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Prologue: Part I


Lt. General
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May 9, 2019
  • Crusader Kings II
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Prologue Part I
A rider approached the gate of the fortress, covered in mud and slumped forward in the saddle. He appeared to be very young, with not even a hint of a beard on his face. His clothes were well worn, but marked him out as a nobleman. Sentries on the walls accosted him, and after a short exchange of words the gate was opened.


The rider was helped from his horse while another man went to fetch food and drink. The guards kept the man moving despite his desperate need for rest. Together, they passed through the main hall of the keep before entering a side room. Inside, there were several men huddled around a sprawling map of the eastern regions of the empire. They had clearly been in a heated debate, but had fallen silent as the guards opened the door.

"My lords, I present Nikephoros Phokas, bearing urgent news." At this announcement, the weary men at the table were visibly intrigued.


"Sit, son, you have obviously journeyed a long way. I am Iosephos Tarchaneiotes, commander of this keep," said the gray-haired man at the head of the table. He gestured to his right, "This is Phrangopoulos, leader of our Frankish mercenaries." Phrangopoulos was fairly tall and clearly practiced in the arts of war. He had a full head of blond hair, but a hint of gray betrayed his age. "I presume your message comes from our dear Emperor? I have sent many messengers reporting our success here, but I had not received any word from him," said Iosephos.


The messenger's face became dark; "The messengers did not reach the emperor because he has fallen in battle, my lords! We attempted to engage the Turks in battle at Manzikert, taking their camp before nightfall. The Emperor wished to withdraw back to our camp before dark and reengage the Turkmen in the morn. The army did not understand the order, and the Turks fell upon us in the confusion. I had been with the Emperor in the center, and he ordered me to ride for your forces here in Khliat with haste. As I slipped away, I saw his Varangian guard forming about him, prepared to hold the savage riders off. On my way here, I encountered stragglers from the battle, and one man swore he saw the Emperor felled by a Turkic warrior!"


"What of the rest of the army? I understand Andronikos Doukas commanded the provincial levies in reserve, and surely he is still in the field?"

"He withdrew from the battle before the Turks had even attacked, and he refused to turn back to save the Emperor. Instead, Andronikos intends to proclaim his nephew, Michael, the new emperor due to Romanos' death at Manzikert."

Iosephos replied, "Are the Turks marching on us now? We can withstand a siege, but if no one comes to relieve us, there is no point."

"The Turkmen did not pursue our withdrawal aggressively; they seemed content to plunder the Emperor's baggage train and raid the countryside," Nikephoros replied.

Iosephos dismissed the man, saying, "Thank you for your message. A room has been prepared for you, as well as food and drink. Go now and rest, you have done your duty." The young messenger was led from the room, leaving the army's commanders to consider their course of action.

"It seems our war against the Turkmen is over. There is nothing to gain here with the Emperor's defeat, and I do not wish to join him in death. I am no friend of Andronikos, and I know he will punish all supporters of Romanos. I plan to head for Cilicia; the mountains will provide a fearsome redoubt, and I can secure myself before dealing with this usurper. There shall be coin if you join me, for I will need your knights' assistance," Iosephos reasoned.

"What coin do you have to pay me with?" Phrangopoulos asked. "Romanos promised to pay us handsomely, as well as loot from the cities we took. With his death, I doubt Michael will pay what we are owed."

"Once we take Cilicia, I will make you one of my lords, my friend. No longer will you have to travel the east, risking your life for a little coin! All you must do is keep your knights with my army and join us in subduing the Armenians in Cilicia."


With that, Phrangopoulos, better known as Roussel de Bailleul in the west, decided to accompany Iosephos Tarchaneiotes to Cilicia. Iosephos had made a tempting proposal, and Anatolia was certainly full of opportunities with the Turkish victory at Manzikert. All that was necessary was for a man of action and skill to take a chance and change history...


