing that, taking it by conquest or other means. This start in HIP makes it a little more difficult to forge Sicily, and you have several threats in the way of that.

The second is to participate in the Crusades. Mostly that is for Antioch, but anything can happen in this game. As far as optional objectives go, creating Roger II's dreamed empire that stretches from North Africa to the Levant. There really isn't any pressure to create that, but if the opportunity arises...I doubt these Normans will complain ;).

That's all I have in mind other than this being a narrative AAR. I'll gladly take criticism to improve. It's been a long time since I've written anything, and this should prove a good start to move on to something else in the future. I accidentally ended up posting the thread before I finished pasting the chapter and forgot how to delete a thread.

In any case, without further adieu, let us begin the chapter that sets the stage!

_____________________________


CHAPTER 1

Eboli, Salerno
March, 1043 AD

r6YfLLKh.png

William had scarcely seen a feast this large, but then he had seen few in all his summers. The great-hall of the castle was filled to the brim with the Lombard nobility, as well as that of his Normans, brought together by the most prominent of the Lombard princes, Waimar, second of his name. In time, perhaps the title of prince would be insufficient to describe his power.

The dais was a fine place to sup on wine and become a drunken mess. He smiled into his cup, watching the madness that was a drinking contest between one of his own and a Lombard nobleman. Well, it would have been one had the latter not downed his fourth cup and promptly passed out.

The former stood, placing a foot on the bench, letting out a roar of laughter as he was congratulated by other Normans before they proceeded to mock the poor sod. In the end, he, too, swooned before crashing face first into the table.

From William’s right, his brother Drogo leaned in. “Where is Waimar?”

William shrugged, taking his eyes off the spectacle and the ensuing commotion. “Emptying himself in one of the willing women here. No great cause for concern, Brother.”

LWDCGdNh.png

As if to answer Drogo’s question, moments later the prince entered the hall, weaving through the crowd to the dais. He struggled through that raucous bunch until he was able to take his place in the center chair, then called for wine. A servant attended him shortly. Not long after, a fetching woman entered, face flushed but no worse for wear, beady eyes surveying her surroundings.

William laughed, garnering Waimar's inquisitive gaze, and proceeded to shake his head, eyes filled with mirth. Drogo took a sip of his drink, clearing his throat beforehand. To William’s far left, that of the left of Waimar himself, sat Gemma di Capua, the man's wife. though a smile was plastered on her face, her eyes trailed the woman. If she was displeased, her face betrayed her not.


For a man that espouses the belief of God and that of being Christian so fiercely, he is unable to escape the flesh, William thought.


6myIr4Vh.png

"Our newest servant. I have heard much about her," Gemma spoke, toying with her food. "All good things."

"So have I. Shy woman, quick to doubt herself. I assured her that her work does not go unnoticed." Waimar replied, eyeing his wife. He took a bite of his lamb leg and wiped his mouth.

Gemma eyed him in turn, but shrunk back from his gaze, finding a sudden interest in her food. "Yes...assured indeed." She muttered.

Whether Waimar heard her or not was left up to interpretation, for he turned to the brothers. "We have a good cause to celebrate. The Romans have lost perhaps their most capable general. He met a fitting end. Cruel and sudden...yet God shall take him all the same."

ypEHlFLh.png

"George Maniakes? Dead?" Drogo lowered his cup, stunned. "A man of his caliber...one would have thought he would be the next emperor."

Waimar grinned. "Good that it did not come to be then. All of Italy would be his. Sicily as well. A fatal wound during the battle. In his place the emperor has granted command of his armies here to a man named Basileios."

William exhaled a breath he did not recall withholding when the late George's name had been mentioned. Maniakes was more monster than man. He had towered over any normal man, built in a way most men could only aspire to. A body fit for war. If that had not been enough, then it was his penchant for war that insured all that got in his way were swatted aside before being thoroughly crushed.

