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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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“Look, you know how this goes,” Geoffrey told her. “They were offered a chance to surrender. They did not take it. When it falls, there will be repercussions.”
Maybe if that town didn't want to be sacked it shouldn't have kept it's portcullis open like some sort of slut.

Geoffrey sighed. Ælfflæd had demanded he speak with her over the siege of Wareham, which was happening the next county over. There Duke Foulquesson, having arrived in England in January, was laying siege to the Duke of Somerset’s main keep. And talk had already spread that the Duke of Brittany had sacked the town, and let loose havoc on all who lived within its walls.
In hindsight it might not have been the best idea to send the realm's most angry Duke after the noble related to virtually everyone in the Kingdom.

Aside from the continued effects of his leprosy, the duke had been severely wounded while fighting with Ælfflæd’s uncle, Duke Osmund of Kent, on the mainland.

Osmund had attacked some of Duke Simon’s retinue to the southeast of Toulouse back in the fall, and Foulquesson, who’d heard reports the Duke of Kent was in the area and marched his men to intercept, joined the battle late on.
One last ride for the Iron Duke's truest son. On the one hand I hope he dies before Haldora to spare her the pain. On the other hand the only reason to mention her or her other son in any update is for them to show up at Foulquesson's funeral.

The result had been another resounding victory for Aquitaine, but Foulquesson had been struck by a lucky lance point during the encounter. It did not go deep, but caught the duke’s eye, which he had now lost.
Well he is already a walking corpse, might as well add more battle wounds. Foulquesson will not leave a good looking corpse, but he will leave a badass one. God I'll miss the old bastard.

That wound had not only been the reason Foulquesson had missed capturing Osmund, or so he had claimed, but had also left the duke in a fouler mood than usual. And so Geoffrey figured he might as well use that to his advantage, recalling him to England and sending him to Wareham to hopefully bring the Duke of Somerset to his knees.
Given what is to happen later "to his knees" the phrase aquires quite a different meaning.

Just under a half year ago, Lady Helie had passed. She had fallen ill in the fall, and by the start of the new year could not rise from her bed. Days later, she passed in her sleep.
It is a miracle she has lived this long.

But as she had told Ælfflæd before, she had enjoyed many other things, including seeing her young great-granddaughter become Empress of the Romans in her own right. It had not always been easy, but Helie claimed she lived it to the fullest, and had few regrets.
Well it wasn't actually her great granddaughter, but don't tell her that. Intresting that Geoff actually knows this, and didn't think of goings on in Scotland, especially since it would affect his plans for England. What I'm trying to do is ask how the Scotish civl war resovled.

“I think you should strongly consider Assalide for the role,” Geoffrey said.

“I should do what?” Ælfflæd asked. “She is the newest among them. Benoite and Escarlemonde have been with me for longer.”

“Escarlemonde is a known harlot, given her bastards with my uncle Charles,” Geoffrey said.

“She’s been faithful to Knud!” Ælfflæd argued.

“For some that’s not much better,” Geoffrey said. “I don’t agree, of course, I just state what is.”

“So then Benoite,” Ælfflæd said.

“There are rumors about her as well,” Geoffrey said, neglecting to mention they involved his own father. “But more to the point, her husband is a foreign-born nothing. He served my father for a time, but was replaced. Whereas Assalide is the wife to my advisor - a council member.”

Ælfflæd rolled her eyes. “A landless brother to a count who only holds status due to his father. If Berard were not your friend, he would be nothing.”

“But he is my friend,” Geoffrey said. “Which makes him something.”
Wrong aproach. He should have pointed out that Assalide is her friend as well. However Elf will soon be Queen of England, and should probabaly choose an English girl to be amongst her ladies. Maybe the former Queen, so she can keep an eye on her. Also Geoff himself has also been faithful to Knud, and people have problems with that. They talk about how Anna might join in a murder plot, but Knud is right there, with his head somehow still attached to his body.

And while he had her, he did have another thought. “You know that I look for a wife for Alias. I was wondering if there were any women in England I should consider?”
Probably one who is male. For real though, Somerset's heir is a good match, as he links Geoff to some of the most prominent English Lords. Another intresting choice might be the former child Queen herself, though he should probably land Alias before that goes through. Of course Hungary is still on the table.

Of course, even if Geoffrey had a preferred candidate, there was no guarantee they would be available for his brother. His early attempts at arranging a union between Alias and Princess Etiennette of the Franks had gone poorly. Far from arranging an alliance, Alphonse’s emissaries believed it would be a precursor for Geoffrey to attack the kingdom should Alphonse pass, as he had done with England.
This should not come as a shock. Alphonse better pick a good bride for his second daughter, because war with Aquetaine is coming.

And so Geoffrey obliged, enjoying what he’d gotten to experience a bit more lately - being able to actually spend time with his family. It wasn’t something that hadn't concerned him much when Guilhem was young, but ever since he’d heard his daughter laugh for the first time, he’d been aiming to make it happen over and over again.
Well one of his families. Still it is cute to see Geoff interacting with his (legitimate) daughter.

“Last I saw, he was headed toward the stables,” Berard said.
th-13.jpg
“Ah, thank you then,” Geoffrey said. He paused and took a look back at Guilhem, smiling sweetly at Toda. Then he leaned in close to Berard. “Keep him from getting too close to her. You’ve heard the rumors of her parentage.”
Again, would not be all that unusual for an Angevin.

“I’m going to catch him in the act,” Geoffrey said. “What else?”
Oh my sweet summer child. Did it ever occur to him that even if Alias wasn't gay, that he wouldn't take kindly to something like that. I mean would Geoffery like it if Alias burst through the door like Kramer when he was in the middle of banging Anna?

Alias was seated on a couple of small bales of hay. As Geoffrey expected, there was someone with him, on their knees before him. But when that person picked up their head, Geoffrey could immediately see from the short cut of their hair, and the beginnings of a beard, that his brother was with no woman.
Oh no the horror! What will become of all the little bastards that could be sent off to the clergy or married to minor nobles? Truly this is a black day for the House of Anjou.

“To find you to discuss…” Geoffrey began. “No! This is not about me! I was not caught coupling with… with… This is inexcusable! This is….”
this_is_sparta-1.jpg
(which was also hella gay.). Curious why Geoff 1 never thought of the Roman's fondness for man love. It might have helped him relate to Alias. For real though it is hilarious that after everything that happens to them some Angevins draw the line at gays. Marguerite got yelled at by her parents for being friends with a gay boy. And her parents were Aines and Adhemar.

Of all the possibilities Geoffrey had considered, this had only briefly crossed his mind. Far more likely, he thought, was Alias desired Ælfflæd or Ana. Maybe something more perverse, like a close relative such as one of Beatritz’s daughters, or a married woman like Sarrazine. But to be a sodomite?
Really Geoffery? Again, marying one of Beitriz's daughters would not be that perverse, though it would be politically unecesary and produce genetic abominations. Did the fact he was so afraid of getting married to anyone not give him a clue. And again, consider who he is named after.

If he wished to break the cycle perhaps it behooved him to take strong action on Alias. Demand he never venture down that path again. Threaten he would not receive Navarra if he was caught again. Surely that would force him to re-evaluate his choices.
Yes break the cycle with Alias, no need to give up your mistresses or reconsider any of your life choices. No it must start with Alias.

“You think it is because I lacked women?” Alias asked. “You think it is something that I can just ignore?”
Geoff of all people should know about unquenchable urges. His brother might have told him that if he didn't value his future so much.

“Of course I tried!” Alias exclaimed. “I have been trying for years! I tried confessing to the priests. I tried some of the solutions they offered. I prayed the feelings would leave me. I thought perhaps with age, I would find a lady or a girl pretty. I even went to the whore house in Sutton after I… before, when we returned from Cornwall. The best I could manage was with… she was nearly your size and perhaps stronger. But it didn’t… I couldn’t with her. I can’t with any woman.”
I'm supprsied he never talked to Uncle Guilhielm.

“Father would hide me,” Alias said. “Or send me to Count Alias, if he lived, to figure out how to hide it. But mother… don’t tell mother. Please. She hates herself already. I don’t want to cause her grief.”
It's nice he cares so much. Ironically Marguerite might hate herself less for this than he thinks, given her previous acceptance.

“I can’t!” Alias shouted again, rising from his chair. But he grimaced and then fell back within it. Covering his face for a moment, he mumbled out: “Duke Guilhem. You know what they say of him. My namesake… Alias de Perigord as you point out. There are others too. I’m fairly certain our cousin Adhemar is too. I am not alone.”
Again, supprised he never talked with them. I suppose he worried about becoming their lovers or something and so kept away.

Geoffrey lowered his gaze. “I wanted to have fun with you. For so much of our lives, I have been your king. In all of our conversations, all of our business. It is tiring. I haven’t been able to just be your brother in years. Maybe ever. I’ve seen Berard with Alberic, or Centolh and Rogier, that kinship. No politics. No titles. No land, promises or obligations. Just an older brother messing around with his younger brother. I thought it might have been nice to have such a moment with you.”
I doubt Beard or Alberic or Centolh and Rogier would try walking in on each other having sex.

“No, she makes the most sense, even if I don’t think you should have,” Alias said. “It’s the scullery maid. The older, fat one who worked in the kitchens. That’s the one I never got. She’s old enough to be our mother.”
That's part of the charm. I think I get why Alias hates the Periograds so much. Anna is a walking talking reminder of his brother's hypocrisy. And Beard is a perfect Christian model who acts the part of Geoff's hetronomrative brother, a role Alias cannot play. Maybe subconcisouly he thinks his father cursed him by naming him after Alias and is taking out those issues on his children.

“I know you will,” Geoffrey told him. “Just… be a little better at hiding them than I was with Sarrazine. Or Ana. Or the scullery maid.”
Or Essa.

Geoffrey’s eyes widened as the words slowly processed in his mind. Your queen. Had he heard them right?
Notice he never acknowledged Geoff as his King.

