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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

JabberJock14

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Shall return to my format of responding to the current chapter replies, followed by responses to @Cromwell and @TheButterflyComposer in follow up posts as to not spoil.

Another great chapter! This war announcement must have given you a mega face palm. I am shocked that Elf has only two traits (fat and greedy) and only 35 points with a four star education. Does she really not have a court chaplain? The council selections seem to be very sub-optimal even for AI.
It threw me for a loop, for sure and I was pretty annoyed when it happened. I figured my biggest worry would be me having England rebel at an inopportune time. Nope, Elf decided to mess with me.

Her lack of traits is somewhat surprising but part of traits come from education and most of her formative years were spent in a dungeon, limiting her. She had ambitious, but she lost it. As a queen she's bound to pick up more traits over time though.

Yeah, that was not for effect. At the time, she had no court chaplain, since I don't believe she had any eligible candidates in her court. She has one county, and just one bishop as her direct vassal, Cytelbearn. With him as spymaster, she could appoint a random court goer to the role, but I think the only one she has is a Greek Orthodox immigrant. (Will probably toss a mention to him at some point). Her other option was to appoint someone like Osmund spymaster, but the AI decided against it for some reason.

The spymaster role often is tricky for the AI to fill. Lots of AI characters just stick their wives in the role, including a certain Duke of Toulouse, but Elf can't do that since Geoffrey isn't available.

I do feel sorry for poor Ælfflæd having to leave her children behind, but perhaps it is safest for them to remain in Aquitane. Geoffrey's reaction to this should be amusing, after all he did call her his Boudica, so he shouldn't be surprised that she declared a war on her own. Hopefully Geoffrey can get over his anger enough to help her, and solidify her rule. Hopefully she doesn't create too much opposition to her rule by overriding the council, but one never knows how they will react. Also, I really hope she doesn't end up getting herself killed in battle like some idiot, I hate when AI characters with low marital and personal combat skill decide to lead armies. Great chapter!
Especially now, her children are safest in Aquitaine! (Though one wonders if she would have taken the same chance had they been in Lydford and under the same risk she had been as a girl) Geoffrey's reaction is going to be the subject of the next chapter and to say he's unhappy... is an understatement. Doesn't she realize all of that Boudica stuff was just for show/ego boosting? ;)

As for the nobles in England, I put the Sigeric screenshot both to show the tyranny penalty and also a breakdown of what she's up against. Most of the other lords are similar - they all have a massive mallus because Geoffrey is educating her heir.

It's funny you mention that last bit about bad results when characters with low martial and personal combat lead armies, given the future.

That Ælfflæd is already starting to snap is not exactly a good sign. Ever since the Iron Duke, the Angevins always could throw in their sizeable personal levy to pretty much end any argument, or at least heavily weigh it in their favour. She doesn't have that luxury.

Then again, it is somewhat understandable that she wants to be able to do something instead of being frustrated at every turn. She says it herself, Geoffrey has roused a character ideal which is not exactly favourable to his own plans.

But while breaking the church's resistance with a holy war is tempting, there is no such thing as an easy war in the Holy Land, and the English armies may very well be running back home soon - or said home invaded by yet another Muslim fleet. Ælfflæd's children are safe with Geoffrey for now - and that's a massive relief for her as it would likely break her to consign her children to a form of captivity she had to endure herself.

And with an opposing faction of the nobility already forming, a loss in the Holy Land may well be disastrous for her hold on the crown, forcing Geoffrey to have to step in again.

All that, not good. And then we have the birth of Dumbfrey. I really hope we'll be able to see him develop as a character. Not just for his own... qualities, but also for the effect he's likely to have on the royal relationship.
Perhaps he'll end up surprisingly good, as did Hervé. Either way, he'll be interesting.
Yeah the rigors of rulership are not easy. Geoffrey dealt with struggles of his own when he first ascended, and that was more natural one where it was as everyone expected and had been prepared for. Elf must deal with hostile nobles who think she's a foreign puppet, as well as those who think she's unsuited due to her sex and perhaps even her family given what happened to her nephew. I won't claim she handled it well, but at the moment she feels under siege from all sides. Nobles, clergy, even her husband. Her cousins are about the only two she trusts (whether that trust is properly placed is another matter)

I did underestimate Elf's forces a bit - the nobles dislike her, but still provide a decent sized levy. I will show it next chapter, but she outnumbers the sheikdom's forces by about 2K. Of course if anyone else gets involved... well, that will make life harder! I suspect the AI doesn't take that into consideration, however, and just saw "weaker neighbor - easy Holy War target".

You usually are pretty good with your predictions, and I can't find fault with what you've said here. The previous invasion/raids were part of a Jihad, but it could happen again because that's just what tends to happen in this game.

And yeah, this isn't the only England headache Geoffrey will need to deal with. Regardless of Holy Lands, Elf just doesn't have a great deal of men and a rebellion at some point is likely.

Oh poor "Dumbfrey". I will say your Herve comparison... isn't a bad one! That's a long way off though.

Elf is really growing bold. Geoff probably regrets provoking her. Maybe he should let her have at least one of the children to keep her happy. Geoff probably won't be able to mobilize his full levy so soon after Navarre, not wanting to anger various vassals and all. Still, so long as it remains confined to just one county he could just send a small force. Mind you these Holy Wars have a tendency to spiral out of control. Geoff could soon find himself fighting the entire Muslim world just to take Acre.
One does wonder if perhaps if he had let her keep her children she would have felt a touch more inclined to to run up against him here. She was willing to excuse a great deal prior to that, but the confining her to Bordeaux and then separating her for her children left a huge impression on her, and not in a good way. Had he let her return, or let her do so with at least the new Prince Geoffrey, her opinion might have been different.

You'll see Geoffrey's reaction next chapter and no, he's not pleased with this at all. And you're right - Holy Wars almost never stay contained. Someone always jumps in unless it's some religion that's isolated. More on that as well next chapter.

Idle thought of the moment: Geoffrey has sown the wind, and now he shall reap the whirlwind. Elf's impetuousness is certainly part of the problem here, but if Geoff had truly wished to keep her under control, he should have kept her close.
Yep. Yep. Yep. All true.

Elf steps into it quite a bit, baited by a great number of places. The clergy are seeking to ruin her, the nobles have no problem with it, but as Adelise says, knowing that and then walking into the mire anyway is... risky to say the least.

But Geoffrey took half-measures. And his messaging to her has been a scattershot as well - boosting her to get her onboard and do what he wants, but also clamping down on this she's likely to hold dear (like their children). He claims to treat her like his vassal, but he doesn't. The only vassal who he demanded the children for was Duke Guilhem, with Simon, and it was only Simon. Elf is in a thankless position, told to deal with the stuff Geoffrey doesn't (the Saxon nobles who dislike him and the clergy) while enjoying very few actual benefits toward rule. He was better off giving her true free reign, which would have made her more loyal to him, or just cracking down on her completely.