Note: This is my first attempt at a narrative AAR. I'm essentially using this prologue and part II as practice. I also wanted to use these to characterize some of the important people in the region and develop their personalities a bit. Please feel free to give feedback. I greatly appreciate any pointers that can make this more engaging to read and improve my writing abilities.
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That's a solid intro. Good writing, some characterization, good use of pictures, and they're cropped to emphasize the important bits. Good work!
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The period between Manzikert and the founding of the Sultanate of Rum is interesting. Subbed!
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That's a solid intro. Good writing, some characterization, good use of pictures, and they're cropped to emphasize the important bits. Good work!
Thanks for the feedback! I haven't written much narrative ever, so this will be a learning experience, and if I can entertain, even better!
The period between Manzikert and the founding of the Sultanate of Rum is interesting. Subbed!
Thanks for joining in! Hopefully we can avoid the Sultanate of Rum, but we will see...
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I’ve popped in for a look too. Good luck!
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A promising start. The prologue is just fine IMHO :).

Let's see how the Normans shall fare against their many enemies so far from home!
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Prologue: Part II
Prologue Part II

Roussel was sitting in his tent, frustrated at the events of the last two weeks. The march from Khliat to Cilicia had gone as planned; a handful of Turks had harassed them, but no major battles had occurred. However, Roussel's position had deteriorated once they had arrived. The Armenian lords had quickly bent the knee to Iosephos after his army had captured Adana because they wished to avoid the destructive sieges and inevitable sacks resistance would entail.


With the Armenians bending the knee, Iosephos was only able to take the county of Adana and the ducal title for himself. This meant Roussel had not received the lands he had been promised. Further, Roussel's mercenaries had been promised a campaign of plunder, and sacking Adana had not met those expectations. Many of the men had left on Italian merchant ships, returning to the west.

Roussel took a deep drink of wine, feeling that Iosephos had betrayed him. With each passing day, Roussel's army diminished, weakening his hand and leaving him dependent on Iosephos. Even worse, he and his men had been ordered to make camp outside of Adana, living in squalor while Iosephos and his closest friends feasted in the city.

The flap of the tent suddenly opened, revealing Nikephoros Phokas. The young man no longer looked like the disheveled messenger of weeks past, instead dressed in fine clothes and well groomed.

"Greetings Phrangopoulos, I see camp life suits you," Nikephoros said as he took a seat across from Roussel. "I believe we have business to discuss."

"What business could you have with me? Is Iosephos afraid I shall strike him down if he cancels our contract, driving me from this place?" Roussel sneered.

"No, I come on my own behalf, seeking your assistance in maintaining my birthright. I am Duke of Charsianon, just north of here, and I wish to become independent from the Empire. With the destruction of the army, my lands are no longer safe from Turkish invasion. In exchange for your knights, I will make you count of Galatia."

"I shall be glad to join you, my lord. Together we shall secure your realm against both the Romans and the Turks," Roussel exclaimed. However, his thoughts were entirely different...

The following day, Roussel's mercenaries broke camp, informing Iosephos they no longer served him due to lack of payment. Instead, they joined Nikephoros and his personal guard in marching north to Charsianon. The army was relatively small (approximately 2000 men) but had a core of Norman cavalry directly commanded by Roussel.


Norman mercenary knights in Roussel's army

After roughly a week, the army arrived in Kaiseria, Nikephoros' southernmost territory. The commanders came together once more to consider their options.

"I intend to head west, gathering my levies before we unite our forces and drive the Turks from Charsianon," Nikephoros said.

"There is no need for your levies. These are just raiders pillaging lands while no one remains to defend them. As soon as they learn of my army, they shall withdraw and not come back," Roussel replied.

"I trust your superior military experience, but I would feel much more secure with additional forces," Nikephoros replied.

"I would feel much more secure if you stay with me and join us in driving out these raiders," Roussel countered. "As your future count, I would prefer to be inspired by my liege's gallant leadership."

With his honor and bravery subtly called into question, Nikephoros acquiesced to Roussel's demand. The Turkish raiders in Charsianon must have received word of the arriving army because they had withdrawn without any battle. Upon the mercenary army's arrival, they were welcomed into the keep by grateful Greeks.

Roussel kept a careful eye on Nikephoros to avoid a repeat of Iosephos' betrayal. Nikephoros seemed to be in no rush to ennoble Roussel, contenting himself with hunting wild game. He also seemed content to let Roussel's men secure the countryside and man the fortresses against any further Turkish raids.