It had been half a decade since they met, but the Norman remembered him all the same. The Lombard Arduin, leader of a combined Lombard-Norman army, had learned firsthand his cruelty during the expedition of Sicily. Syracuse had been the first and finall straw for the Normans. The city of greeks had fallen after an arduous siege, but there were few spoils to be had, and if there were, it went to the general. At least...that was the tale of the rumors swirling about the camp at that time, along with others of him sending a local saints body to the emperor in Constantinople as a gift.

Those under William had approached their fellow Norman to complain about what was their proper due, and he had brought it to Arduin in hopes their leader could negotiate with the Greek giant. George’s fury had been a tempest, it was said, and Arduin was stripped and beaten whilst the general cited his justifications. Among those had been the refusal of a horse Arduin had captured after Syracuse. Humiliated and furious, Arduin withdrew his support, and William had no issue withdrawing his own, nor the Varangians.

George had been recalled to the City of the World's Desire, and that had been the last they heard of him, save word of his rebellion not long after his return to Southern Italy.

A formidable warrior, but a terrible man.

iWYC4gqs.png
mEdnbOth.png

"We overthrew Exagustus. Basileios should prove much the same. In time, all of Apulia could be in our grasp." William said.

"Tempting...but I must turn my attention elsewhere I'm afraid. My fellow prince, Pandulf, rules Molise..that which belonged to the princes of Capua. As I have claimed that title, I am sure you know where this leads." Waimar's grin widened.

William stared. "And you wish my aid in this endeavor?"

Waimar shook his head. "We have asked much of you Normans. Fighting in our wars dutifully. At times with us...and at times against us. I merely wish to inform you that I cannot devote time to the Greeks as of now."

William and Drogo exchanged looks. "I...see. Then the matter of your daughter? Gaitelgrima, was it?"

Waimar sipped his wine, savoring the taste before setting the cup down. "I had hoped to betroth her to your brother Drogo, but that is no longer feasible. My lords protest at the thought of a girl of her blood marrying a man with neither land nor Lombard blood. I have done my best to assuage their fears, but that makes them protest louder."

Drogo's eyes narrowed, but William nodded. "Then your brother has refused my offer of being wed to his daughter Wida when she comes of age as well?"

Waimar appeared somber. "He tells me he has already offered her hand. It pains me that I did not relay the offer earlier. The joining of our families would strengthen us immensely. We could free the north from the Germans!”

William offered a weak smile. "Prince, you must excuse me. My brother as well. I fear the wine takes hold of us both...and Drogo is most terrible when drunk."

He looked to his brother. "Would you not agree?"

Drogo nodded. "I find women to be so pleasing that I lose control of my wits with the drink in me. I wake with terrible headaches as well. Best to quit before I do something I regret."

Waimar waved them off. "Let us dispense with the formalities. We've known each other for quite some time. Drogo, let us preserve your honor."

The brothers descended the dais thereafter, the eyes of Waimar and Gemma not leaving them once until they were beyond the old, giant doors.

"The audacity...to ask to be betrothed to my sweet Grima," Gemma said. The woman shook her head. "Spending her life...rutted by some barbarian. I could not take it. They say they are descended from savages to the north of the Germans."

Waimar took another sip of his wine, the sweet contents running down his throat. Thirst quenched, he gazed upon the chatter that drowned all sound from the outside.

"You view them as a threat, woman, but the Normans are indebted to us. William would not be a count without us. He is a warrior, but it remains to be seen if he can rule as well as he fights."

Away from the noise of the feast, William and Drogo walked the halls of their host. "A fine liar," Drogo began. "I see why women bed him. A whisperer of sweet nothings."

"He did not promise us, merely spoke of. We will have to look for friends in other places then."

"Where?" Drogo demanded. "Where shall we find these friends you speak of, William? Perhaps we should do as Argyrus did. Take coin in exchange for titles and land."

"So we should become Lombards then? No, that is not the Norman way. If there is no way, we find one." William said.

Drogo snorted. "God willing, it will come soon. Waimar has left us in pursuit of his ambitions. Discarded till he has a use for us."