Alas, it's not what he did. And now, he'll have a mess on his hands.... or will he? Perhaps we're all underestimating the queen a bit. ;)

Great chapter. As always. I love this 'Aelfflaed's downward spyral'. The AI is certainly doing a great job spicing things up... This is going to be a fun ride. For everyone: Elf, Geoff, the scheming anglo-saxon nobles... It doesn't get any funnier. ;)

Keep up the good work!
Thanks! I really did want to show what was running through Elf's mind to show how she could have ended up in this position, but yeah, it's trying to explain the AI doing AI things. England is a non-stop source of stuff to focus on over the next four years or so, and that's primarily me just looking at what was happening. Had I actually played as Elf, I'd probably have found even more to add. As it is, I have a hard time including it all and building up the growing conflicts properly...

I do hope to keep it going well. I think the next few years are interesting and unlike with the previous rulers, there really isn't downtime. Something is always going on.

To all - you can probably imagine my surprise when I saw this happened. And my... reaction at what happened next. The next chapter covers Geoffrey's... and it reflected me a bit, but with his flavor. There will be some other updates in that chapter as well, but the big things is going to be his reaction to this Holy War.

In addition, if you remember I talked about the children appearing in different courts thing. If you notice, Prince Geoffrey is naturally in his father's court. I did not need to request guardianship - he just is *in* Geoffrey's court. That's why I was confused earlier - Guilhem and Margo did go to Lydford (with me getting guardianship to bring them back to Bordeaux), but Geoffrey and any other kids they have would remain in Bordeaux.

Storyline wise, that's part of why pregnant Elf had to stay in Bordeaux. I needed to figure out a reason for the prince to be in Bordeaux and not Lydford, and her being stuck there when he was born made more sense than him being born in Lydford and then being transported to Bordeaux and left there.

In any case, I don't think Elf comes off the best here, but I tried to come up with a reason for her actions. I'll have to do that a lot going forward, as the AI controls here and I don't have any input over her actions. (Save one exception in the future)

Thanks as always for your commentary and feedback. Hopefully I can do a good enough job at making the characters actions make sense in the narrow array of factors the AI does in it's decision making, all while keeping it entertaining. Then again, as @Oklahomie said, it's probably more entertaining with the AI doing it's own thing and me having to try to put out fires the best I can.
 
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JabberJock14

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I've got to the end of chapter 196 and what a ride it's been! Geoffrey King of Aquitane, the loss of his son and heir, his wife finally gaining his trust as regent and the... development with Agnes.

Then after all that leperosey coming out of the blue! This truly is facinating. I can't wait to be caught up.
I'm glad you're enjoying it. For a character who was a wild success in most respects, both before I got control of him and after, the old King Geoffrey did deal with his share of setbacks. CK2 has a habit of throwing in those random serious issues at you when you least expect it. I'll say he could have had it worse - I've had characters get leprosy and then pretty much drop dead right after.

I do always wonder how many people could stomach the Agnes development. When people don't like something, they often just stop, so I do wonder how many said "nope, not for me" after that and moved on. Glad you stuck through it though!

Hope you continue to enjoy it as you go through the end of his reign and on to his successor!
 
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I am currently reading with bile fascination the escapades of Big G 2. He is 17 yes, but the young king's propensity to think with his cock is matched only by his propensity to have it stomped on by every man and woman he meets. Given he is the first of anjou to feel an ounce of genuine compassion for a while, and so far hasn't murdered anyone yet, and that his mother has turned into even more of a bitch, and the pope wants to rape his wife, I can't help but feel sorry for the blighter

At least for now...
My sympathy for G2 has evaporated. I do not understand this character at all and it infuriates me. I'm begining to think he's genuinely mentally ill with his obscene lack of impulse control, his complete inability to understand anyone's point of view, his extraordinary mood swings, his violent and self-destructive sex life...he's like the Iron Duke with his psychopathy dialled up to eleven. I am genuinely curious to see what happens when he orders his first murder/execution and he gets a taste for it as much as sex.

What the ever flying fuck does he think he's doing?
You weren't kidding with the "for now" part! I hope I haven't driven you off. I shall try to explain the character the best I can - while noting I don't want to defend his actions. His actions are certainly not meant to be construed as heroic at all.

Young Geoffrey II is a teen who has always lacked from impulse control, especially when it comes to his sexual impulses. The first chapters from his viewpoint, back during the reign of his father, show him tripping up when he tries to jump into the bed of his aunt by marriage (a common theme with him). He's told by both his parents - a rare moment of unity between them no less - to cut it out, and his response is to try to be sneakier and get around them. Agnes and Count Alias ultimately outsmart him - which, of course they did, because they wouldn't be where they were without the ability to see through all sorts of schemers, and a teenage, impulsive, naive one is nothing. That moment between Geoffrey and Agnes is reflected in the chapter I would guess you are referring to.

Young Geoffrey does something insanely dumb with Anne back then, but is kept in check by the guardrails around him. Fast forward three years, and many of those guardrails have disappeared. The hope is that his maturation comes in time to stop him from repeating the same mistakes as before. And the early returns... not promising. He's still impulsive when he pretends to a squire, against the advice of his friends. He's still impulsive when he goes to Rome and nearly gets himself excommunicated - doing what his uncle warned him about. He's impulsive when he tries to bed the Duchess of Dauphine. And of course, he's impulsive here, not only refusing to break off his affair with Ana even when it's in his interest to.

In his mind, he's doing as what others in his position have done. His grandfather had multiple mistresses - and legitimized bastards - which Geoffrey did not do in this case. His father was a known womanizer, even if who he bedded (besides Haldora and a few others prior to his ascension in Anjou) were mostly a mystery to the world. The pope himself is as bad as them both - and of course tried to rape the queen. So I imagine a 17-year-old looking at this, screaming "it's not fair - they get to do bad stuff, but people come down on me" and lashing out.

Geoffrey's also the son of a man obsessed with image. Shows, how things look, was always important. Geoffrey's not his father in skill - his politics are OK, but not the expert level his father managed. Which leaves a young man who both has knowledge of the importance of symbolism and what it means, but lacks the foresight to handle things before they reach embarrassing points, and the deft skill to deal with said embarrassments.

So to sum up the disaster that followed Rome - Geoffrey did something he's always done/wanted to do, but no one was in position to stop him (and some of his inner circle, namely the Perigords, probably encouraged it). He looked around and determined it was OK anyway, because "everyone else does it". Then he gets pushback, which he accepts when he thinks his wife screaming at him is all it is.

But when it becomes acts of defiance, orchestrated by his aunt, one of the few people he respects and likely fears he can't outmaneuver, he lashes out. Agnes strikes at him in a way his father might, (and a stronger version of the tactics she used against the old king) just as she did with Duchess Anne three years before.

It becomes not only a humiliation because of him getting "punished" while others didn't. It's also who does it. The women in his life - the ones who he thinks should know their place. And of course, in his rage, he stumbles into giving another woman a great deal of say over his life.

The women aspect is not by accident either. It's in there already, but Geoffrey, Ana aside, drifts toward motherly types. Women who are older than him. His wife even fits that a bit - she has far more experience in the world than he does. To say nothing of Anne, or Essa or others. I chalk that up to the fraught nature of his own relationship with his mother, who loved her children but was incapable of providing any warmth or empathy. Her attempts to "help" Geoffrey was her conceding she couldn't and giving him over to her biggest rival.

I'll note Agnes is a bit different - she's a woman, but she's much of a stand-in for Geoffrey I, and making up for all the ways the old king failed to prepare his son for this. Agnes is very much a father-figure to Geoffrey II, but due to the nature of the society he lives in, it's something he can't fully realize or can appreciate.