After five days, Roussel was finally summoned to Nikephoros' personal quarters. Roussel had prepared for this moment, determined to become a landed noble one way or another. He entered the room, taking the offered seat across from Nikephoros.

"Greetings Phrangopoulos, how have you enjoyed your stay in my keep? Surely I am a better host than Iosephos?" Nikephoros chuckled.

"It has been acceptable, but I feel you have been slow on fulfilling your promise," Roussel coldly replied.

"I understand your desires, but I must first see to my people's needs! I have been away so long on campaign, they hardly know me. They would never accept some Frank becoming a lord all of a sudden."

"I see how things stand. I suspect the people will be satisfied with me as their lord," Roussel replied as he stood up.

"Guards, arrest this man!" Nikephoros yelled. As the door opened, the Greek guards marched past Roussel, grabbing Nikephoros instead. Over the last few days, Roussel had used his superior military force, well-placed bribes, and Nikephoros' deficiencies as a ruler to secure the loyalty of all those who mattered in the duchy.

Roussel's Greek allies did not want to destroy Nikephoros entirely, so he was allowed to retain his family lands in Nyssa and Tyana. However, he was stripped of the counties of Charsianon, Galatia, and Kaiseria, as well as the associated duchy.

Roussel had finally become a lord in his own right, establishing a new independent realm in the heart of Anatolia. Much would need to be done to navigate this nexus between the Turkish and Greek worlds, but Roussel believed he could carve out a lasting realm, possibly providing the foundations for a great kingdom...

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I’ve popped in for a look too. Good luck!
Thanks! Hopefully I can juggle a couple AARs half as well as you can. I also wanted to try my hand at narrative, and CK2 seems like the place for that.
A promising start. The prologue is just fine IMHO :).

Let's see how the Normans shall fare against their many enemies so far from home!
Glad you liked it! Part II wraps up my prologue, so the next episode will be the standard finding a wife, choosing a focus, rearranging the council, etc. Hopefully I can survive in a region where nobody likes me, creating a Crusader State before it was cool
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So, he has his starting realm. Out of curiosity, how much of seizing it was gameplay and how much was narrative set up (if that’s not breaking immersion too much)?
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Out of curiosity, how much of seizing it was gameplay and how much was narrative set up (if that’s not breaking immersion too much)?
It was entirely narrative set up. I started at Sep. 1071 which is the earliest Roussel has land. Prior to this Nikephoros controls the land, so I just wanted to try some narrative and expand on how Roussel got power. That's my one issue with CK2, it is hard to recreate some of the interesting things that happened in history. I would also love to play the Norman conquest of southern Italy, but that would not fill well with the game.
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One must keep an eye on the treacherous Greeks. And the violent Turks. Trust nobody but yourself (and your countrymen?), that looks like it shall be Roussel's modus operandi for now. He's got great ambitions, and they will be hard to fulfil.

If you wish to play the Norman conquest of Sicily, I can suggest to give HIP's take on it a try. It's a fun game. :)
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One must keep an eye on the treacherous Greeks. And the violent Turks. Trust nobody but yourself (and your countrymen?), that looks like it shall be Roussel's modus operandi for now. He's got great ambitions, and they will be hard to fulfil.
They certainly will be! My big worry is Byzantines have de jure claims and the Turks can holy war me at any point. Roussel is a little paranoid so I don't know who he can trust...My biggest worry is actually getting an heir before doing anything else!
If you wish to play the Norman conquest of Sicily, I can suggest to give HIP's take on it a try. It's a fun game. :)
Does it have a start in the 1040s? I will definitely have to check this out!
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Chapter 1: Marriage Ties
Chapter 1: Marriage Ties
Roussel had made significant changes in the duchy of Charsianon since usurping the title from Nikephoros Phokas. First, many of the Normans from his mercenary band had been given lands to provide the foundation for the army and to simplify governing. They had taken up positions of power within the realm while Roussel's closest companions became his council members.