“Maud is ready to talk,” Somerset replied. “She will not sacrifice herself for the girl. Sigeric… I think he already looks to you, my queen. For after his wife recently passed, rather than marrying a young girl, he has married my wife’s, and your late mother’s, youngest sister, Seaxburg of Kent.”
So he actually did it huh? The English have accepted Elf and not Geoff. Most of the English lands remain untouched by war. I suspect they are going to use that fact to try to force Geoff, who needs to look elsewhere, given his strategic situation, to give his wife maximal freedom of action.

Overall I say the English war went rather well. While the minimal devestation leaves the English lords with more leverage, it also leaves them less embittered. Only Cornwall felt the real wrath of Aquitaine.

The situation with Alphonse is troubiling. The French King might want war, so look out for whomever he marries his daughter to.
 
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The war is over, and Ælfflæd is now Queen of England, just as Geoffrey planned. It's telling that Duke Æthelsige saw fit to snub Geoff himself, though; despite the war being over, I have a feeling that the new King and Queen's troubles with England are only just beginning.

The revelation about Alias was... well, I won't say I wasn't expecting it, but having Geoffrey discover it by literally walking in on his brother in flagrante was certainly a shock. Certainly Geoffrey's attitude about the whole affair wouldn't win him any favors in the present day, but I do think the fact that he appears to be genuinely struggling with reconciling his attitude towards the act and his love for his brother (and that the latter appears to have won out) does him some credit given the attitudes of the time.
 
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This family....

Well, Alias is virtuous enough, if you look past that. And being a good liar is basically a necessity in that court. Still, doesn't make things easier.

And now that England is taken, I doubt Geoffrey will have plenty of time to (more or less) enjoy life with his family as he did while waiting for the Saxons to surrender Ecgwyn's claim. Navarra awaits - and to see how England behaves towards their queen.
 
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So I definitely saw that coming
.. I must say, in spite of his initial horror(though he was a jackass to think his brother wouldn't mind being walked in on) Geoffrey handled things somewhat well by telling his brother to be more discreet in the future. Hopefully Alias finds some naive dutiful woman to be his wife.... I could only imagine the scandal if Alias engaged in congress with his uncle Guilhem or his cousin/half brother Adhemar... It is good that the war has ended with minimal bloodshed, though I fear the English may eventually try to overthrow or kill their new Queen. Excellent chapter, and important revelavations!
 
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Huzzah for Queen Elf! Long live the Queen!

Lol at the d'Anjou's though. They just keep on giving though, don't they!? ;)
 
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Ælfflæd will make a fabulous queen. I can’t believe I am saying this, but... I actually didn’t hate Geoffrey for the first time ever. I found the scene with his brother and his daughter quite endearing. Doubtless he will screw it up, but he demonstrated that somewhere inside him, there are the makings of a decent human being. Not that he will ever truly be decent. However, the potential is there.
 
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Sorry to see Helie pass, she was just about the last link of that generation at court, perhaps even alive.

co grants on the England campaign, it seems to have been a pretty sedate affair in the end, as these things go.

Alias - well, like spiritual Godfather, like son. Given the mores of Catholic France at the time, Geoffrey’s dealt with it very well.

It will definitely be interesting to see what tangent things go off on now.
 
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Book 2 was wonderful, I loved it so much. Thank you again for your amazing work.

Like for the last one, here is the pdf version :

Clike HERE to download it.
 
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I was a little underwhelmed by Eleanor's stats and the betrothal to Enril was unseemly even for me. Enril was twice her age and uncle through both parents. A Guilhem/Agnes marriage could lead to shenanigans with Agnes having one brother on English throne and another as Duke of Champagne. In at least two of the trials, Guilhem started as Duke of Poitou and switched to Aquitaine on 2April.
I think those are OK, especially since you can usually make your rulers quite a bit better if they live for a little while.

Congrats on England. Is the English Channel wide enough for the King and Queen, both to rule as they would like? Homosexual, deceitful and high intrigue, Prince Alias is the true spiritual child of Count Alias. Foulquesson on a good day is bad. Delivering a unwanted message to an angry Foulquesson, Duke Simon must hope that he is captured by the English. It is ironic that Prince Alias has a three star dip education but diplomacy is his third best stat. He has three virtues, but he is cynical, deceitful and homosexual.
Things will be pretty decent to start, but oh boy, the fun of having a spouse who you cannot control and only loosely influence! Geoffrey will get to voice my frustrations at different points in this story, and I get the fun of trying to rationalize decisions AI Ælfflæd makes. It will be glorious. I imagine my save files will be getting a work out as I look to piece together what was happening behind the scenes.

You're right about Alias living up to the legacy of his namesake. Perhaps it is Berard who should be worried, not Alias. ;)

The good news for Simon is that Foulquesson likes him better than his father. Damning with faint praise, I know.

Alias didn't turn out, statwise, all that I hoped he'd be. But it doesn't matter too much because I won't be controlling him.


Maybe if that town didn't want to be sacked it shouldn't have kept it's portcullis open like some sort of slut.


In hindsight it might not have been the best idea to send the realm's most angry Duke after the noble related to virtually everyone in the Kingdom.


One last ride for the Iron Duke's truest son. On the one hand I hope he dies before Haldora to spare her the pain. On the other hand the only reason to mention her or her other son in any update is for them to show up at Foulquesson's funeral.


Well he is already a walking corpse, might as well add more battle wounds. Foulquesson will not leave a good looking corpse, but he will leave a badass one. God I'll miss the old bastard.


Given what is to happen later "to his knees" the phrase aquires quite a different meaning.


It is a miracle she has lived this long.


Well it wasn't actually her great granddaughter, but don't tell her that. Intresting that Geoff actually knows this, and didn't think of goings on in Scotland, especially since it would affect his plans for England. What I'm trying to do is ask how the Scotish civl war resovled.


Wrong aproach. He should have pointed out that Assalide is her friend as well. However Elf will soon be Queen of England, and should probabaly choose an English girl to be amongst her ladies. Maybe the former Queen, so she can keep an eye on her. Also Geoff himself has also been faithful to Knud, and people have problems with that. They talk about how Anna might join in a murder plot, but Knud is right there, with his head somehow still attached to his body.


Probably one who is male. For real though, Somerset's heir is a good match, as he links Geoff to some of the most prominent English Lords. Another intresting choice might be the former child Queen herself, though he should probably land Alias before that goes through. Of course Hungary is still on the table.


This should not come as a shock. Alphonse better pick a good bride for his second daughter, because war with Aquetaine is coming.


Well one of his families. Still it is cute to see Geoff interacting with his (legitimate) daughter.



View attachment 600403

Again, would not be all that unusual for an Angevin.


Oh my sweet summer child. Did it ever occur to him that even if Alias wasn't gay, that he wouldn't take kindly to something like that. I mean would Geoffery like it if Alias burst through the door like Kramer when he was in the middle of banging Anna?


Oh no the horror! What will become of all the little bastards that could be sent off to the clergy or married to minor nobles? Truly this is a black day for the House of Anjou.


View attachment 600404
(which was also hella gay.). Curious why Geoff 1 never thought of the Roman's fondness for man love. It might have helped him relate to Alias. For real though it is hilarious that after everything that happens to them some Angevins draw the line at gays. Marguerite got yelled at by her parents for being friends with a gay boy. And her parents were Aines and Adhemar.


Really Geoffery? Again, marying one of Beitriz's daughters would not be that perverse, though it would be politically unecesary and produce genetic abominations. Did the fact he was so afraid of getting married to anyone not give him a clue. And again, consider who he is named after.


Yes break the cycle with Alias, no need to give up your mistresses or reconsider any of your life choices. No it must start with Alias.


Geoff of all people should know about unquenchable urges. His brother might have told him that if he didn't value his future so much.


I'm supprsied he never talked to Uncle Guilhielm.


It's nice he cares so much. Ironically Marguerite might hate herself less for this than he thinks, given her previous acceptance.


Again, supprised he never talked with them. I suppose he worried about becoming their lovers or something and so kept away.


I doubt Beard or Alberic or Centolh and Rogier would try walking in on each other having sex.


That's part of the charm. I think I get why Alias hates the Periograds so much. Anna is a walking talking reminder of his brother's hypocrisy. And Beard is a perfect Christian model who acts the part of Geoff's hetronomrative brother, a role Alias cannot play. Maybe subconcisouly he thinks his father cursed him by naming him after Alias and is taking out those issues on his children.


Or Essa.


Notice he never acknowledged Geoff as his King.


So he actually did it huh? The English have accepted Elf and not Geoff. Most of the English lands remain untouched by war. I suspect they are going to use that fact to try to force Geoff, who needs to look elsewhere, given his strategic situation, to give his wife maximal freedom of action.

Overall I say the English war went rather well. While the minimal devestation leaves the English lords with more leverage, it also leaves them less embittered. Only Cornwall felt the real wrath of Aquitaine.

The situation with Alphonse is troubiling. The French King might want war, so look out for whomever he marries his daughter to.
Geoffrey sic'ing Foulquesson on Somerset and Gunhilda is partially him running out of ideas on how to proceed. He initially bypassed them for Cornwall but decided to move there next because he was the nearest lord of consequence. Of course, when Ælfflæd puts it like that...

Hey, Philippe can also get mentioned when Geoffrey is sneaking behind his back with his wife Sarrazine. ;)

I honestly am surprised Foulquesson survived it. Leprosy is draining his health and he picked up severely wounded from losing that eye. But the rolls haven't gone against him yet, at least the big roll. The small rolls he seems to have no luck on.

She did live a heck of a long time, and I believe she is the last person in the realm who was alive at the start of the game. I did debate whether to mention the Basilissa is not her great-grandaughter in truth, but Geoffrey isn't well versed on ALL the rumors. But yeah, she's not technically her great-grandmother.