Geoffrey's vacillations between empathy and rage? That's his age. Regardless of whether medieval society pushed younger people out into positions of adulthood and authority younger, Geoffrey's mind and impulse control is still that of a 17-year-old. So I try to imagine how reckless and impulsive people can be at that age.

So, I hope that explains it! It's not so much I agree with him - I don't - it's more trying to get into the mind of that person. Again, hopefully you aren't so turned off by him that you can't continue. I always hope to strike the balance, to give enough to like so that people don't just rage quit. But I may not have been able to do that for everyone. So if you can't take anymore, I understand.
 
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You weren't kidding with the "for now" part! I hope I haven't driven you off. I shall try to explain the character the best I can - while noting I don't want to defend his actions. His actions are certainly not meant to be construed as heroic at all.
But when it becomes acts of defiance, orchestrated by his aunt, one of the few people he respects and likely fears he can't outmaneuver, he lashes out. Agnes strikes at him in a way his father might, (and a stronger version of the tactics she used against the old king) just as she did with Duchess Anne three years before.
Nah, it's interesting, just worrying. I'm getting strong Caligula vibes from the third generation ruler of Anjou. Horrible upbringing, no impulse control, near absolute power and wealth, surrounded by much smarter people trying to make it all work, and an absolute monster of a sexual maniac as a male role model. He might grow from it, but right now with the way he destroys his room with swords when his passions get too high...I'm worried he'll go off the deep end before he matures out of such things.

It strikes me that he has a mix of the iron Duke and G1 in him, both being a good soldier but not god-like battlemaster, and innately interested in intrigue but inexperienced and lacking of a poltcial mind...he could make much of his mixture of talents but he hasn't really yet, and as his old and very good advisors drop one by one (good Agnes death scene by the way), I dont see him grow or learn enough from them to succeed alone. This business with essa is just the highest demonstration of the fact. His father technically has done worse sexual deeds, but he was older and subtle enough about it that no one really knew. G2 is definitely banging the most powerful vassal in the realm behind his uncle's back and everyone not only know it but sees the horrific carcrash coming from it. To reference The House of Wessex, they were extremely careful with the duchess of mercia who held a third of the kingdom in her grasp.

There's potential here, but he's burning a lot of bridges and good advisors, and more importantly, family members, to get what he wants in the moment.

Edit: I'm beginning to realise that I might have been influenced by the Anjou Clan to make the Lancasters alternate between sex crazed polygamists and asexual sociopaths...
 
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Nah, it's interesting, just worrying. I'm getting strong Caligula vibes from the third generation ruler of Anjou. Horrible upbringing, no impulse control, near absolute power and wealth, surrounded by much smarter people trying to make it all work, and an absolute monster of a sexual maniac as a male role model. He might grow from it, but right now with the way he destroys his room with swords when his passions get too high...I'm worried he'll go off the deep end before he matures out of such things.

It strikes me that he has a mix of the iron Duke and G1 in him, both being a good soldier but not god-like battlemaster, and innately interested in intrigue but inexperienced and lacking of a poltcial mind...he could make much of his mixture of talents but he hasn't really yet, and as his old and very good advisors drop one by one (good Agnes death scene by the way), I dont see him grow or learn enough from them to succeed alone. This business with essa is just the highest demonstration of the fact. His father technically has done worse sexual deeds, but he was older and subtle enough about it that no one really knew. G2 is definitely banging the most powerful vassal in the realm behind his uncle's back and everyone not only know it but sees the horrific carcrash coming from it. To reference The House of Wessex, they were extremely careful with the duchess of mercia who held a third of the kingdom in her grasp.

There's potential here, but he's burning a lot of bridges and good advisors, and more importantly, family members, to get what he wants in the moment.

Edit: I'm beginning to realise that I might have been influenced by the Anjou Clan to make the Lancasters alternate between sex crazed polygamists and asexual sociopaths...
It's funny because Caligula probably wasn't quite the lunatic he is portrayed - though that doesn't mean he was good. He arguably took despotic monarchy to it's natural end, which, in a city that really enjoyed it's fig leaf of "first among men, not a king" probably wasn't a good idea. Geoffrey running up against it could be seen as something with similar principles - it's not that his father did different acts - it's that his father knew how to portray his acts better. (The Iron Duke simply didn't care - by the time he was doing his "Duchess" bit with Ness, he had become the most powerful man in the Frankish kingdom, a larger than life figure with an air of invincibility around him, even if he had been disfigured. The young Geoffrey certain lacks that level of gravitas... and intimidation)

That said, despite being a youngish third generation ruler who's predecessor had all sorts of unseemly rumors about him, Geoffrey probably isn't worse than what's around him. Especially in this game, where cannibalistic kings devour their pregnant daughter in laws. I would also say he's one who requires... stark lessons that affect him personally to learn from his mistakes. I do try to save his worst outbursts for properly dramatic moments. All of the important women in his life lining up in rebellion (his mother even joining with the wife she didn't like and his aunt that she hated was pretty big) - and his issues with Agnes dying and his struggles to process the loss of perhaps the most important person in his life at that point. And I'm glad you enjoyed that scene. It was one of my favorite to write in this entire AAR.

You're moving through at a pretty fast pace, so I'm not sure how close you are to the end of that particular plotline with Essa, so I don't want to comment too much on it. But yeah, it contains the potential for major problems across the board, not the least of which was being tied to her unable to end that relationship without a civil war.

There certainly are some parallels with the Duchess of Mercia and Essa, to be sure. Though I will say Geoffrey is many things, but I don't think I can put him as a monster like Eadward and his son were. Bad in his own way, but not to that level. (Geoffrey I... or the Iron Duke... that's probably a different story)

And, as fate would have it, the Duchess of Mercia in this story also finds her way into prominence. I should go back and see how Duchess Wulfrun compares to Duchess Adelise.

In fairness, I don't have a monopoly on the asexual sociopaths, though the sex-crazed rulers are certainly commonplace. (Seriously, Geoffrey II's heir picked seduction entirely of his own choice, just as Geoffrey I did. It's just a thing they do at this point). So not sure who influenced on the asexual sociopath? That's more House of Wessex? Though they were all prone to have their affairs as well, save the original rightful king perhaps.
 
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It's funny because Caligula probably wasn't quite the lunatic he is portrayed
It doesn't seem like it, and the same is theorised about Nero as well. Their mentors Tiberius and Claudius got away with some nasty shit, especially Tibby, but generally escaped rebuke by being competent at their jobs and respected, and respectful, of the noble classes (they who write history). Caligula on the other hand was raised in some questionable circumstances, had his parents murdered by rival family members, and by that time was part of a family that had official god emperors as recent ancestors. He seemed to have several screws loose but it's difficult to say how much...Nero though seemed to be a nasty piece of work even if he wasn't crazy, at least after ruling for a bit.

That said, despite being a youngish third generation ruler who's predecessor had all sorts of unseemly rumors about him, Geoffrey probably isn't worse than what's around him. Especially in this game, where cannibalistic kings devour their pregnant daughter in laws.
The problem with CKII characters. Nothing is going to come close to what's the AI does, or what historical figures did. As such, so long as the PC ruler is semi-competent, they seem preferable to everyone else.