William frowned. Waimar had not been wrong when he mentioned their unique relationship. It had brought what William sought when he, Drogo, and their brother Humphrey departed Normandy, seeking a far greater inheritance than that of what their father could ever hope to give them.

Their family was far too large to parcel out land between them, and so they hearkened to their ancestral calling. The same which had saw Rollo come to glory and success.

William cloaked himself in his thoughts. Drogo shifted on his feet as his brother peered at him. It was as though he focused on him...yet did not, seeing beyond him.
A look William had carried from his youth well into manhood. Pensive, that was how Drogo described it.

William blinked. “We’ve come a long way from mere mercenaries. Almost comparable to Rainulf. If we cannot enlist the aid of these Lombards, then we shall look elsewhere.”

Drogo’s fingers combed through his beard. "So we shall fight the Greeks? Without these Lombards and their support...we take a great risk."

"In time, yes. They have many enemies...and the Germans would be interested in extending their reach further south. With enough land...we could be our own princes and kings.”

The end of their conversation neared when they reached the chambers that had been set aside for William. The brothers bid each other farewell, and as Drogo left, William made his way to the flagon of wine from the night prior. He poured himself a cup and raised it to his lips.

He seated himself, allowing his shoulders to slump as he took in the quiet. He would have preferred to feast with di Salernos in private, but Waimar had other plans. No greater cause for celebration than the death of an ally turned foe.

Southern Italy was to see itself change once more. It had no say in the matter, forced to watch history unfold at its own pace. In the end, one could only wonder who would be the masters of it. An old and mighty empire once ruled it, and before them the Greeks.
Was the victor to be German, Lombard, Norman, or Roman?

William intended to find out.



 
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JSB217118

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First:p

Seriously though good on you for starting your own AAR. I confess I am surprised to see people are still starting CK2 AAR's, I'd have thought they'd wait for CK3. It might make me reconsider my own AAR plans. Regardless you started off with a nice bit of scene-setting. Good for a beginner. Keep up the good work.

Also, your photos are kind of hard to see.
 
Last edited:

Jokerang

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First:p

Seriously though good on you for starting your own AAR. I confess I am surprised to see people are still starting CK2 AAR's, I'd have thought they'd wait for CK3. It might make me reconsider my own AAR plans. Regardless you started off with a nice bit of scene-setting. Good for a beginner. Keep up the good work.

Also, your photos are kind of hard to see.

Personally I've moved on to Imperator for the time being, at least until CK3 comes out. Might even do an AAR later once I get the hang of things.

Agreed on the pictures. They seem kind of small for CK2 screenshots.
 

stnylan

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Normans are never satisfied :)
 

terr0rizm

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Quite a tough place for William to begin with, yet a promising start for the AAR as such.
 

JSB217118

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Going to keep an eye on this one :) The Hautevilles have always been a favorite start of mine, all the way back to the first Crusader Kings.

Historically Palermo is one of the neglected great capitals of the Middle Ages, especially during the reign of Frederick the Second, who though as german, continued much of the Hauteville legacy.
 

Jokerang

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Historically Palermo is one of the neglected great capitals of the Middle Ages, especially during the reign of Frederick the Second, who though as german, continued much of the Hauteville legacy.

I'd argue Frederick II was culturally Sicilian - it was where he grew up and was certainly one of the first tongues he learned as a child. Not to mention he was always more concerned with expanding power in the Mediterranean than trying to crack the nut that was centralization in the HRE.
 

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I'd argue Frederick II was culturally Sicilian - it was where he grew up and was certainly one of the first tongues he learned as a child. Not to mention he was always more concerned with expanding power in the Mediterranean than trying to crack the nut that was centralization in the HRE.

Oh yes indeed. I only called him German because I couldn't spell the name of his dynasty.
 

High King Peredain

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First:p

Seriously though good on you for starting your own AAR. I confess I am surprised to see people are still starting CK2 AAR's, I'd have thought they'd wait for CK3. It might make me reconsider my own AAR plans. Regardless you started off with a nice bit of scene-setting. Good for a beginner. Keep up the good work.

Also, your photos are kind of hard to see.