Geoffrey's not always good with diplomacy, especially when he's feeling himself. You're right there are ways he could have probably made it work. Ælfflæd will almost certainly add some English ladies to her group, but I'm going to probably play a bit loose with the way it works. In game, Ælfflæd immediately departed Aquitaine for England, and takes no one but her kids with her. In real life, she'd be spending time in both England and Aquitaine (as would Geoffrey, when not campaigning), so there will be flexibility in how I place everyone. From this point, consider their "home" locations to be the base, but not where they always are by default.

Ecgwyn would have been a hilarious union, but she's sadly betrothed already. I don't know she'd have gone along with anyway, given Geoffrey warred her. But yeah, Alias is getting married before he gets anything.

If I remember correctly, Alphonse picks a husband who makes some sense for Etiennette! Though it's been a while so I could be mistaken. But war is increasingly likely. If not with Geoffrey, then one of his vassals, who grow ever more powerful by the day.

I have rarely had Geoffrey actually interact with his children. But I also think he was kind of absent for a variety of reasons for Guilhem's early childhood, whether it was warring in Brittany or just estrangement from Ælfflæd. I don't think he interacts much with his bastard daughters with Ana, especially these days. But... Ana's not gone yet.

I'm sure it did cross his mind, but Geoffrey just figured it end up a net positive because he'd congratulate him and probably buy him some token to make up for it. But characters rationalize their own thought - Geoffrey likely was more driven by a selfish desire to see who Alias was with after their previous conversation about it all piqued his interest.

Yeah, I mean characters get their own sets of hangups at things that might surprise. Marguerite's family disliked it, but Geoffrey I didn't particularly care - half his council was gay at one point. It's also probably worth considering, as you do, that both Alias and Geoffrey misread their mother here. Marguerite knew Toumas was gay and accepted him. She probably would be more understanding toward Alias than they expect.

I do think Geoffrey doesn't particularly care for close-relative unions. Yes his parents are part of one, and most of his family is, and he's arranged one for his sister due to political convenience. But they did not special dispensation from the church for marriage and Geoffrey himself is the one Angevin who has totally avoided them in his personal life. His wife has no relation to him at all, his lovers might be distantly related, but none are anywhere close to the Angevin family tree. Even his crush, Duchess Anne, was not part of his family by blood. (That he knows - in truth, she is yet another of the score of Gilles secret bastards). So even if it's technically accepted, I think Geoffrey is a bit squicked personally by close unions and isn't interested in doing it himself.

In his defense for not realizing Alias' preferences, there could be a few reasons Alias is in no rush to be married. For starters, he saw his parents' marriage. He's also seen his brother's. Or maybe he really does pine for a woman who is taken, at least for now. For all Geoffrey knew, Alias had the hots for Adelise, and was ashamed to admit he wanted to wait until her husband died. And I suspect Geoffrey's mindset would take him places he'd go... not the places his brother actually went.

Of course he starts with Alias. Lechery is a sin... but if the pope is any proof, clearly it's not a serious one! (Sarcasm, obviously)

I don't think Alias trusts his uncle. One thing Geoffrey probably sold to him is that Guilhem has hamstrung them for his own ends, rightly or wrongly. I should clarify, but just because he says "I'm pretty sure Adhemar (the youngest one) is too" doesn't mean he hasn't actually talked to Adhemar. He just wants to justify it while not actually outing his cousin officially. It's ham-fisted, and basically does anyway, but Alias is 16 and fearful. So he lets it slip in his own way.

Nope, they would not. But Geoffrey struggles to figure out what it means to be an older sibling without coming off as a guardian father figure. And here are the results.

I like that analysis of why Alias hates the Perigords!

Ah but Geoffrey never confirmed Essa to Alias. (And still guarded about it, since Guilhem and Simon live, as well as the secret bastard Henri).

You are correct. Geoffrey didn't notice Somerset's snub, but you did.

The biggest thing going for the English is Geoffrey has already kind of telegraphed he's more interested in being "King of Aquitaine and England" than actually doing any ruling over the latter. The worst thing going for the English is that they may not realize that when Geoffrey actually plays at the King of England part, usually it's because he's going come down hard on them.

The English war did go pretty well. There was the Bordeaux hiccup, where the English legitimately caught me off guard, as well as the frustration with Lyford, but otherwise it was pretty easy as conquest wars go. It means a quick turnaround for Navarra is possible. Obviously there's more to come there as Ælfflæd and those English lords don't answer to me.

Alphonse has plenty to worry about for the time being, including the curse of warring in Iberia..

The war is over, and Ælfflæd is now Queen of England, just as Geoffrey planned. It's telling that Duke Æthelsige saw fit to snub Geoff himself, though; despite the war being over, I have a feeling that the new King and Queen's troubles with England are only just beginning.

The revelation about Alias was... well, I won't say I wasn't expecting it, but having Geoffrey discover it by literally walking in on his brother in flagrante was certainly a shock. Certainly Geoffrey's attitude about the whole affair wouldn't win him any favors in the present day, but I do think the fact that he appears to be genuinely struggling with reconciling his attitude towards the act and his love for his brother (and that the latter appears to have won out) does him some credit given the attitudes of the time.
If the Anarchy is any model, we know that winning the crown doesn't mean you won't have to fight for it again down the road. Ecgwyn doesn't have the backing Stephen or Matilda/Maud did, but we haven't heard the last of the English.

Yeah, I imagine most people could probably guess what's coming, but that's OK. Some of the fun is seeing how the characters deal with situations. I do think Geoffrey handles it... OK. I do think his father would have handled it far better, because he did previously (they weren't his son, but Geoffrey I was always better at managing scandal than his son is). But he probably handled it better than Foulques IV would have, given Foulques could scarcely tolerate his son having different methods to his. So could have been better, could have been worse.

Huzzah! Long live Queen Ælfflæd! Presumably her tribulations have only just begun but fingers crossed she doesn't go full Essa and ends up dying at the height of her power. She's tough, she can live through a rough start to her reign... if she lives. Just go full Boudicca on any Saxon who decides to get uppity.
Sometimes I get a comment that hits on so many future things I can't help but nod my head in approval... but also not give much of a response because anything substantive would be a spoiler. I'll just say there's a lotttttt right here. ;)

This family....

Well, Alias is virtuous enough, if you look past that. And being a good liar is basically a necessity in that court. Still, doesn't make things easier.

And now that England is taken, I doubt Geoffrey will have plenty of time to (more or less) enjoy life with his family as he did while waiting for the Saxons to surrender Ecgwyn's claim. Navarra awaits - and to see how England behaves towards their queen.
The thing about Alias' stats is that he probably would be able to hide it from most people. But since the game makes it clear regardless of character intrigue, figured Geoffrey might as well know. You're right too, it doesn't make things easier.

You're right on all counts. There will be a brief time to kind of set everything up, during which time Geoffrey can enjoy a relatively blissful family life, but a return to ambition awaits for everyone involved.

So I definitely saw that coming
.. I must say, in spite of his initial horror(though he was a jackass to think his brother wouldn't mind being walked in on) Geoffrey handled things somewhat well by telling his brother to be more discreet in the future. Hopefully Alias finds some naive dutiful woman to be his wife.... I could only imagine the scandal if Alias engaged in congress with his uncle Guilhem or his cousin/half brother Adhemar... It is good that the war has ended with minimal bloodshed, though I fear the English may eventually try to overthrow or kill their new Queen. Excellent chapter, and important revelavations!
You were among the first (if not the first) to suggest it. So good eye!

Honestly, I have to decide how I'm going to write the relationship between Alias and his wife. I know how everything turns out, but actually writing the events is a different matter entirely!

The English try to revolt? I mean would they do that? After their history of kings in this save? :)

Huzzah for Queen Elf! Long live the Queen!

Lol at the d'Anjou's though. They just keep on giving though, don't they!? ;)
They are full of storylines. Sometimes they have so many it can be hard to fit them all in! Seriously, there are so many things that happen in the coming few years that I will probably have to give passing mentions to things that would have been full chapters before. But things get busy (in more ways than one) in the coming years.

Ælfflæd will make a fabulous queen. I can’t believe I am saying this, but... I actually didn’t hate Geoffrey for the first time ever. I found the scene with his brother and his daughter quite endearing. Doubtless he will screw it up, but he demonstrated that somewhere inside him, there are the makings of a decent human being. Not that he will ever truly be decent. However, the potential is there.
Ælfflæd will make for an interesting queen. She doesn't lack for guts, that's for sure.

Glad you enjoyed those scenes. As with all my main characters, I have to show their good/sympathetic sides too! And Geoffrey does have probably more "good" in him than his predecessors. Not to excuse everything else he does of course. And yeah, he's going to do things that will get you annoyed with him again soon enough.

Sorry to see Helie pass, she was just about the last link of that generation at court, perhaps even alive.

co grants on the England campaign, it seems to have been a pretty sedate affair in the end, as these things go.

Alias - well, like spiritual Godfather, like son. Given the mores of Catholic France at the time, Geoffrey’s dealt with it very well.

It will definitely be interesting to see what tangent things go off on now.
I forget if she's the last "real" person left in the game at this point, but she's among them. I should probably check.

Thanks. It wasn't difficult, though Bordeaux threw me for a loop. I give the English credit for trying - they did more than the Bretons or the Duchess of Dauphine managed. And it's not the last we'll see of them.

Yep on Alias. I think Geoffrey was good not to push his brother down a road both of them would have regret. That said, I will say even "understanding" Geoffrey tends to still be crass and inconsiderate at times. His father's skill with words, but none of the refinement.

Things definitely happen, because while I can manage what happens in Aquitaine pretty well, I can do nothing about England. And England's gonna get up to things. At inopportune times. Because AI logic.

To all - yes, England's war is done. It was a pretty easy affair but winning the war was always going to be the easiest part. Getting the claim and chance to war was much of the battle. And now keeping Ælfflæd in power is the next stage of things. It won't be easy, especially since the queen has a mind of her own. I just try to interpret it.

Which I will be doing next chapter. You can expect a bit of a rundown of our new English lords, or a refresher in some cases. Hope you enjoy.

I will warn it probably won't be out tomorrow. Been working on it, and it's getting there, but I doubt I'll have it ready by the end of Wednesday. Hopefully it will be all set by Thursday, but we shall see how it comes together.