You're moving through at a pretty fast pace, so I'm not sure how close you are to the end of that particular plotline with Essa, so I don't want to comment too much on it. But yeah, it contains the potential for major problems across the board, not the least of which was being tied to her unable to end that relationship without a civil war.
A little convinient death seems to have put the cat amongst the pigeons at court. At least one uncle and G2 now are locked in as bitter rivals for the duration now.

In fairness, I don't have a monopoly on the asexual sociopaths
There aren't many of those in this work to be honest, pretty much no one is celibate no matter their sexual preference. Quite a lot of characters seem incredibly callous, cold or indifferent but given that modern theories of collective empathy won't developed for five hundre years, you wouldn't expect them to be all that nice. People are still people though, so outside of the cutthroat court system, most people were at least moderately decent to each other...if only because most were in small villages where everyone's is either family or close family friend.

Actual mental illness could debatably be in the family blood however. They all, with few exception, seem particularly destructive, amoral, sexually deviant and nihilistic. They both love and hate themselves. The debate over nature vs nurture would probably be argued in universe by historians (and at the time, as evidence by the spawn of Satan theories). Not sure how much was intended but after all this time, it's notable how poorly the family interacts with other human beings.

though the sex-crazed rulers are certainly commonplace. (Seriously, Geoffrey II's heir picked seduction entirely of his own choice, just as Geoffrey I did. It's just a thing they do at this point).
That's more a CKII thing, the AI especially loves to pick the option for everyone it cane for fertility etc. Children matter more than anything else in the game after all. I suspect family traits pass such tendencies along as well.

So not sure who influenced on the asexual sociopath? That's more House of Wessex? Though they were all prone to have their affairs as well, save the original rightful king perhaps.
The almost cliche is an oversexed passionate ruler, or it was whenever I first started Lancaster. Thus, and having an innate bias towards asexual viewpoints over all others, I made Elfwine asexual, only breeding for children (albeit very successfully, apparently) and a surface level sociopath, whose cold control barely covered a completely pyschopathic urge to destroy and dominate everything. Now he's somewhat a reformed monster but whenever the perspective flips to another character, or we flashback to Old Lancaster, he goes back to be terrifying quite quickly.

Eadgar...yes, he was quite chaste for a first character. Dynasties usually require the starter to be a bit of a sex pest to get a Bunche of children together for marriages and game play. Edward was pretty close to G2 in his affairs, despite his intellect and personality overall aligning him closer to G1. He genuinely couldn't help but fall in love, or get seduced, or randomly sleep with plentifully incredibly incorrect choices of partner throughout his years and reign.

I've never really played a proper seductive character before, so might end up doing that at some point for Lancaster but who knows? I've always wanted to play and record a Scottish AAR to investigate just what the hell is wrong with that kingdom...
 
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Ælfflæd has certainly stirred up a hornet's nest of trouble with the holy war. English lords against it and Geoffrey's position unknown makes for a risky proposition. It appears Ælfflæd may have gotten played by the clergy and there could be an unfortunate outcome. I am curious for Geoffrey's reaction.
 
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All caught up. Reading Alias being forced to shag a woman while his friends and family watch was awful. And reminded me of that very silly tradition various people's put into practice. I can only imagine Elfwine's reaction to Charlamagne and Karloman, as well as their families, entering the bridal suite...

I might have to write that actually, sounds too absurdist to be left out of Lancaster.

Excellent tactics in Navarra. Ckii having such long battles does lead to frustrating reversals of fortune, especially if you get cocky and don't bring all your men with you (given the vast wealth of aquatine though, have they not yet just decided to buy a standing retinue army? It's what I had to end up doing when Albion got that big and rich...though thar was several DLC packs ago and there just wasn't that much to spend money on back then.

Interested to see whether G2 and Boudicca can keep England and Aquatine together, all without France! How classic is that. If they do stay together and the resulting empire starts pushing up through england and down through navarre, you may very well end up with the Empire of Albion after all, just centred in Bourdeux. That being said, I suspect even with the HRE in chaos, there is still three large reckonings looming: Rome, France and England. Probably a big war with France at some point, continued issues with the papacy until iberia or france get annexed, and certainly a rebellion or two to be expected in England both during the queen's reign and whoever gets the crown afterwards.

Enjoyed catching up immensely. Very good work, as ever. It certainly deserves it's spot at the top of CK2 AARs.
 
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Always so much packed into your excellent chapters. Just a few observations:
Hated that he would deem it appropriate for her to be separated from her babe, and that he would make her choose between her kingdom and her children.
And hating herself a little bit for making the choice she did, going to England anyway?
All that confirmation did was make Ælfflæd’s blood boil further.

“Enough,” Ælfflæd said. “I am sick of this. Sick of them. Sick of you. Get out!”
She has a bit of a tin ear here, not catching on to his fairly obvious hinting until almost too late.
But my queen, it is one thing to say you carry the legacy of great persons of the past. It is another to step forward and actually carry them.
A well made point.
You wanted Boudica, husband, Ælfflæd thought. And now she is about to challenge the might of the most powerful king in Christendom.
Yes! Get that up yer, Geoff! :p
 
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It doesn't seem like it, and the same is theorised about Nero as well. Their mentors Tiberius and Claudius got away with some nasty shit, especially Tibby, but generally escaped rebuke by being competent at their jobs and respected, and respectful, of the noble classes (they who write history). Caligula on the other hand was raised in some questionable circumstances, had his parents murdered by rival family members, and by that time was part of a family that had official god emperors as recent ancestors. He seemed to have several screws loose but it's difficult to say how much...Nero though seemed to be a nasty piece of work even if he wasn't crazy, at least after ruling for a bit.



The problem with CKII characters. Nothing is going to come close to what's the AI does, or what historical figures did. As such, so long as the PC ruler is semi-competent, they seem preferable to everyone else.



A little convinient death seems to have put the cat amongst the pigeons at court. At least one uncle and G2 now are locked in as bitter rivals for the duration now.



There aren't many of those in this work to be honest, pretty much no one is celibate no matter their sexual preference. Quite a lot of characters seem incredibly callous, cold or indifferent but given that modern theories of collective empathy won't developed for five hundre years, you wouldn't expect them to be all that nice. People are still people though, so outside of the cutthroat court system, most people were at least moderately decent to each other...if only because most were in small villages where everyone's is either family or close family friend.

Actual mental illness could debatably be in the family blood however. They all, with few exception, seem particularly destructive, amoral, sexually deviant and nihilistic. They both love and hate themselves. The debate over nature vs nurture would probably be argued in universe by historians (and at the time, as evidence by the spawn of Satan theories). Not sure how much was intended but after all this time, it's notable how poorly the family interacts with other human beings.



That's more a CKII thing, the AI especially loves to pick the option for everyone it cane for fertility etc. Children matter more than anything else in the game after all. I suspect family traits pass such tendencies along as well.



The almost cliche is an oversexed passionate ruler, or it was whenever I first started Lancaster. Thus, and having an innate bias towards asexual viewpoints over all others, I made Elfwine asexual, only breeding for children (albeit very successfully, apparently) and a surface level sociopath, whose cold control barely covered a completely pyschopathic urge to destroy and dominate everything. Now he's somewhat a reformed monster but whenever the perspective flips to another character, or we flashback to Old Lancaster, he goes back to be terrifying quite quickly.