Well, I must confess that this is not the first AAR I've written, and on the de Hautevilles (that one was rather short-lived due to life unfortunately).

CKIII is a ways off, despite being announced for this year, and I don't believe it will have as much content as CKII, so it was an easy decision to make. As mentioned in the note, it was far harder deciding which Hauteville to play as!

Thank you for the compliment. Looking forward to see what AAR you have in the works.

Personally I've moved on to Imperator for the time being, at least until CK3 comes out. Might even do an AAR later once I get the hang of things.

Agreed on the pictures. They seem kind of small for CK2 screenshots.

I've done some editing on the first post (mostly because I'm perpetually dissatisfied with it). Are the pictures clearer now or still unsatisfactory?

It'll take me a bit to master these forums and their tools as well as external ones, so I can only humbly request that readers have patience with my shortcomings for a time.

As for Imperator...I have a rough time of getting into that despite recently delving into the history of the timeline and beyond. CK sticks with me because of the potential for character RP and RPG flavor, things I am a fan of.

So far like CKIII will be, they are in the early stages much like CKII was, so hopefully that changes. I think Imperator will be much in line with EUIV (another game I struggle to get into despite having gained an appreciation of the period) than CK2 though, but that's a personal belief rather than anything founded on fact.

Nice, one of the more interesting dynasties.

I suppose that's why I'm taken with them...or the Normans in general. They have a pretty short history compared to most peoples in history, but it seems no matter where they went they impacted that place, even if for a few generations.

I have a similar appreciation for the Norse and their never-ending wanderlust they passed on to their after-mentioned fellows in Frankish lands.

Good to have you along!

Normans are never satisfied :)

Merely in their blood. Ambitious lot too. And pious. Very pious. Let us not forget that :p.

You're everywhere these days, but that's a good thing. More often than not you provide interesting insight into a scene or character interpretation.

Quite a tough place for William to begin with, yet a promising start for the AAR as such.

Indeed. Backtrack to 1042 and the start is all but impossible with Maniakes alive. He makes it a personal mission to invade as soon as he is able, and due to the unique political situation, it's unlikely you'll be able to forge allies in time and other variables to defend against his onslaught.

Fittingly accurate depiction of him from life. Drogo and Humphrey are easier starts in HIP since they start out with three provinces rather than one, which is all too easy to lose, even in 1043, which I find tedious but manageable in terms of gameplay and plausibility of alliances.

Not depicted here, but it was unfortunate I couldn't forge an alliance or NAP with Waimar II (or rather Gaimar V as I've settled upon), but it makes for a more interesting story I suppose.

And most certainly these Normans were not about to follow OTL and swear some sort of fealty to him :).

Going to keep an eye on this one :) The Hautevilles have always been a favorite start of mine, all the way back to the first Crusader Kings.

Glad to have an eye checking in from time to time. I've dabbled a bit with the original CK, but I must admit I confused myself more often than not, and could not make any sense of the map.

Hopefully this take on them will prove interesting. The entire family is in the south of Italy, for better or worse.

Oh yes indeed. I only called him German because I couldn't spell the name of his dynasty.

Hohenstaufen. I finished a podcast on him since I realized I did not know much about him despite his lineage. After that I can say he was a man born before his time, and impressive for his age.

He certainly was comparable to his maternal grandfather, if not a step above. Stupor Mundi is very much appropriate.

It's unfortunate what befell Sicily afterwards, though one could say the history of it and Italy as a whole is a pretty somber affair.

On another note, I'm expecting the next update to be between now and the weekend...if I don't end up rewriting it several times.

We'll take a look at what William has in store for him next.
 

JSB217118

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Hohenstaufen. I finished a podcast on him since I realized I did not know much about him despite his lineage. After that I can say he was a man born before his time, and impressive for his age.

What podcast would that be? I've looked him up on Wikipedia and learned a bit about him through the history of the Crusades podcast and a short story about his mother.
 

High King Peredain

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What podcast would that be? I've looked him up on Wikipedia and learned a bit about him through the history of the Crusades podcast and a short story about his mother.