Hope everything is going well with your friends and families. Thanks for your continued readership and support and I hope the next stage of the reign of Geoffrey and Ælfflæd proves as enjoyable as the first parts.
 
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Book 2 was wonderful, I loved it so much. Thank you again for your amazing work.

Like for the last one, here is the pdf version :

Clike HERE to download it.
Thank you, once again. Magnificent stuff and I really appreciate it. Looks great! I hope you enjoy the rest what I've written, as well as what's to follow! Again, thank you so much!
 
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JSB217118

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She did live a heck of a long time, and I believe she is the last person in the realm who was alive at the start of the game. I did debate whether to mention the Basilissa is not her great-grandaughter in truth, but Geoffrey isn't well versed on ALL the rumors. But yeah, she's not technically her great-grandmother.
As I recall Agnes told him about it on her deathbed. So it's confirmed that Elf will be taking the kids. Interesting, that might lead to them being more English than Aquetaine. Does Geoff still get to control their marriges?
 
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@JSB217118 I’m still confused about that bit of CK2, why does she get the kids? It was my understanding that the senior of the two gets the kids and I interpreted that has the highest rank gets to keep the kids (or something like that idk how it would be decided with equal rank)
 
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As I recall Agnes told him about it on her deathbed. So it's confirmed that Elf will be taking the kids. Interesting, that might lead to them being more English than Aquetaine. Does Geoff still get to control their marriges?
Agnes did tell him she'd had affairs while married, but that much Geoffrey kind of knew. But she didn't confess to which of Helie and Louis were her husband's and which weren't. In the narrative paternity has been questioned for both - lots of people have tied the rumor that she was involved with her brother to include that he fathered her children. I mean, realistically, Geoffrey I probably would have been linked by rumor to nearly every child in Bordeaux, given his womanizing wasn't exactly a secret. Only one was confirmed during his reign (Haldora) and a few others prior to him ascending in Anjou, but people knew he was screwing around.

Of course there are also a few rumors that Geoffrey II himself is actually Agnes' son - that she was pregnant around the same time Marguerite was and the latter's infant died, while Geoffrey was substituted as their actual child. It's not true - Agnes wasn't pregnant at the time anyway - but I've tossed rumors you all know are false in there to show why the characters can't believe everything they hear. Geoffrey also doesn't believe the rumors his father sired Essa's eldest children, but they have been alluded to existing.

On the children court break down... it's confusing. But I shall explain below.

@JSB217118 I’m still confused about that bit of CK2, why does she get the kids? It was my understanding that the senior of the two gets the kids and I interpreted that has the highest rank gets to keep the kids (or something like that idk how it would be decided with equal rank)
@JabberJock14 said Elf immediately departed for England at the close of the war and took no one but her kids.
I once had lower rank hubby take kids even the ones that she lied to him about.
I'm not entirely sure how it works though I have a theory - at least what happened in this case. So, as I alluded to, Elf does get Guilhem and Margo. Geoffrey had guardianship of Guilhem before and it was no big deal to get him back (though, ouch on the relations hit with her vassals poor Elf takes for having heir educated by foreign culture). I believe that was changed at some point in the past few years, since when Geoffrey I ended up installed in Aquitaine, his family stayed in Anjou, which was to my writing annoyance. Thus Guilhem and Margo were forced to Elf's court based on that fix.

But... MINOR SPOILERS. THEY'RE ESPECIALLY MINOR BECAUSE THE NEXT CHAPTER ALL BUT CONFIRMS WHAT'S COMING, BUT I STILL WANT IT TO BE CLEAR THESE ARE MINOR SPOILERS....




So while Guilhem and Margo go with Elf, when she gets pregnant again and gives birth - that kid goes to Geoffrey. It makes even LESS sense to me, since Guilhem and Margo were already with Geoffrey, so them leaving while any other children Elf has end up in Bordeaux. As I said, I think the eldest two end up with Elf because of the fix for the bug I mentioned above - to ensure when a character is installed that their family goes with them. Geoffrey II could not go, since he was king of Aquitaine, but Guilhem and Margo could, so they did. But since Geoffrey should get them, he gets any future children they have after Elf's installed.

And yes, this means stupidly, I can't control their marriages. It is incredibly absurd, and I will be honest, I decided to deal with it myself later. CK2 is a great game, but sometimes there are aspects which make no sense. If I were strictly playing, I'd deal, but for the sake of the story, I have to get around it.

To all - apologies for the delay on this previous chapter. I didn't have time to edit it until late last week and by that point, I just decided to hold until this week. But it is ready and will be up shortly.

I hope it proves decent enough to be worth the little extra wait and I thank you for your patience, as well as your continued support.
 
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Late, early, long, short; they are all wonderful. Whatever you decide, we will love and wish that it was longer and oftener.
 
Chapter 261 - July 1136

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Before Plantagenet - Chapter 261

July 1136 - Lydford, Kingdom of England

Queen of England.

Ælfflæd had repeated those words, that title, over and over again for weeks now. In fact, she had spoken those words since she was a girl, but they never had the meaning they did now.

Of course, that meaning remained frustratingly elusive.

Her mother had been queen. She had “ruled” in a sense, standing in for her husband when he was away. But Wulfrun was never her own woman - always Thoræd’s wife.

In that, Wulfrun was what all queens of England, or at least those that Ælfflæd knew of, had been - secondary to their husbands and limited in their roles. The only exception was that of Æthelflæd of Mercia, who may or may not have ruled two and a half centuries before, during the time of the Vikings. It was not clear she was a true queen, at least in the current sense.

No, Ælfflæd knew she stood on the precipice of something that felt historic. Monumental. She just didn’t know what.

In the days following the Duke of Somerset’s arrival to announce the capitulation of the English lords, Ælfflæd had been struggling to make sense of it all. It did not seem real. And yet it was.

The keep in Lydford was bustling in anticipation of tomorrow’s events when her vassals would swear their oaths to her. Servants, carpenters, and others were approaching her and asking for choices on design and layout of the main hall. Her, not her husband.

It was true, that much of it could have fallen to her anyway. Salutations by guards happened while she was in Aquitaine. Looking over the ledger was something many women did. Arrangements for feasts might fall under their control. And she guessed Geoffrey had been offered these responsibilities first - he had just refused them.

It felt different, but was it all an illusion? Was it just hopeful thinking, or a leash being loosened? Did it matter so long as she held the reins of power?

Such questions led to many mostly sleepless nights for Ælfflæd.

The previous night had been no exception, as she lay awake, Geoffrey fast asleep holding her tightly, as she stared at the ceiling of the solar and trying to definitively find her place.

And like the nights before, she had yet to find her answer, hoping that perhaps the coming days would prove illuminating.

She glanced over at her husband in the morning light that filtered in through the small window opening and into their bed. They usually shared a bed while in England - the lack of space compared to Bordeaux demanded it. And she’d noticed he tended to hold her more now than he used to, as opposed to when he would rest his head upon her chest as if it was a pillow.

Less a boy and more a man by the day, she thought.

She was actually feeling affectionate toward Geoffrey again. There was no doubt he had massive flaws in his personality; his lechery, his ego, his selfishness. And she had not forgiven him for the former, and his past humiliations of her.

But he had done as he promised. He had made her Queen of England. After growing up disappointed with men who had failed to protect her and left her in a dungeon, in lands far away from her home - her husband had raised her to the highest of ranks, in the realm of her birth no less.

It left her far more tolerant of his non-lecherous antics, which she had not caught him for a while, and she had little trouble playing the role of his queen with a smile on her face.

She slipped carefully from Geoffrey’s grasp and made her way from the bed to look herself over in a dull mirror, to take in a more personal homage to the passage of time. Gray hairs had begun to appear among her long sea of black, which cascaded down past her shoulders. It would be tied neatly and covered for the show, hiding the fact that it was beginning to show a woman who soon would not be able to feign youth.

She leaned in to look at her face. A few lines around her eyes and mouth. But it was also much fuller now and as she ran her hands down her sides to trace her shape, she could not deny she had grown fat over the past half decade.

Just as his mother predicted, she thought.

A small frown came to her face though she remembered it was the toll of her two pregnancies. And her husband hardly minded - he seemed more drawn to her now than he did back then. But then, given his affairs with heavy set Countess Sarrazine and possibly the late Duchess Essa, it was not a surprise.

And it might have had the desired effect - her monthly blood was also delayed and she found herself queasy some mornings, this one not excepted, to the point where she suspected she might again be with child. It was still early for her to say confidently, and would not mention it to Geoffrey yet, but it was still another potential boon in a life suddenly filled with them.

When she left England she was resigned to her fate, and unsure of what awaited. She was not even certain she would even be wed, given the death of Geoffrey’s father could have led to a sudden end to any marriage promise.

Yet she returned with no doubt as a queen, not only of Aquitaine, but of England. She left a daughter, and returned a mother of two children, with possibly a third on the way. She left as an afterthought, a means to gain influence for the lords and ladies of her homeland, and nothing more. She returned above them all.

She looked at Geoffrey in the bed, and again was reminded of how much more mature he appeared, at least physically. Did these lords ever think the boy who humiliated himself pretending to be a squire would be the one to humble them all? Did I think he was capable of this?

She smiled. No. She didn’t. And it was nice to be pleasantly surprised for once.

It was true for all their victory, they had seized but one county, Lydford. However, Ælfflæd consoled herself with the fact her family had risen from similar humble beginnings to become one of Europe’s great families. At least for a time.

And now that time has come again.

She would have preferred Wiltshire of course, but that remained in the hands of her nephew, the King of Jerusalem, who paid no homage to her. And she could not bring herself to attack him - for unlike with England, it would be a betrayal of family.



Geoffrey had agreed, if only due to the sheer political calculus of it all. And the fact she knew he wanted to turn his armies on Navarra, and soon.