Eadgar...yes, he was quite chaste for a first character. Dynasties usually require the starter to be a bit of a sex pest to get a Bunche of children together for marriages and game play. Edward was pretty close to G2 in his affairs, despite his intellect and personality overall aligning him closer to G1. He genuinely couldn't help but fall in love, or get seduced, or randomly sleep with plentifully incredibly incorrect choices of partner throughout his years and reign.

I've never really played a proper seductive character before, so might end up doing that at some point for Lancaster but who knows? I've always wanted to play and record a Scottish AAR to investigate just what the hell is wrong with that kingdom...
Those sources for the early Roman Emperors (and I suppose most Roman Emperors tbf) are sketchy. I've heard arguments that if you look at what is happening in the background, you get the sense the sources are rather biased. Like talk the Roman people mourned Caligula, suggesting his issues lay primarily with the senatorial class. That said, doesn't mean he was "good". Likewise, Tiberius and Claudius were never well-liked, so even if they kept stuff moving well, they got dinged by the sources for other things (Tiberius for the depraved stuff, Claudius for being a tool of his slaves and wives). I do remember learning Nero was a bully (a cultured one, but a bully nonetheless). In my Roman history class in college, my professor told us how Nero used to go out at night with a gang of his friends and beat people up. So yeah...

Yeah, I mean you're right that few things compare to AI characters. Most just do the regular things but the exceptional ones are the memorable one. It also tends to be balanced out by players who tend to keep things... somewhat tame? I had to fight against my instincts to fix things when I started Geoff I, which is why I ended up replaying his whole reign. I had him make up with Marguerite, and be pretty tame and normal. But the AI wasn't playing him that way, so why should I? And it was a better result - embrace the sister-seducing madness and go from there.

But I admit to having limits. I tend to keep physical abuse to a minimum, since it really bothers me. I would struggle to write a character who crossed that line with any frequency because I would detest the character.

I still debate whether Geoffrey I or Foulques was a worse human being. I don't think Geoffrey II *quite* makes it to their level, but there is a certain level of cynical exploitation that he does (you're seeing it a bit with England already) that might even make his father blush. So to some he might be his own level of bad. Especially if you are one of his uncles, since he definitely has a thing for his aunts by marriage. He had access to four, and tried to bed three of them, with the only exception being his half-sister.

As for the mental illness... not sure. Marguerite certainly suffers from depression, though she's not an Angevin. I have tried to write my characters as mostly sane, as things go, but sane people can and do really bad things. I did it with Geoffrey I where he just lost sight of how his actions affected others. With Geoffrey II, I have some of that, but sometimes I also add in his attempts at "being good" come off in a way that negatively affects the situation. We've seen that with his wife, and with his brother. I think it is a lot of nurture, but the demon blood aspect of the family mythos always leaves open the possibility it is more than that.

I believe they did try to turn down seduction with the AI, and not everyone takes it. But yeah, it just happened to pop up quite a bit in this story. I did use it/carrying on affairs for shorthand for whether someone was acting as a "true Angevin" in terms of the sins and the like. So Foulques the Younger didn't choose it - he's the exception.

In fairness, I'd argue I haven't played a proper seduction character in this AAR either (the AI controlled Geoffrey I definitely was, but I toned him down quite a bit, even if I let him continue his chase of Agnes) and Geoffrey II is kept to a type (which I also cut down on because I didn't want to destroy relations completely with his queen, now that she actually has an army). When you really go all out for seduction... it's insanely broken and there are almost no consequences for it. Great Pox, kind of, but you can get it without seduction, so eh.

Of course, the greatest seduction character I've seen is probably AI controlled. Duke Gilles in this AAR is a seduction monster. I think he sired over 20 kids, (and it might actually be closer to 30)

On the original Wessex trio, Eadgar strikes me as a bit of an Octavian/Augustus figure in his moral code. Obsessed with his children not having affairs, but also completely amoral when it comes to doing what it takes to gain power. There's something odd when finding issues with sexual freedom but having no issues with murdering, backstabbing and doing whatever it takes to seize power. His moralizing to Eadward always rung me as hollow, but it was pretty realistic as such things went. So I wouldn't call him chaste, but much more of a rare character for CK2, where most people take the Henry I of England style of relationships. ;)

I do admit I fell into that category with our old Iron Duke for the reasons who mentioned above - given his marriage to Beatritz I didn't know I'd actually get any kids out of it. And then I was concerned if something happened to Geoffrey I, I would lose thanks to Agnes inheriting with no matralineal marriages on. I justified it in my head by noting the real Foulques was married a bunch of times, and apparently repudiated pretty much all his rumored wives, save for the last one, the actual ancestor to the Plantagenets, who shacked up with Philippe I and became is pseudo-wife.

Ælfflæd has certainly stirred up a hornet's nest of trouble with the holy war. English lords against it and Geoffrey's position unknown makes for a risky proposition. It appears Ælfflæd may have gotten played by the clergy and there could be an unfortunate outcome. I am curious for Geoffrey's reaction.
It was such a bad decision. She earned the tyranny hit which will stick with her for a long time, lowering her relationship with her lords when she can ill afford it, and now has to fight a war half a world away.

Geoffrey's reaction is going to be... well you'll see shortly.

All caught up. Reading Alias being forced to shag a woman while his friends and family watch was awful. And reminded me of that very silly tradition various people's put into practice. I can only imagine Elfwine's reaction to Charlamagne and Karloman, as well as their families, entering the bridal suite...

I might have to write that actually, sounds too absurdist to be left out of Lancaster.

Excellent tactics in Navarra. Ckii having such long battles does lead to frustrating reversals of fortune, especially if you get cocky and don't bring all your men with you (given the vast wealth of aquatine though, have they not yet just decided to buy a standing retinue army? It's what I had to end up doing when Albion got that big and rich...though thar was several DLC packs ago and there just wasn't that much to spend money on back then.

Interested to see whether G2 and Boudicca can keep England and Aquatine together, all without France! How classic is that. If they do stay together and the resulting empire starts pushing up through england and down through navarre, you may very well end up with the Empire of Albion after all, just centred in Bourdeux. That being said, I suspect even with the HRE in chaos, there is still three large reckonings looming: Rome, France and England. Probably a big war with France at some point, continued issues with the papacy until iberia or france get annexed, and certainly a rebellion or two to be expected in England both during the queen's reign and whoever gets the crown afterwards.

Enjoyed catching up immensely. Very good work, as ever. It certainly deserves it's spot at the top of CK2 AARs.
I was trying to see more on the tradition, and could only get so much. It does seem in England it was more accompanying the couple and then departing, (though when it started was also a question - it may well have been after this period). But I suppose once you've split off far enough from the real history, you could start adding things a bit earlier.

That battle could have gone really poorly, but thankfully, the AI ran straight into the Toulouse retinue. Decided to work it in as a grand plan which tied off a few other subplots.

I probably should have bought the retinue of at least a couple of thousand. It currently stands at 500, but I never broke the game with retinues the way I should have. Especially later when money really is just no object. I will say here they are wealthy, but a bit of indiscriminate spending would see us get poor quickly. And my bad experience with suddenly needing mercenaries during the Occitan revolt during Geoffrey I's reign left me wary of not having a substantial cash reserve.