Well, less him specifically and more him being part of it. Podcast is Norman Centuries by Lars Brownworth. I'd say he covers the prominent Normans in history, though Frederick is there because of his lineage and his connection to Sicily I reckon.

I imagine the Byzzies are liable to be more stable in-game than they were historically in this period?

Depends. Throughout several test games they can go either way. With the decay mechanic in HIP for empires, they can get bogged down by that after some time, the honored tradition of revolt, or a certain event for empires. Whether that will happen in this game or not, we'll see.

Update is up shortly.
 
Chapter 2~March (1043 AD)

High King Peredain

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CHAPTER 2

Melfi, Apulia
March, 1043 AD

The city of Melfi sat on an Apennine hill-top, making for a mountain stronghold that was not easily taken. Mount Vulture loomed in the distance, ever so gargantuan that the city beneath it seemed no more than a child at the skirts of its mother.

Melfi begat a history for the Normans—their reward for their services in yet another Lombard uprising against the Greeks.

It was no more than a woman fought over as a trophy between two men, lacking all agency to decide her own fate.

By Frankish standards, it was nothing for any fledgling lord to boast of, but for a fledgling lord that had earned his holding, it was a source of pride the Norman would boast of for years to come.

The retinue he traveled with differed in experience. Some were former mercenaries, others squires and landless knights, and even more were the locals of this land that outnumbered them: Lombards.

Either men that answered the call of their brethren that returned from pilgrimage several decades ago, or relatives of them. Usually they were second or third sons, no inheritance to be had, or men that sought the same thing the brothers did. Those that were Norman or claimed some Frankish descent.

The latter of his retinue had once been the remnants of the dream of Lombard independence from the so-called "Romans". Theirs was nothing more than a dream. When they spoke, they spoke of a kingdom in the north at the south of the Alps, once calling its capital Pavia.

And that had been before Charlemagne descended upon it, and Lombardy (Lombardia) was no more. A pitiable people, and one William might have sided with if he did not have his ambitions.

These were the people he ruled, where he and his people walked a fine line. Little were they endeared by their Norman overlords that sided with all sides, maintaining a precarious balance of the powers that contested the south.

Their pillaging, their lack of restraint when it came to plunder, and most deplorable to these people: unlawful seizing of land they claimed they were owed by right of conquest and service.

To them they had traded one oppressor for another. On Lombard neck, a Norman yoke. The disruptive sound of hooves out of pace alerted William that someone had joined his right.

"We will get no alliance from Waimar, nor an oath to take no arms against us?" Humphrey asked.

"He claims that he cannot aid us in future endeavors against the Greeks. That is all that came of it." William said.

RRmFN2Zh.png
The trip from Salerno to Melfi in itself had put him in somewhat of a sour mood. He had come out of the celebratory feast with nothing that he hadn't had when he had walked in.

"But can find the time to add Molise to his lands." Drogo chuckled.

Humphrey spat to the side. "He plots something. In the years we have known him, Waimar has enjoyed being an actor. To what end, this time?"

"Drogo said much of the same thing. In his own way, of course."

Humphrey smirked. "Our brother has a...unique way with words, so I doubt little of that."

Drogo eyed them. "I am simply blunt, no more."

Now it was William's turn to smirk. The hills the retinue ascended were beginning to get steeper, rising as a dais. There, Melfi lay. Morose and daring.

That was well and good, for William desired nothing more than to clean himself, change and rest. They moved in blissful silence, left alone to their individual thoughts and worries.

He drew his faded and frayed cloak tighter for comfortability. In minutes they passed through the gates, stopping only for one of the two men on guard to raise the gates, then entered the city proper.

The streets bustled with all manner of activity, be it the clamor of peddlers of various origins, the common peoples that went about their day, the barking of dogs, the women of scandalous repute, and the occasional drunken sot slumped on the wall.

Unfortunate that what coin he possessed was in the hands of children that ran when Drogo barked at them. Melfi had become somewhat of a haven to mercenaries (some former), hanger-ons and whores, a native populace, soldiers, blacksmiths, wandering peddlers, vagrants, some of ill repute.