How long that would be was uncertain, but Ælfflæd was not certain he would remain in England for the remainder of the year. He said the boy king of Navarra was gaining allies - this time Geoffrey’s uncle by marriage, the Duke of Transjurania, and he wanted to strike before anyone else joined the pair.



A quick departure had the risk of emboldening the English lords, but Ælfflæd also wanted an opportunity to prove herself her own woman. Geoffrey being off in Iberia while she remained in England was a good way to dispel talk she was nothing more than his puppet queen.

As she ran a brush through her hair, Geoffrey rose from the bed and came up behind her. His arms wrapped around her and he nuzzled his nose to her neck and ear, enough to make the hairs on her neck stand. She actually giggled.

“I have never seen a more lovely queen,” Geoffrey told her.

“How many queens have you seen over the years?” Ælfflæd asked. “Aside from your mother?”

Geoffrey shrugged. “My… aunt Bella when I was a boy. They say her mother was beautiful.”

Ælfflæd’s brow rose. “You fancied your aunt?”

“No!” Geoffrey exclaimed. “I just say that she was born of a very pretty woman.”

His blushing cheeks once more reminded Ælfflæd of the boy who pretended to be a squire. And she found it oddly endearing.

“Oh!” Geoffrey said. “There was that Queen of Aragon. I forget her name. And my cousin Helie did become the Empress of the Romans… but she was not very comely.”

Ælfflæd wouldn’t know. All she had learned of Agnes’ youngest daughter was that she had been wed to the Roman Emperor, bore him two daughters, and after his death had been shipped off to wed some noble in the forests of Eastern Europe. An ugly fate in her opinion and one undeserving of Agnes’ daughter, but there was nothing she or Geoffrey could do.



Still, thinking of the younger Helie made her more grateful for her place today and with a smile she replied: “The most lovely queen, you say?”

“Stunning,” Geoffrey said as he kissed her neck.

“Careful,” she said quietly. “I’m fairly certain the children are awake.”

Unlike the palace in Bordeaux, the royal family all shared a singular quarters, the solar. Ælfflæd had mentioned in Wiltshire her family slept in one large bed, but Geoffrey would not have that. He and Ælfflæd shared one, and then Guilhem and Margo had a smaller one of their own. The chamber was delineated by a wooden screen as well as a linen sheet, which split unevenly with the king and queen owning the larger partition.

“I’ll tell Guilhem to find Savarics or one of his cousins,” Geoffrey said. “And have Assalide take Margo.”

“I do not feel well,” Ælfflæd protested truthfully. “Perhaps this evening.”

Geoffrey eyed her. “Ill in the morning?”

“I am uncertain if it is anything,” Ælfflæd said. “And things could still go wrong. It is too early.”

“Of course, of course,” Geoffrey said. “I will wait until you are ready… or until you are certain.”

Ælfflæd resisted a roll of the eyes. Geoffrey maintained the idea husband and wife should not couple while the wife was pregnant - an idea that she knew from Assalide and Escarlmonde was not universal. It irked the queen even more to know Geoffrey had sinned in a different way during her pregnancies, laying with other women - as well as the fact she was fairly certain he laid with them while they were with child.

But given her increased tolerance toward his antics, she let the matter rest. If she was again with child, perhaps she might be able to tempt him to abandon his resistance in time.

“So then, provided you are feeling up to it, have you planned anything today?” Geoffrey asked her.

“Nothing too strenuous,” Ælfflæd said. “I will be meeting with Adelise to discuss my council.”

“Ah, have anyone picked out for a role?” Geoffrey asked.

“No, besides Adelise herself as my advisor,” Ælfflæd replied. “Given her aid, I believe she has earned it.”

“I think you should be skeptical of her advice,” Geoffrey told her. “But given the number of men at her disposal, if you keep her loyal, it should keep things quiet here.”

“I think you understate her efforts,” Ælfflæd argued. “Without her, we would not be here.”

“Without me, you would still be waiting for her to deliver our son a crown,” Geoffrey said. “But it matters little. You could use a friendly lord or lady of power here. She certainly fits well enough.”

Ælfflæd smirked. “Glad to have your approval, my king.”

“Since you seem so receptive of my suggestions, perhaps I might make another,” Geoffrey said. “As you do not have a pick for the position, then why not Centolh for your chancellor?”

“Your cousin?” Ælfflæd replied. “Why him?”

“He’s done well acting in the role for me here,” Geoffrey answered. “Including selling the Sicilian emissary on Alias as a possible husband for their Princess Alisce. I have half a mind to replace Adhemar with him… but I can’t do that to a high-ranking family member.”

“So I am to take him on instead,” Ælfflæd said. “I am his consolation. And I get your hand-me-downs.”

Geoffrey chuckled. “It’s not charity, my dear. He is qualified. And if you do not have good choices to serve you among your new lords…”

“I see,” Ælfflæd said. “Your cousin as my chancellor. And I suppose his brother as my marshal? I know you’ll never release Berard to my service.”

“No, he comes with me,” Geoffrey said. “Though his wife can remain with you, as she will not be accompanying me on campaign when we head south.”

“How generous,” Ælfflæd said. She did little to mask her sarcasm. But Geoffrey seemed to care just as little. So Ælfflæd simply continued.

“I cannot take your cousins on,” Ælfflæd said. “For the same reason you cannot fire your high-ranking family members. It would look poor on me. They already whisper I am your puppet. Sticking your cousins on my council would just add more to the fire.”

“They can say what they wish,” Geoffrey said. “They will never do anything about it.”

On that, Ælfflæd was not so sure. It was true, the Saxon nobles probably could not force Geoffrey to do as they had the Bastard, disinheriting his son. But William’s successor as king, Morcar, Duke of York, had been murdered - proof the nobles could plot against any monarch, even a fellow Saxon.

“There are other ways to do things about it other than rebellion,” she noted.

Geoffrey sighed. “Regrettably. Well, in any case, I leave those decisions to you. After all, you are Queen of England. Your council is yours to deal with.”

She was surprised to hear him say that - in fact at first she thought her ears deceived her. But Ælfflæd soon realized they had not when Geoffrey continued.

“I do not interfere with who my uncles select on their councils, nor any of my vassals,” he said. “It would hardly be proper to do something like that to you.”

“I am…” her voice trailed off. A vassal. A queen in her own right… but not really. Just ruling at his leisure.

On one hand, she wasn’t surprised. He was her husband, and husbands usually claimed dominance over their wife’s holdings.

On the other, sometimes it was more talk than substance. The late Duchess Essa certainly had ruled in her own right, much to her husband’s chagrin. Maud, Adelise, Aevis and the late Æfrida all dominated over their spouses, even if in Maud’s case, her husband held lands.

But then none of them were relying on their husbands to keep them in power. And thus Ælfflæd knew she could only be so pointed in her complaints - regardless of how much Geoffrey claimed to want his Boudica, it would be on him to provide the men to make it happen.

Realizing it wasn’t worth the fight, especially given there would be the oaths tomorrow, Ælfflæd decided to move on.

“Will you be joining us then?” she asked.

“No,” Geoffrey said. “You and your cousin can discuss what you wish. I will be out riding in the countryside with some of our guests, my cousin Louis among them.”

Ælfflæd was glad to hear it. Louis was Agnes’ son, and consort to the Duchess of Albany in Scotland. His wife was among the leading figures in a rebellion to install a new king of the land - a rebellion which had dragged on for years.



By his own admission, Louis was sent here to feel out whether Geoffrey or Ælfflæd would be willing to aid them. But Geoffrey did not, regardless of his warm feelings toward Agnes, since he wished to turn on Navarra next. And Ælfflæd lacked the strength, both in men and position, to offer any herself.

She imagined Louis was disappointed, but he claimed to understand it was a large ask, especially since his wife had not offered any aid during Geoffrey’s invasion.

Still, Ælfflæd appreciated Geoffrey was willing to take Louis with him. Though she also wondered if he might be taking some other important persons from the Isles.

“Are any of the Saxon lords coming with you?” Ælfflæd asked.

Geoffrey laughed. “Do you wish for me to have an arrow in my chest due a ‘hunting accident’ or some sort? No, this is just a ride with Louis, my brother, Berard, Alberic and my other cousins.”

That would be no small entourage. Geoffrey’s male cousins who were of age or close to it had come to Lydford. Some, like Duke Simon, Centolh and Rogier d’Uzes, were already present. But so too had Bishop Edouard, Ancel of Brittany, the younger Adhemar de Limoges and Geoffrey of Charolais. With the guards that would be traveling with them, it would be a group large enough to raid a village, if they so chose.

“Papa!”

Ælfflæd and Geoffrey spun around to see Guilhem standing by the linen sheet.

“Papa, can I come too?” the prince asked. “On the ride.”

“Of course,” Geoffrey said. “You, Savarics and Simon's brother Jacques will all come along. You are old enough to ride with the men… and the near men, in the case of cousin Small Fry.”

“He’s not so small,” Guilhem said. “He’s taller than Uncle Adhemar!”

“But shorter than me,” Geoffrey said with a grin. “And he always will be.”

Ælfflæd rolled her eyes, at that insinuation, since the boy had shot up since she’d last seen him. “Small” Fry was close to Geoffrey’s height and might pass him yet. But she suspected her husband meant more than just physical stature, and his ego left her unable to resist a small grin of her own.

She knelt down to her son, though these days she did not have to go far to reach his height. “You be careful. Papa forgets your age sometimes. And he will probably try to prove you ride better than Savarics.”

“Please,” Geoffrey said. “I don’t need to prove it. Everyone already knows.”

Ignoring him, Ælfflæd told Guilhem: “Be safe. And be kind to anyone you meet. They will be your subjects one day.”

Turning back to Geoffrey and grinning, she then looked to her son and told him in Saxon: “And don’t be afraid to show them you know how to speak their language.”

Guilhem looked to his father nervously and then back to Ælfflæd. She smiled and told him in Occitan. “It will be alright. Your father will just brag how smart you are.”

The prince smiled and nodded, before running off to get his clothes from the trunk and get ready to ride. When Ælfflæd stood up, Geoffrey eyed her.