It's funny how it ended up slowly moving toward the historical Angevin Empire despite the ahistorical method of getting there, though we are a generation early. Though sometimes now I struggle to call it Angevin just because the shift of the focus to Aquitaine. In many ways, the family has become the heirs of the de Poitou line more than that of Foulques. But I suppose it's not wrong - John was still an "Angevin" king in OTL even if he was all but expelled from Anjou by his defeats to Philip II. And Richard as well, despite being very much his mothers Occitan boy in terms of his desire to be in Aquitaine more than England or even Anjou.

I will say that there is a crazy set of circumstances which in some ways decides the fate of this enterprise. That's in the future but you'll know it when it happens.

Thanks for your high praise, and also glad I didn't drive you off with Geoffrey II being Geoffrey II. Hope you continue to enjoy as we move forward.

Always so much packed into your excellent chapters. Just a few observations:
And hating herself a little bit for making the choice she did, going to England anyway?
She has a bit of a tin ear here, not catching on to his fairly obvious hinting until almost too late.
A well made point.
Yes! Get that up yer, Geoff! :p
I think she is. One of the struggles Elf is going to deal with throughout her reign is coming to grips with the legacy of her grievances with her father's choices. I don't mean in the legacy he left in England - I mean more how she looked at them at the time and how she deals with similar situation. One of the big reasons she is bitter toward him was the belief he sacrificed, in vain, her and her mother for the realm. So one of the first choices she must make is between her family and ruling the realm - she hates herself for doing something she could imagine 14 year old Elf being furious about.

Like I said, that's going to be a recurring theme. She won't always do as her father did, but it is something she'll be dealing with.

She does, but I think it's since she's not really a natural when it comes to politics and she has a built in distrust of the clergy and archbishop at this point. Earlier she had basically come to the conclusion there weren't interested in dealing with her at all. So she continues down that belief until it is nearly too late.

I thought it was fair - and it's an argument that Geoffrey will have to deal with as well. Reaping and sowing as @Specialist290 pointed out. (And you do as well there at the end)

To all - the next chapter should be up in a bit. It's another long one, as I decided it was also a good place to add where some of the areas around Aquitaine stand - namely the HRE. As well as a few updates involving a pair of Geoffrey's important vassals. But don't worry, we get to the fall out from the last chapter as well.

So, hope you all enjoy. And as always, thanks for your comments, feedback and readership!
 
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TheButterflyComposer

The Dark Lord Kelebek
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Of course, the greatest seduction character I've seen is probably AI controlled. Duke Gilles in this AAR is a seduction monster. I think he sired over 20 kids, (and it might actually be closer to 30)
Thats more than Galahad managed in 90 years (just)! I wonder if CK3 is so overpowered? I havent gotten that far into it to tell yet.
 
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Chapter 265 - December 1137

JabberJock14

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Before Plantagenet - Chapter 265
December 1137 - Pamplona, Kingdom of Navarra

Duke Oberto of Corsica’s mouth had hung open long enough to draw flies.

It had become so when he had entered the home of the Occitan merchant Toumas, and had remained so, even as Geoffrey offered him a drink. It closed momentarily to sip on his wine, but returned to it’s wide-open state soon enough. It was enough to prompt the king to check on his guest.

“Are you alright, Duke Oberto?” Geoffrey asked.

“I am… forgive me if I appear shocked,” Oberto said.

“They do not have nice homes in Corsica?” Geoffrey asked.

“Oh they do,” Oberto said. “It is just…”

The duke smiled. “I should wish to enjoy such comforts when I am at war, King Geoffrey. That is all.”

Duke Oberto’s words were certainly tinged with a bit of envy as well as surprise at the situation. But Geoffrey could not help but grin, because they were also quite true.

Oberto had been told he would be meeting with Geoffrey while the king laid siege to a barony. He no doubt expected a command tent, in a dirty, retched siege camp. Instead, he was here, at the large home of an Occitan man whose family had come to Pamplona in the last 50 years. The merchant Toumas had no problem renting out his home to Geoffrey on the basis of their shared cultural heritage and the prospect of the king’s family’s ascension here in the very near future.



The chamber was spacious and the merchant was wealthy enough to have separate bedchambers. It was all furnished so well, Geoffrey only bothered to supply his own cups and plates for his wine and food.

It all masked the fact Geoffrey remained at war, trying to get the boy king of Navarra, or his handlers, to relinquish his claims over these lands. They had refused so far, even as Pamplona and much to the east and west had fallen to Geoffrey earlier in the year.

His army progressed to lay siege to Tafalla, a barony within a day’s ride to the south, to allow them to move deeper into Navarra and it seemed as though the whole duchy might fall into Geoffrey’s hands by sometime next year.

Despite the progress, and the fact he was still close to his army, Geoffrey could hear the questioning of why he was not with his army from his guest. After a glance to Berard de Perigord, who had been silently sitting with the pair, the king decided to justify his residence to his Oberto, lest he develop an unseemly reputation.

“This merchant’s home does have quite the comforts,” Geoffrey admitted. “But it is a requirement of my physician. He requires me to take some time to rest every so often. And since I have been in the field so often over the past half-decade, I have to find places wherever I travel.”

His explanation wasn’t entirely untrue. After his recurring bouts of stomach pain a few years back had finally faded away, the physician Odin had suggested to take periods of rest to ward them off returning, claiming it was necessary to keep the humors of the body balanced. And Geoffrey was not going to argue spending more time in well-kept manors and homes.

“Still, I will be back in the field soon enough,” Geoffrey said. “And I look forward to the chance to finish what I started in Pau.”

“I have no doubts you will,” Oberto replied before taking a sip on his drink. “In fact, King Karel asked me if it would be unseemly to congratulate your brother on his ascension here, even if it has yet to officially happen.”

Alias was in the boy king’s now captured keep not far away, as Geoffrey had set him up there as he had once done Ælfflæd in England, to start on the appearance of him in the role of duke. But he wasn’t ready for such grand pronouncements yet.

“Perhaps not unseemly,” Geoffrey said. “But certainly premature. I am never one to… what is it the farmers say? Count their chickens before they’ve hatched?”

Oberto grinned as he gave a nod toward the king. The Duke of Corsica was in Pamplona on official business for King Karel of Sardinia and Corsica, to explore a closer relationship between his liege and Aquitaine. It was a matter of great importance for Karel, who sought to stabilize his position after his successful rebellion against the Kaiser of the Germans.

Karel, along with a host of dukes, had freed themselves from the clutches of the German Kaiser, becoming the latest part of the so called “Roman Empire” to break away.

It was a wide swath which had done so, much of Northern Germany, the vast majority of northern Italy, as well as all of Bohemia - and Geoffrey could not have been happier with the results. Not only did it weaken the Kaisers substantially, it also took care of a few other issues - including another set of potential English claimants as the Duke of Swabia, husband of Ælfflæd’s sister Æthelræda now was free of the Kaiser. But it meant he stood with just three or so thousand men, fewer than Ælfflæd herself could call, leaving Geoffrey to smile at his own good fortune.