It should have all the makings of greatness if William had any say in it...but it was no Salerno. That troubled him.

"Home," Humphrey said. "The greatest of cities Italy has to offer."

"It can be," William replied. "We shall make it so."

On the morn, William held court, seating himself in the wooden chair crafted in the Greek-style that had no doubt once belonged to the deposed son of Boiannes.

To his left stood Osulf—formerly in the employ of Rainulf—often tasked with handling the reputation of his brethren in the eyes of not only abroad, but as well as the populace they ruled.

A fair-haired man, bearded with hair to the nape of his neck.
sHkd4Hch.png


And to his right stood Gerbert. He handled most of the administrative matters of Melfi, though in conjunction with Osulf. Darker-haired, thin, mustached, he made for a contrast to his counterpart.

A friend of William and Drogo since their youth in Normandy. He was the first to cast his lot in with the brothers, his father having been one of the men in Tancred's group of ten knights.

Osulf stepped forward, held up a hand and declared, "Court shall be resumed tomorrow; those with further grievances shall then be heard by Count William. Move along."

There were murmurs in the court. Those disgruntled by the announcement left briskly, whilst others filtered from the room at a slower pace.

Silence reigned when they were gone, with William dragging a hand down his face before he exhaled. No matter the numerous issues that Gerbert and Osulf put down, there was always another to spring up in its place.

More complaints of taken land by marauding Normans eager to follow the example of Rainulf and William, each claiming themselves lords of this or that land.

Count of Apulia and all Apulian Normans...no title more useless than that.

William did not even control all of Apulia, but that mattered little to Waimar.

"It is the prestige of the title that matters, not the truth of it." Waimar had grinned.

A hand on his shoulder saw William glance at its owner. Osulf appeared before him, a brow raised. "I do not believe you heard me, my lord?"

"Forgive me. My mind wandered."

Osulf grunted. "Since the Lombard refused your offer...I would suggest, perhaps, a woman...closer to us. No less prestigious, yet a valuable alliance to balance the powers."

William gestured for him to continue, leaning forward in his chair. There were few women in the south that could claim to be such. And those he knew were Lombard princesses.

But there was one…

"The lady Alienora? Rainulf's daughter?" William received a nod for his deduction. He did not know her hand had yet to be claimed.

The man her father was, it was likely for her to be wed for the furthering of his plots. She was no princess, but as the daughter of the first Norman lord in South Italy, she carried something no Lombard princess could attain readily: The respect of the Normans.

From the corner of his eye he could see Gerbert come to the same realization. "Osulf, perhaps you are more skilled than you let on."

yNv7moXh.png


Osulf ignored him. "Wed to her, you could truly assert control of these pretenders. Make use of them; pursue war with the Greeks. Even our craven of a steward could see the coin to be had with the rich lands of Apulia."

This, in turn, prompted indignation from Gerbert, and the two men traded snide remarks.

"So it shall be. Osulf, send word to Rainulf on this matter. Tell him I wish for his continued good health and the prosperity of his lands. That I wish for the hand of his daughter, the Alienora, fairest of all in the south."

Osulf seemed impressed by his words. "Bold and forward. But it shall be done."

The man departed with some haste at William's permission, leaving Gerbert.

"That alone would charm her. With your permission I will take my leave also. There are matters of import I need see to."

"You have it." William waved him off. Gerbert, too, departed.

He simply enjoyed the quiet a room devoid of people brought.


 
Last edited:

JSB217118

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I can hear wedding bells!! Of course this being CK2 it's more about troop numbers than romance. It's good you seem to finally have gotten that photography thing fixed. I like that you included the perspective of the people ruled by the Normans, though the way you put it in I couldn't tell the difference between your expositing and the character's thoughts. Keep it going, your getting better.
 

stnylan

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The marriage game is a subtle one, but a vital one.
 

!Peel

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Ooh a non De Normandie Norman AAR? Def gonna read!