“What did you tell him?” he asked.

“To speak the language to any locals he meets,” Ælfflæd said. “Good practice, I think.”

Geoffrey stroked his chin and then nodded. “I suppose it would be. Now then, one other piece of business. I imagine you will be meeting with your lords today.”

“I’m surprised that you’ll let me,” Ælfflæd noted.

“My uncle Adhemar reminded me that I will not present here when I decide to attack Navarra,” Geoffrey said. “So it behooves us to see how you handle things.”

“You speak of me as if I’m a child,” Ælfflæd said.

“You are inexperienced in dealing with powerful vassal lords,” Geoffrey said. “It is no insult to speak truths.”

“Perhaps I would have had more experience had you trusted me as your proper regent,” Ælfflæd said.

“But I didn’t,” Geoffrey said. “And here we are. So don’t do anything I wouldn’t do and manage the best you can.”

Ælfflæd grew wide-eyed at the advice. So don’t anything you wouldn’t do? So then I am allowed to bed a lord like Duke Sigeric? Or Duke Hlohtere?

Not that she would. She might have resented his condescending tone, but he had won her this crown and was letting her at least nominally handle overseeing England. With less than a 1,000 men to call to her name, and most of them rabble, she could hardly hope for much more.

She just had to stomach that it was because, more than anything else, Geoffrey simply did not think England, or her people, worth his time.

….

But not everyone was of a mind that Geoffrey’s contempt for his new subjects was a bad thing.

“It gives us more room to do as you please,” Adelise told her later that day as they sat in the solar. “And I imagine the English lords will appreciate his lack of interference.”



“Until I or they do something he dislikes,” Ælfflæd said. “Then what will happen?”

“He needs you,” Adelise said. “If for no other reason than because otherwise he’ll have to deal with the English lords himself. And that works the other way too - they don’t wish to deal with him either.”

“They will have to,” Ælfflæd said. “Starting tomorrow, when we do our oaths.”

“Yes, we should talk about that,” Adelise said. “I have been speaking with my mother, as well as Duke Hlothere and Uncle Osmund. They tell me the lords are willing to acknowledge you. They don’t wish to acknowledge Geoffrey.”

“I noticed your stepfather took that tact,” Ælfflæd said. “I thought Geoffrey would come down on him for it, but he was so pleased with his victory he failed to notice it.”

“Geoffrey will pay more attention tomorrow,” Adelise warned. “I, of course, have no problem acknowledging you both. For it is only together that you can prosper.”

Ælfflæd grinned. “You don’t need to kiss up, Adi. Your position is secure. I would have you on my council, as an advisor.”

Adelise pointed to herself. “I’m flattered Elf. I certainly hoped, but could not expect.”

The queen could not resist chuckling. Her cousin was being modest at best, and false at worst. But at the moment, Ælfflæd was too thrilled she was queen to care.

“So then the first bit of advice I need from you is on the rest of my council,” Ælfflæd said. “Who I should add because they are worthy. And who I should add because they will be pacified.”

“Then let us start from the top - Northumberland,” Adelise said. “The new Duke Hlothere could be a troublemaker. He thinks he should be king.”



“By what right?” Ælfflæd demanded. “He has no relation to the Godwins, the Normans, Ed or Ecgwyn!”

“By the hooey his mother came up with before she passed,” Adelise said. “Duchess Æfrida tried to claim descent from King Arthur.”

“Impossible,” Ælfflæd scoffed. “Arthur had no children, right?”

“She sponsored the work of a man named…” Adelise paused and then chuckled. “Geoffrey actually. Geoffrey of Monmouth, who she hoped would give her a crown through the quill rather than the sword.

"He is a cleric who Æfrida sponsored to write a history of Britain. In it, he recounts the history of England, dating all the way back to the Trojan War, when Brutus of Troy arrived here after their defeat.”

Ælfflæd actually knew of Troy, though that was because her husband had mentioned the Trojan Aeneas as the ancestor of the Romans and thus his ancestor as well.

“The world seems to wish descent from a sacked city,” Ælfflæd said as she shook her head. Then she looked back to Adelise. “You’ve read this then?”

“Part of it,” Adelise said. “I sent one of my monks to copy the texts. I have read what has been sent back, which is only selections, so far.”

“Then what is all this about Arthur and Æfrida… or Hlothere?” Ælfflæd asked.

“In it, it is claimed that Arthur was killed in battle against his nephew Mordred, but appointed his cousin Constantinus to rule… as a regent for his young son, born not long before his death,” Adelise said. “And the line of Britain kings eventually intermarried with Æfrida’s family of Saxons, thus making them the true heirs of Britain.”

Ælfflæd rolled her eyes. “And people believe this?”

“The history is interesting enough, but I imagine the Arthur/Northumberland connection is too convenient to be true,” Adelise said. “A bit of embellishment if you will.”

“Will others believe it?” Ælfflæd asked. “Or will they choose to?”

“Now that is the right question,” Adelise said. “It could be an excuse for revolt, in the wrong situation. But the good news is Hlothere is rumored to be craven. I believe if you find him a position on your council, he will never have the willingness to risk his status to challenge the might of your husband.”

“Is he competent at anything?” Ælfflæd asked.

Adelise laughed before responding: “No. His mother tolerated him, barely.”

“Lovely,” Ælfflæd said.

“Perhaps you can make him marshal,” Adelise suggested. “Let us be honest - at the moment you will not be relying on England’s men for protection anyway.”

Ælfflæd didn’t like having to place a completely incompetent man as the one overseeing the realm’s forces - an especially important position because she was a woman and in theory, was not to be involved in the planning of war. But Adelise was not wrong in that at the moment, there was not much to plan involving what she could call her own levy.

“I do have someone who angles for a council position and might be actually capable of fulfilling it well, however,” Adelise said. “Duke Sigeric of Essex as chancellor.”



Ælfflæd’s eyes widened. “The same Sigeric who fought so hard against me? The same Sigeric who came to Aquitaine to insult me and my husband? I think not - I have already promised Uncle Osmund that I shall restore him to the position.”

“The same Uncle Osmund who threatened you in Bordeaux if you did not surrender yourself to him?” Adelise retorted. “I think, outside of Hlothere and myself, you will find yourself short on lords of this realm who did not line up against you.”

Ælfflæd frowned. It was an uncomfortable reminder of what she dealt with in truly making these lords her own men and women.



“Not one even just went along for the sake of it?” Ælfflæd asked.

“Maud,” Adelise said. “She thought Burgheard betrayed her by raising himself over her. And she could not believe the lords selected a child queen, over her, a prominent lady of the realm, and already of age. At least with you, she claims, there was no betrayal as she believes Geoffrey simply uses you.”

Ælfflæd rolled her eyes. “I have long had enough of Maud’s thoughts about me.”

“It is unpleasant, I know,” Adelise said. “But there is no lord of the realm better at the role than Sigeric.”

“What of Aevis?” Ælfflæd asked. “She is versed in Saxon, Norman, Frankish, Dane as well Occitan. And she earned herself friends among the Saxons - it is no small thing given you two are Norman.”



Adelise furrowed her brow. “She is undeserving of a place on your council after her betrayal of our family.”

Ælfflæd shook her head. “As you say, I would be short on lords who did not line up against me.”

“But most are not your family, at least closely,” Adelise said. “Aevis and Osmund are different. Aevis especially, for she could have aligned with you and me.”

“I think it would be wise to have both my cousins on the council,” Ælfflæd said. She smirked - it was following her husband’s advice, sticking close family on the council.

“Then let me warn of another reason,” Adelise began. “While the realm features many ladies ruling in their own right, it is still considered… uncouth to place a woman in such a leading role.”

“The realm thinks it is uncouth for me to rule in the first place,” Ælfflæd said.

“So we need not add to their discontent,” Adelise said.

“Could they not say the same of you?” Ælfflæd asked.

“An advisor to the queen is different,” Adelise said. “You can take advice from whoever you like. Chancellor, marshal… these are all positions that are considered roles for men. I don’t agree… but I also do not wish to fight that battle, when there are scores of others we will need to engage in.”

Ælfflæd was inclined to disagree, especially since she knew it would be the threat of Geoffrey’s army that would keep the nobles at bay. But she also suspected he may not approve of something that bold either and he would be taking his army from England soon enough to deal with Navarra. Plus, there was that threat they could plot to kill her. So caution might be the wiser choice.

“Fine,” Ælfflæd said. “I will not select Aevis for the moment. Perhaps I can find a role for her in the near future.”

“If I might make one other suggestion,” Adelise began. When she fell silent, Ælfflæd motioned for her to continue. “My stepfather continuing in his role as steward.”

“A bad idea,” Ælfflæd said. “My husband is well aware of his reputation. And given the rumors…”

Her voice trailed off. She knew rumors with Somerset involved Adelise as well, including her last child was actually his. Is that why she vouched for him now?

“Rumors are just that,” Adelise said. “You said yourself, you need capable nobles to fill those roles. He is fairly good at managing the ledger.”

“I am not so bad myself,” Ælfflæd said.

“Geoffrey let you?” Adelise asked.

Ælfflæd pursed her lips. “More… recently.”

Adelise smiled. “Still, he will have a better idea of the accounting of Lydford than you or your husband will. And I shall never leave your side when you are with him.”

Ælfflæd shook her head. She didn’t want any part of Æthelsige, even if he was the first lord besides Adelise to present himself to her. But she suspected she probably would be forced to… though she’d at least consult her Aunt Gunhilda first… just to make sure it did not run afoul of her.

As much as she valued Adelise, and knew of the power she held with her loyalty, Gunhilda was no slouch either, given her connections with nearly every lord in the realm now. Aside from the deposed Ecgwyn and Hlothere, she was mother, sister, sister-by-law or cousin to every duke and duchess in England. Keeping her happy was not to be scoffed at.

“I will consider it,” Ælfflæd said. “Truly. I just… I will speak to your mother as well. She knows him best.”