But among the newly independent lords, Karel stood above them for in many ways, his title of King of Sardinia and Corsica was understating him. It was true he held much of northern Italy, through his mother, the late Duchess Matilda, who ruled all of Tuscany. But he also held Bohemia, through his father, the late king of the region.
The result saw Karel hold a disjointed but large amount of land, that rivaled even Geoffrey.

But at the current time, they held little interest in the same area, with the Kaiser between them in central Europe, and multiple Italian lords, including the newly freed Duke of Milan, acting as a buffer to the south.

The only potential point of discord was that one of Karel’s vassals had attacked and defeated Geoffrey’s cousin, Queen Charlotte of Hungary, in a dispute over a county. But that war was finished, and the situation of Charlotte had stabilized, with the Hungarians no longer seeking to depose her - possibly because her father, Geoffrey’s uncle Charles, had fallen from power.



And with the old Kaiser also now dead, and a three-year-old in his stead, Geoffrey’s eastern lords had never been safer. It even made the king consider whether he might want to renew efforts to exert influence over Dauphine or Provence.

But the weakness of the Kaiser was not guaranteed to last forever, which was why Karel’s representatives were here. And why he could not easily dismiss them.

“So, Duke Oberto,” Geoffrey began, “you did not come here to deliver premature congratulations, nor to stand in awe of this fortunate merchant. What does your liege wish you to discuss with me?”

“As you know, the Kaiser has lost hold of many of his powerful lords, my liege among them,” Oberto said. “All look for what is to come next.”

“What comes next is we should stop calling the German ruler, Kaiser,” Geoffrey said. “My father would deem it an insult to the Caesars who came before.”

Oberto eyed him, with brow raised. Geoffrey was only half joking, given his father’s obsession with denying all those who laid claim to the title of “Roman Empire” as false pretenders. But Geoffrey didn’t care too much in truth, it was just something that lingered in the back of his thoughts.

“I am only joking,” Geoffrey told Oberto. “Just making light of their weakened states, thanks to lords such as your liege.”

“Ah,” Oberto said. “Well, King Karel was at the forefront of those efforts. And he believes there are many potential benefits to a friendship between your realm and his. Not the least of which is the Germans might think twice about any efforts against either of us if they know they will be attacked from the east and west.”

“True, though the Germans are not on my border,” Geoffrey noted. “They are unlikely to find much cause for anything in Aquitaine. Or even England, now that the Duke of Swabia has declared himself as free from the German Emperor as your king.”

“If the boy is stopped from reclaiming his former lords,” Oberto noted. “We look to your father in fact for guidance. When he led the revolt against the Frankish kings, he fractured the realm. It has since rejoined - all of those lands which had been free are now either part of the reforged Frankish kingdom, or your realm of Aquitaine.”

“So you think their Emperor will recover those lands?” Geoffrey asked.

“It is possible,” Oberto said. “Unless he is checked. It is a good time, no? They have a child, scarcely older than a babe on the throne. Our boots could go to his neck - and kept there, so that he and his handlers might grow used to the new state of things.”



“I have no problem with that,” Geoffrey said. “But understand, I have no interest in fighting in Germany with everything that is going on.”

“Of course not,” Oberto said. “We would not be so bold as to propose an alliance yet.”

Geoffrey glanced back to Berard before turning toward Oberto again. “Are you sure? Your king was ready to congratulate my brother before he has been raised. I think he likes to move quickly.”

“He is not young,” Oberto admitted. “But he is still vibrant, with a daughter nearly as old as your eldest son. In fact, that is one road he has interest in pursuing - given your boy has yet to be promised to anyone.”

Geoffrey stroked his chin. Guilhem marrying a princess would certainly be a boon for his prestige and give further legitimacy to Karel as an equal.

However, Geoffrey had also been counseled by many, including Adhemar and Emmanuel, that it might be prudent to instead have Guilhem marry the daughter of a prominent English noble, with the daughters of Duchess Adelise, the Duke Hlothere and Duchess Maud frequently tossed about.

Either way, Geoffrey was not about to decide such a matter today, and with the birth of Prince Geoffrey, he had another option available. So there was no rush.



“It is something for me to consider,” Geoffrey said. “Of course, it is far too early for me to commit to anything. Many things are in play.”

“Of course,” Oberto said. “And I should also remind you that my liege has a great many grandchildren, as well as many great grandchildren, and more on the way, should another union catch your interest.”

“I will keep your liege in mind,” Geoffrey told him. “I will have much to consider when this war is finished. The world seems to change quickly these days.”

“Imagine how it is for my liege!” Oberto said. “Much has changed in the nearly seven decades he has lived.”

Geoffrey nodded. Karel was about the same age his Aunt Agnes would have been had she still lived, and older than his father.



“It is a great accomplishment to have seen so much,” Geoffrey said. “I should like to see where the world stands when I am near my seventieth year.”

“Wouldn’t we all, King Geoffrey?” Oberto asked. “In any case, thank you for your time. I hope that your chancellor will visit my liege’s court soon enough.”

“I will send someone to speak with him at some point,” Geoffrey assured him. “I make no promises as to what will come of it, but as you say, it is good to keep the boot on the throat of that boy.”

Oberto nodded. “Oh and do give my regards to your queen. Her father’s reign was, in many ways, tragic. I pray she finds better days.”

“With me by her side, I have no doubt she will,” Geoffrey said.

“Then the heathens surely tremble,” Oberto said. “They will surely fall away before the might of Aquitaine and England.”

“Yes… in due time,” Geoffrey said.

“A short time, no?” Oberto asked. “I had heard talk that you prepare to march against them now, with England heading first to the Holy Lands and you joining them, perhaps once Navarra is settled?”

Geoffrey’s brow rose, confused at where Oberto would get that idea. Though it was not the first time he’d heard it of late, and could be a natural progression of how people expected things to go. After all, reversing the defeats of King Thoræd would endear the new king and queen to Christendom.

But before Geoffrey could respond, Berard spoke for the first time since the introductions.

“We consider many things,” Berard said. “You must forgive us if we keep such plans close to the vest. We have had some poor luck of late with our potential enemies knowing we are coming, so to speak.”

Oberto smiled. “Of course. Forgive my prying. I will report back to King Karel of your interest in friendship and pray for your success here, as well as any other endeavors you may or may not choose to pursue.”

The duke then bowed before Geoffrey and made his way from the chamber and the home. Geoffrey eyed him as he did, before turning to Berard.

“Forgive his prying?” Geoffrey asked. “He was spying. I would have offered him lodging here if I thought I could trust him.”

Berard chuckled. “He just wishes to feel you out. And anything else he can report back to his liege.”

“So I’m paranoid?” Geoffrey asked.

“No, I didn’t say you were wrong,” Berard replied. “But I’m more concerned about that bit at the end. That’s another who claims we are either engaged, or about to engage, in a war against heathens in the Holy Lands. It is odd to hear so much talk.”

Geoffrey waved his friend off. “They likely misconstrue our actions here. It was no secret we were to use Navarra to move against the heathens in Iberia. With our success here, they probably think we are prepared to take the next step.”

Which he wasn’t. Even if the war was going better than he could have originally hoped given the aid of Transjurania, he planned a break of a few years if possible before moving forward with anything else, unless an opportunity fell into his lap.

“I still am wary,” Berard said. “I think you should send word to your uncle in Normandy to look into it. Perhaps speak with either the queen or Duchess Adelise. We could also make use of Count Douard’s spies to see where these rumors originate.”