Both Humbert, the chancellor, and Simon, the marshal, had served in Roussel's mercenary company for many years. Mayors Simon and Aubrey had not served with Roussel for as long, but they had proven to be brave and loyal. Further, they were foreigners to the Greek population of their cities, so Roussel believed they would trust him over their subjects. Finally, Bishop Turstin had been sent to the duchy after word of Roussel's victory reached Rome. The Pope hoped to extend Catholic influence into the east, so he had sent many clergymen, with Turstin being the most prominent.

Humbert had been tasked with fabricating a claim on Lyskandos, Marshal Simon set to training troops, Mayor Simon was collecting taxes, Mayor Aubrey was spying on Constantinople, and Bishop Turstin began attempting to convert the people of Kaiseria.

This particular council meeting was focused on finding Roussel a wife. He had bedded many women in his years of mercenary service, likely leaving behind his share of bastards. However, none of them would make a good heir if they could even be found. Roussel needed a legitimate heir if he were to leave any sort of legacy.


"Humbert, you have received word from your envoys sent out?" Roussel asked.

"Yes, my liege. It has been mostly good news, but there were a few disappointments," Humbert replied.

"Alright, let us go over them. Start with the bad news though."

"First was Countess Gaday of Tarsos. As a ruler in her own right, any child of yours would inherit both her lands and yours. Unfortunately, she was totally uninterested in our offers, likely due to her heretical beliefs and Armenian culture," Humbert explained.


"That is fine, a single county is not worth saddling myself with a wife who hates me," Roussel mused. "Who is next?"

"Next, we looked at the sister of Nikephoros Phokas, your vassal count. She is not particularly remarkable, but she would likely ensure his loyalty. If he betrayed you, she could take his titles, again securing more lands for your children."


"I have no interest in marrying my vassal's sister. I know Nikephoros is plotting against me, and I bet she is involved in his schemes," Roussel responded.

"Certainly, my lord," Humbert replied. "We also looked at Norman noblewomen. They would be more trustworthy, and might even provide a valuable alliance. First were the daughters of Raimbaud de Afranji, a former mercenary under the Armenian duke of Antioch. The older daughter Fressende seemed more impressive, but only slightly. This would secure an alliance with Count Raimbaud, but he has very few men."


"Next we considered Princess Cecilia, daughter of King William the Conqueror. I have been informed she is a very charming young lady, and she would greatly enhance your reputation. However, she is not yet old enough to wed, and I do not know if William would wish to ally with us. He is half a world away in England after all..."


"Finally, there was some consideration of the de Hauteville's in Sicily. I am sure you know all about their daughters," Humbert chuckled. "Most of their children are already married or betrothed, so I did not find a suitable match," Humbert said.

Roussel chuckled as well, "None of these seem like ideal options. The Princess seems the best, but I do not wish to wait and doubt her father would join our wars. Is this everyone?"

Humbert replied, "No, there is one more option. She is Greek and Orthodox, but she would guarantee a strong alliance. Theophano Synadenos is the sister of the duke of Dyrrachion and granddaughter of the duke of Opsikion. Her grandfather is the strongest man in the Greek's empire, and he is very old. When his daughter, Theophano's mother, inherits his duchy we could form an alliance with her. This would ensure the Emperor would not interfere in our realm and potentially bolster our armies against the Turks."



"Send the offer," Roussel commanded. "The alliance will guarantee the realm, and she will be tolerable as long as she bears me a son."

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Wonderful! BTW, I am currently playing as the Duchess of Dyrrachion!
Thanks! How do you choose what character to play next? I've read the first couple pages but must have missed something.
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Chapter 2: Sep. 1071 - Dec. 1071
Chapter 2: An Unreliable Vassal (Sep. 1071 - Dec. 1071)

Theophano was nervously tapping her foot as one of her ladies-in-waiting finished brushing her hair. Ever since her brother's regent had informed her she would be married, she had been very worried. Not only was the man over twice her age, but he was also a Frankish mercenary used to hard living and uncouth ways. She had always dreamed of marrying some dashing prince of the Empire, maybe even a future Emperor! Instead, she had been sent to the edge of the Greek world to a man she would not, could not love...