“Of course,” Adelise said. “And you should. It is wise to seek as much information as possible. She’ll be happy to speak with you as well - she is quite pleased you are queen over Ecgwyn.”

“She disliked the girl that much?” Ælfflæd wondered.

“It is less dislike of her, and more anger at what has happened to her sister’s family,” Adelise said. “You know our mothers were inseparable until their marriages. She hated seeing what happened to your nephew. Seeing you raised has lessened that pain.”

“She still would prefer Æthelfirth?” Ælfflæd asked.

“I think she realizes that you are the best positioned to both see Queen Wulfrun’s legacy preserved as well as defend the interests of myself, Aevis and Hextilda,” Adelise said. “So have no fear - she will be your most loyal subject, besides myself of course.”

Ælfflæd again could not resist a chuckle at Adelise’s overt pandering.

“There's another matter… less pleasant to discuss,” Adelise noted. “Ecgwyn.”

Ælfflæd waved her off. “I have already decided. She is to live and be given Cornwall.”

“Is that wise?” Adelise asked.

Ælfflæd sighed. The deposed queen. Daughter of the late Burgheard, who would now and forever be her rival. Ælfflæd had taken her crown, and even if Ecgwyn was unaware of it in full, she had to suspect her father’s life as well.

However, it looked poor upon all those involved to deal harshly with a child, and both Ælfflæd and Geoffrey agreed she would be allowed to keep her title as Duchess of Cornwall, and given the county of the same name as restitution for the loss of both Devon and her crown.

“I am not happy with the arrangement,” Ælfflæd said. “But my hands are tied. It is what is expected.”

“What is expected is that you don’t make a show of imprisoning or killing her,” Adelise said.

“So I am to send her to a convent?” Ælfflæd asked.

“Not exactly what I had in mind,” Adelise said. “Keep her under your guard for longer… and then perhaps… something happens.”

Ælfflæd grew wide-eyed. “You are not suggesting what I think you are.”

Adelise shrugged. “She will hate you and your family for the remainder of her days. She is always a threat to be restored to the throne. So too will her children, should she have any. It is best to deal with it all now, as we did with Burgheard.”

Ælfflæd looked away from her cousin, furrowing her brow. There was a specific reason she had gone ahead with Ed’s murder… to protect her own child from being killed. With no current threat, it would be an affront to God for her to turn around and kill Ed’s only child after everything else that happened.

“You are too willing to take lives,” Ælfflæd said. “It should be the last option, not the first.”

“Do you see another way this resolves?” Adelise asked. “She will always hate you, your husband and your family. You will never win her to your side. She will endeavor to be a thorn in it. Cut out the steps that will make everything more difficult and deal with it now.”

Ælfflæd felt a twinge in her spine as she imagined a far harder situation to handle - leaving Ecgwyn as a mess to clean up later, where she might have far more support. Or attempting to move against Gulhem with her as a figurehead, as the nobles had with the Bastard over a half century before. Would it be better to deal with it now?

No, I am not craven, and neither is my family, Ælfflæd thought. I will not allow fear to dictate the murder of a child.

“I will deal with her as needed,” Ælfflæd said. “Should she move against me in the future… she will live to regret her choice.”

“I pray we are not left to do the same,” Adelise replied.

Ælfflæd narrowed her gaze. “Adelise, I remain your cousin, but I am still your queen. Try to remember a certain respect for me now…”

“We are alone, Elf,” Adelise said. “In public…”

“It can slip out,” Ælfflæd warned. “So I expect a certain level of respect for my decisions. Such is required of my advisor… who is there to aid me in projecting a proper image to the realm. I cannot do that if you are snide and snippy with me.”

Adelise was silent for a moment and Ælfflæd eyed her, wondering if her cousin would push the matter further.

But the duchess eventually nodded.

“You are right, Elf,” Adelise said. “I must find the right balance. Forgive me, I am new to this role as you are to being a queen in your own right.”

Ælfflæd smiled. “It is fine, Adi. We will all figure this out together.”

…..

The next day, the hall in Lydford was packed so tightly it was difficult to move.

That was despite the fact the main hall had been slightly expanded since Geoffrey seized the keep a year and a half before. Drapes hung from the walls, candles and torches lit the hall, but it was the sheer number of people that caught the eye, as they spilled out of the entrance, hoping to get a view of the proceedings.

They came from all walks - a few well-to-do from the town itself. Knights from Aquitaine and the midlands as well as some huscarls from England. Of course, nobles themselves… on one side the Saxons and Normans. On the other, those from Aquitaine, who had traveled from the continent for this day.

All here to see me, she thought.

Ælfflæd’s heart raced as she sat on her throne - cut for her specifically, as it had the shells of her family crest engraved in the top corners.

It was strange, and nerve wracking, to realize these people were here to see her. She was the center of it. Yes, Geoffrey was there, and by all rights, he was their king, at least in name.

But it was through her. The vassals were coming to swear their oaths to her. These people were present to see them do that. To see her ascendant above every man and woman in England.

Just as they had her father and grandfather. Their legacy, both good and bad, rested upon her shoulders.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey was by her side, on his own throne, which had had the bulls heads of his family crest engraved upon it. A step down on the dais was Geoffrey’s council, and for the first time since the start of the war, all gathered together. Adhemar was closest to him, followed by Berard, Duke Guilhem and then Count Douard. On Ælfflæd’s side stood Prince-Bishop Emmanuel and Bishop Edouard, to emphasize the church’s support for the endeavor.

It was a lie - they still wrangled with the church over a potential coronation. The English clergy seemed resistant toward recognizing Ælfflæd, even after the victory, and Emmanuel shot down Geoffrey’s idea of having the prince-bishop crown her himself, saying it was not his dioceses, nor realm. And the new pope Anastasius had yet to weigh in on the matter, though Geoffrey thought it would come out better since he wasn't Martinus' man, like Cardinal Nicola.





But the people gathered need not know that as today’s efforts were in the spectacle. There would be time for practical matters later.

And the spectacle soon began, with Duke Adhemar stepping forward and announcing, in Frankish, the monarchs.

“Announcing Geoffrey, first of his name, King of Aquitaine and England,” he began. “And Ælfflæd, first of her name, Queen of England and Queen consort of Aquitaine.”

Her heart raced as she gripped the wooden armrests of her throne tightly. First of my name, she thought. She had never heard that said of her before. It was something that was only spoken of for monarchs who actually ruled, not consorts.

She did her best to try to slow her heart to keep it from bursting from her chest while Adhemar continued to speak in Frankish.

It was strange to conduct the court in a language no one spoke as their first. The Saxons mostly knew Frankish, given the similarities to Norman, but preferred their own tongue to conduct business. And they had for every king since the Bastard.

The Normans were the most comfortable, naturally. Geoffrey knew it well too, since he had grown up during the split with the Frankish kingdom and learned both it and Occitan. Most of Aquitaine's nobles were the same in that regard.

And the alternatives were Geoffrey having it conducted in Occitan, which would leave the English nobles, even the Normans, in need of translation, or do it in Saxon, where Geoffrey and his people would need someone to make sense of it. Frankish proved a compromise, at least until the English court adjusted.

Adjustments would likely be needed with how they addressed the monarchs. Adelise had come up with a compromise, which she had run by Ælfflæd, then Adhemar and then the three to Geoffrey.

The nobles would acknowledge Ælfflæd first, but then Geoffrey as well. That way, it furthered the idea that Ælfflæd was the one who ruled them, even if Geoffrey oversaw it all.

The king was hesitant to the idea when he returned from his ride late in the day, but eventually was talked into it by Adhemar emphasizing they needed to establish Ælfflæd as a true ruler in her own right. They could not do that by having her subservient to Geoffrey in things relating to her vassals.

And that was not all when it came to vassals - there was an order they would be received on this day.

It had to be the deposed Ecgwyn first to make it clear that she was England’s queen no more, giving the other vassals official right to swear their oaths to Ælfflæd.

Defeated, she had fled to East Anglia, but had been handed over by Duchess Maud, with Geoffrey giving assurances the girl would not be harmed. Maud likely didn’t care - she just wanted to get in with the new monarchs - Geoffrey had no intentions of violating his oaths.

The teen did not even try to hide her contempt and anger for the situation, moving forward at a snail’s pace as the hall looked on in silence… but only for a time.



“Get her to her knees!”

“Shove her forward!”

“Throw her in the dungeons!”

Ælfflæd looked out at the gallery. It was being shouted in Occitan mostly, though a few did seem to be in Frankish. And it was those Frankish words that Ecgwyn almost certainly understood caused her to look back toward the crowd and for the first time, looked to have added fear to her range of expressions.

“Squirm girl,” Geoffrey said quietly in Occitan, but Ælfflæd was close enough to hear him.

It made sense for him to want her to know fear, to know her place, to know Aquitaine would destroy her if she ever tried anything.

But for Ælfflæd it was too familiar… being brought forth under threat from foreign invaders, who seized you despite your status and the rank you believed protected you. To not know what came next.

It was almost instinctual. Ælfflæd stood from her throne and raised her hand. It took a few moments for the crowd to grow silent, or silent enough for Ælfflæd to speak out to Ecgwyn and be heard. She used the time to descend a step on the dais and then motioned Ecgwyn forward, adding: “Come here, my dear.”

Ecgwyn stood motionless for a moment, eyeing the queen with suspicion. But she made the walk forward, a little quicker than before. And when she reached the dais, Ælfflæd grabbed her in a tight embrace.

Despite being more than half her age, Ecgwyn already was a head taller than her new queen, though the dais did somewhat hide it. And Ecgwyn seemed surprised by the hug, though she did close her grip around Ælfflæd as well.

Whispering into Ecgwyn’s ear, Ælfflæd said: “I know what it is like to walk through a hall of enemies. I know what it is like to not know what your future holds. Know this, I do not blame you for the betrayal of my family. If you have anyone here who would be your friend, and not use you to their own ends, it would be me. I would not harm you. I would not let them harm you. I would see you among the leading ladies of this realm.”