After the ladies-in-waiting finished Theophano's hair and outfit, the entourage left her chambers for the main hall of the keep. Her grandfather, mother, and brother were waiting for her with all of their followers. To the other side of the hall she saw her future husband and his entourage. The men were so tall, and they all looked rough and earthly despite their fine clothes.

Upon seeing her arrival, Roussel ordered everyone to exit the keep. The entourages combined, organizing by order of importance and familial wealth. Theophano's family led the procession, consisting of herself and her closest kin. Right behind them was Roussel and his council. Together, the group made their way through Kaisereia to the church. With every step, Theophano felt her heartbeat quicken, and she felt like everyone could hear it over the cheering commoners along their route.

Upon reaching the church, Bishop Turstin was waiting for them, adorned in the fine robes of a Catholic priest. The procession split into two groups, with the groom's party on the right and the bride's on the left. Theophano was now next to Roussel, and she swore he could hear her heart beating. However, she got her vows out as required and joined her new husband for the marital church service. The service was first led by a Catholic priest, and it was then repeated by an Orthodox priest as a concession to Theophano's family and the Greeks of Charsianon. With the marriage ceremony, Theophano just had to survive the feasting and first night with her husband.

The feasting passed with no major incidents. Wine flowed freely, while food was plentiful. Roussel had not levied an extra tax to pay for the celebrations, but they were still impressive. Roussel and Theophano even seemed to get along, but his limited knowledge of Greek proved difficult.


In the morning, Roussel gathered his council once more. He had also brought Theophano to join them.

"There had been some concern over who should be regent in my absence," Roussel said. "Now that I am married, I feel that it is only right for my lady wife to govern affairs in my stead." The council agreed, and Theophano was pleased by her husbands actions. Despite their differences, Roussel did not seem to be a cruel man. She had heard of many noblewomen whose husbands neglected them or even harmed them, but she seemed to receive respect due to her as a duchess.


After appointing Theophano as regent, Roussel turned to other matters. The first was not significant, but Mayor Simon's attempts to extract extra taxes from Kaisereia greatly upset the peasants. There was nothing the council could do but hope the peasants did not revolt.


More worryingly, Nikephoros refused to attend Roussel's wedding or the following celebrations. He cited ill health, but Roussel's spies had not found any proof of this. Regardless, a dutiful vassal would have attended.

Finally, the council informed Roussel that the Greeks under Michael VII had attacked the Fatimid Caliphate in a war to retake the duchy of Ascalon. He had secured the imperial throne after the battle of Manzikert and wished to demonstrate his authority by defeating a foreign power. Romanos had actually survived the battle of Manzikert, eventually being released by the Turkish Sultan, but he could not reclaim the throne.


Roussel was once again in another council meeting. The last two months had gone well as he and Theophano became more comfortable together. Whatever they had was certainly not love, but they were accepting of each other. The council had convened due to Nikephoros continued defiance.

"What did he say of my envoys message?" Roussel inquired of Humbert, the chancellor.

"Nikephoros refused to journey to Kaisereia to swear his vassalage to you once more," Humbert replied. "He tried stalling us due to his supposed ill health, then he switched to complaining of the dangers of travelling in the winter. Finally, he insisted that he would renew his vows when you attended his upcoming wedding."

"What reason could he have to renew his vassalage?" Roussel asked. "To me, he must be plotting to steal the duchy. With my new wife, we shall soon be blessed with a child, and Nikephoros would no longer be my heir. Surely he is plotting to kill me or my wife?"

"My liege, I am not certain of his intentions. Nikephoros does not seem interested in rulership, being more content to go hunting while his council actually rules in his name. Is it possible he just does not wish to leave the comfort of his keep?"


"No, I am sure he plots against me!" Roussel exclaimed. "Humbert, inform him that if he does not renew his vassalage I shall be forced to relieve him of his titles..."

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Basileus Michael VII 4-0-1-7-0! Ouch!! How bad are the base values because he is not slow, inbred or imbecile?
They must be pretty awful, but his traits certainly don't help. Arbitrary is just bad, and nothing else helps much. He certainly wasn't a good emperor in real life, but this seems pretty harsh!
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