“You took my crown,” she said. “Why would I trust you?”

“The crown was my family’s,” Ælfflæd told her. “Your father, lured by avarice and greed, betrayed my father to take it. And threatened my son to try and keep it.”

“My father would not,” Ecgwyn said.

“Fathers are not always what we believe them to be,” Ælfflæd warned. “I know, first hand.”

Ecgwyn lowered her head, but slowly shook it. It would not be something that would get through easily, Ælfflæd realized, but in time, she would understand. Hopefully. The queen did pity her… she didn’t want her to do anything to call upon the wrath she had just briefly sampled in the hall.

Ecgwyn then did drop to her knees and swear her oaths. Ælfflæd brought her up, embraced and kissed her, confirming her as the Duchess and Countess of Cornwall.

Geoffrey then stepped down with her, and Ecgwyn bowed before him. The pair said nothing to one another, with Ecgwyn glaring at Geoffrey with anger and the king at the duchess with contempt.

The former “queen” made her way back to the Saxon side of the gallery, standing with her mother, who eyed Ælfflæd and Geoffrey with a hateful glare. To that, Ælfflæd had no sympathy.

You gambled when you helped murder your husband to elevate your daughter, Ælfflæd thought. You lost.

Adelise was the next to come forth to swear her oaths to Ælfflæd, since she had been “the first” to actually acknowledge her before. This one was a more joyous occasion as Adelise marched forth with her head held high and a smile on her face as she approached the dais. Holding the skirt of her dress out, she dropped to a knee before the dais.

“My queen,” she said. Then she looked to Geoffrey. “And king. It is good to see your family, my queen, once more restored to the throne. Your grandfather and father were men of great honor, and fine examples for all of Christendom. I have no doubt you shall follow in their footsteps.”

Putting it like that just added to the pressure she felt. But Ælfflæd put it from her mind for the moment as she raised Adelise from her knees. Then she and the duchess swore their oaths and embraced, a much more loving one than had preceded with Ecgwyn.

When they were done, Ælfflæd spoke: “Duchess Adelise of Mercia, cousin, before anyone in England believed in me… and perhaps Aquitaine… believed in me, you did. I would not be here without your belief. Your strength. And so, as I move forth, I wish you by my side, as a member of my council.”

Adelise smiled. “I would be honored, my queen.”

Ælfflæd offered her hand and Adelise took it, joining her on the dais and then taking a place on the step below the thrones, and as the closest person to Ælfflæd’s.
Hlothere came next, as he was the one lord who had not technically taken up arms against Ælfflæd and Geoffrey, having just inherited from his mother in May. In fact, he had not gone through any vassal ceremony to this point, as he had not bothered to swear anything to Ecgwyn.

“My queen,” Hlothere said. “A more beautiful one I have never seen.”

Ælfflæd blushed at the overt flattery, before the swearing of the oaths and the embrace. It was an embrace that suggested Hlothere was not just sucking up, as he lingered a bit too long, pressing himself tightly against her. Not wishing to make a scene, she gently tried to extricate herself from the hug, though found it difficult.

When Hlothere did release, smile on his face, Ælfflæd was left feeling uncomfortable, yet did not know what to do about it. But when she glanced at Geoffrey, she could see him narrow his gaze toward Hlothere. And then after the duke bowed before the king, Geoffrey extended his hand. Ælfflæd was confused for a moment… until Geoffrey pulled him close, and whispered something in his ear. She could see Geoffrey’s grip was so tight, Hlothere’s arm trembled.

Despite being seven years Geoffrey’s elder, Hlothere’s face blanched, and once released he sheepishly retreated back to the gallery, the king watching him every step of the way.

Ælfflæd feared something similar might happen with her uncle, Duke Æthelsige of Somerset. But he was courteous, smiling at both queen and king, and keeping things appropriate between himself and Ælfflæd.

Maud came next, with the Duchess of East Anglia bowing before Ælfflæd and when they embraced whispered: “We must speak again later. I have much to discuss with you.”

Her transparent grab for influence made Ælfflæd want to roll her eyes - and she was grateful for the work she had put in to hide such thoughts over the years. She would still meet with Maud as a courtesy, but that would be the extent of it.



Then it was time for Aevis. She was one of Ecgwyn’s strongest supporters, but she was also the queen’s first cousin. It meant Ælfflæd had to make a good show of welcoming her back - all made easier by the fact the new queen wasn’t acting.

She wanted her cousin with her. No Aevis had discouraged her, unlike Adelise, but she had her reasons. And now, with Ælfflæd’s elder sister likely gone from her permanently, having never met her younger half-siblings who resided in Wiltshire, Adelise, Aevis, Gunhilda and to a lesser degree Hextilda were her closest family now. They could all be involved, even if Adelise was the only one with a council position.

“I’m sorry,” Aevis told her, loud enough for the hall to hear.

“All is forgiven,” Ælfflæd replied. “We are family. All that matters now is that we’re together.”

It was rehearsed, but it didn’t make it any less true for Ælfflæd.

Osmund, who had only returned to England just a few days before, was next. He was respectful, and like Aevis, asked for forgiveness for his behavior during the siege of Bordeaux. On that, Ælfflæd felt a bit more resentment, since he had threatened her person as opposed to Aevis. But he was her uncle, and her late mother’s younger brother, and he had treated her well enough in the years prior.

He also had managed to build his personal forces to rival any of the other lords of the realm, so it made sense to treat him with respect.



Sigeric was last, as one of Ecgwyn’s key supporters, the chancellor who had insulted Ælfflæd and without a connection to her beyond his new wife, who was her maternal aunt. But Lady Seaxburg almost never interacted with her older sisters, unlike Osmund, who spent a great deal of time in Wiltshire. So Ælfflæd felt nothing toward her, and Sigeric would gain little from it.

However, she had considered Adelise’s advice of making him chancellor, and Ælfflæd decided she would meet with him later to see if she could tolerate it. So she invited him to join herself and Adelise tomorrow, though she did not reveal the matter she wished to discuss.



Ælfflæd’s lesser vassals came next and she endeavored to deal with them as seriously as she had the dukes and duchesses - their loyalty might not appear as valuable as the others but it was not to be discounted.

Once the oaths were finished, it came time for her to speak - something else she had been dreading. Eloquence was never her strong suit and with a father like the late Thoræd, who blustered, boasted and threatened more than he charmed it was no surprise.

But she remembered Geoffrey was made to follow one of the best orators in Christendom and yet managed, so she could make something of it as she followed in the footsteps of one of the worst.

“A millenia ago, Rome came to Britain,” Ælfflæd began. “The people were cowed. They were subjugated. But one Briton… stood proud against them. A woman… by the name of Boudica.”

She looked out at the crowd. Those from Aquitaine nodded along - Geoffrey had long since repeated the story to his knights and nobles. But the Saxons appeared to be confused.

“You may not know of her,” Ælfflæd said. “It is a tale forgotten by many here, for reasons I don’t know. But if you go to Rome, or Aquitaine, or Germany or Francia and speak to the monks, you will hear of her. She burned London to the ground, nearly forcing Rome, the mightiest Empire the world has ever seen to give thought to abandoning Britain. They did not… but she came closer than anyone of her age to stopping Rome at the peak of its powers.

“But there is another who my fellow Saxons should know - even if my husband’s people do not - the Lady Æthelflæd of Mercia. Sister of Alfred, who led the lands of my cousin against the Northmen. She showed no fear. No hesitation when the people of this island needed her.

“Neither did my grandfather, the great Ælfmær, who brought us together once more despite the disunion among Saxons and Normans that threatened to tear us apart, nor did he hesitate when asked to pick up the cross to fight the heathens in the Holy Land. Neither did my father Thoræd hesitate to continue his father’s work in Jerusalem, or hold those gains, alone, the best he could against the might of the heathens.”

Her eyes burned, and she paused for a moment to regain her composure. Perhaps it was better she was tearing up - she could not see then how her speech was being received.

“I look to them all now: Boudica who faced down the might of Rome, Æthelflæd who showed no fear against the Great Heathen Army, my grandfather who refused to let England be torn apart, and my father, who for a time, became the envy of all of Christendom. They are my precursors. They are my ancestors. I… am their legacy.”

She opened her eyes wide and stared at the gallery. Her heart beat so fast and so loudly, she wondered if the entire hall could hear it.

“I am Ælfflæd, first of her name,” she said as she stood from the throne. “Queen of England. And I will uphold their hopes, their dreams, their ambition. I will not fail England. I will not fail them. And I will not fail you.”

There was a cheer from the gallery. She knew it was from a hall made up of a great many Occitans, along with many who cheered because they believed they had no choice. Or because they saw Geoffrey himself clapping and hailing her.

But it didn’t matter in that moment. Because the cheers, forced or not, were for her. The Queen of England. God had granted her a place few women held, whether he acted through Adelise, Geoffrey or whoever. He gave her the power he denied her brother and, through circumstance, her elder sister as well. This could have been her, after all, had Foulques not fallen.

She had joined her father and her grandfather as monarchs of England. But it was just the start, for the two men could not have been more different.

Her grandfather was a man from humble beginnings who healed England from near ruin to bring it to the precipice of greatness. And her father had reached those heights, and suffered a greater fall, where all he had fought to gain, his family included, was nearly lost.

She was the heir to them. And she was the heir to Boudica and Æthelflæd, courageous leaders in their own right, whether they were queens or not.

However, Ælfflæd was queen. In her own right. She still did not know exactly what that would mean. Nor did she know what type of monarch she would be.

But she was eager to find out.






Note: Duchess Æfrida gained a strong claim over England before her death, and I assume it's because she fabricated it, since she wasn't linked to any royals that I could find. As it turned out Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain is dated to around 1136, so I figured I could incorporate it. Giving Arthur a son was an embellishment... but that's the fun of it!
 
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First Lieutenant
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Dec 10, 2018
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Hurray, hopefully Ælfflæd will prove even more competent than her grandfather, yet the English nobility may be an obstacle to her rule one day.... Great chapter!!!