Geoffrey rolled his eyes. “Has your wife said anything?”

“Lida can only contact me so often,” Berard said. “A letter every three or four months. So if something has happened, it is possible it has not reached me yet.”

“I think you worry over nothing,” Geoffrey said. “But I will have Adhemar look into it. If he hears anything suspicious, then I will have Count Douard have his spies search for more.”

After pausing to take a drink, Geoffrey looked to his advisor. “What else do you have for me?”

Berard had come to Geoffrey earlier with some news that he deemed important but not urgent, but the king had told him to wait until after the meeting with Oberto so he didn’t have anything else on his mind.

“Well, I bring good news from Brittany,” Berard said. “Your uncle has brought Breselcoucant to his knees, and taken his lands for his duchy. In your name, of course.”



“So it is done then?” Geoffrey asked. “There are no counts or anyone else in Brittany who believe themselves outside of our realm?”

“He reports none left,” Berard said. “I would guess he overstates slightly, but also probably will stamp out anyone who loudly states to the contrary. For all practical purposes, Duke Foulquesson holds all of Brittany, which means you do.”

A smile came to the king’s face. “Send a few barrels of wine to my uncle to celebrate his victory. It had long been a desire of my grandfather to assert Angevin hegemony over the Bretons. And now we have.”

Geoffrey wasn’t entirely certain of the truth of that statement - he had known his grandfather wanted to restore the family’s control over the southeastern portion of Brittany. But the entirety? That may have been an invention of the old king Geoffrey, as justification for his expansion into the region.

But it mattered little now as his family had won. Even justification was hardly necessary.

“I’m just happy he was able to subjugate a singular Breton lord this time without my assistance,” Geoffrey said.

“After you had softened him up a few years ago,” Berard said. “The boy never recovered.”

“Yes, well in this case, I will let my uncle enjoy the success,” Geoffrey said. “Let a dying man have a last hurrah.”

“How magnanimous of you,” Berard replied. “Success in England and here softening you?”

“Perhaps,” Geoffrey said. “Or maybe I just have enjoyed the last six months on campaign without his snide remarks and empty boasts. Who can truly tell?”

Berard chuckled and took a sip of his drink. “I also have news about our enemies here, and their allies under your uncle from Transjurania.”

“Last I heard they had united and headed toward our realm,” Geoffrey said.

“Those reports were accurate,” Berard said. “But our presence here has made life more difficult for them. They left over 7,000 strong. They now stand at over 5,000, losing men attempting to take the keep at Foix, in southern Toulouse.”

“Foix? Is that not where Simon’s old regent hailed from?” Geoffrey asked.

“Correct,” Berard said. “But the countess has joined the rebellion against Simon, so he makes no request for you to send aid.”

Geoffrey smiled. It was another situation which had come up well for him. Just a few months after Simon had taken the reins of Toulouse to himself, lords under Count Robert of Gevaudan had rebelled against the teenaged duke. Resenting the potential influence of Simon’s father in Poitou, they fought to see guarantees the two dukedoms would be ruled by different men.





It meant if Simon lost, Geoffrey would see his potentially most dangerous rivals long term weakened. And it currently forced Duke Guilhem to remain out of the conflict, with Simon eager to prove he could handle the matter without resorting to calling on his father and proving the rebels right.

Plus it meant his enemies could not have picked a less relevant area to siege - Simon was no doubt thrilled his personal enemies were bearing the brunt of the war.

And the rebels were also stuck. They did not want to bring Geoffrey into this conflict against them, so they could not allow the Navarrans and Transjuranians passage. All of it shaped up to more fortune for a king who seemed to be awash in it of late.

With that in mind, Geoffrey poured out another cup of wine for himself and did the same for Berard. Raising his cup, he said: “May we continue to find God’s favor.”

“Here, here,” Berard said, over the sound of shuffling of boots. Geoffrey looked past his friend to see Rogier and Prince Guilhem make hurried entries into the chamber.

“Father,” Guilhem said. “Sir Berard. I have news. It is urgent. I wished to tell you when I heard it, but you were speaking with the Duke of Corsica and Sir Rogier said we should not disturb you.”

Geoffrey smiled as he motioned for his son to approach. “Then it isn’t too urgent then, is it?”

“It is more an ominous sign than any news,” Rogier admitted. “But tell him my prince.”

Guilhem nodded. “Your council comes to see you father.”

“My council?” Geoffrey asked. “You mean my councilor? Is it Bishop Edouard?”

“No, father, I mean your council,” Guilhem said. “All of them. Bishop Edouard is among them, but so is the Duke of Poitou, the Count of Aurilliac and Prince-Bishop Emmanuel. Duke Adhemar even comes from Normandy.”

Geoffrey traded glances with Berard before turning to Rogier. “That seems… odd?”

He spoke to his cousin as a means for confirming what the prince had said. And Rogier’s nod did, with the d’Uzes man adding: “My brother Edouard says they have much to discuss with you.”

“Did they say over what?” Berard asked.

“No,” Guilhem insisted. “Just that it was of importance. Should I send an emissary to them?”

Geoffrey shook his head. “I imagine they wait so they can tell me in person. Thank you son. That will be all.”

Guilhem bowed before his father and left the chamber. Once the prince had gone, Geoffrey turned to his advisor and cousin.

“They gave no indication?” Geoffrey reiterated.

“None,” Rogier replied.

“The entire council is coming,” Berard said. “That is indication enough. Either they need all of them there, or Edouard did not wish to give you the news alone... or both.”

“All of which are bad,” Rogier said. “What could it be?”

“My children?” Geoffrey asked, thinking of Margo and Geoffrey in Bordeaux. If something happened to them, after he had insisted they remain in the palace rather than accompany their mother, he might never forgive himself. And she certainly would never forgive him.

“I wouldn’t think that requires the full council,” Berard said. “Perhaps someone moves against us? Or the queen? That would require everyone, from the marshal, to the chancellor, steward and master of spies.”

“Prince-Bishop Emmanuel?” Rogier wondered. “What role does he offer that my brother could not?”

Berard turned his gaze to Geoffrey. “Could it be this talk of England attacking a sheikdom in the Holy Lands? What if it is true?”

“My wife would not dare do such a thing,” Geoffrey insisted. “I would never agree to such a thing now and she cannot fight heathens without my aid. She lacks the men, and likely support.”

“Perhaps one of her vassals has dragged her into something?” Berard asked. “Duchess Aevis has holdings in the Holy Lands.”

Geoffrey simply grunted to that. He had nothing to add, for he liked none of this. It was speculation and for what? He would not know until they arrived what awaited him - except that it was going to be a conversation he knew he was not going to enjoy.

….

Since the arrival of the council was still a few days away, however, Geoffrey could do little but suffer anxiety over the poor news he was to receive.

In hopes of taking his mind off it, he had even abandoned the luxurious merchant home and returned to the siege of Tafalla, where Knud had command in his stead, to overlook how things progressed.

It was monotonous work, just touring the camp to make sure the walls were encircled, checking with the men, viewing some of the contraband that had been attempted to be snuck in to the enemy - mostly food, and looking over as his men looked to create breaches in the walls.

He even gave a cursory look into what it might take to storm the keep. It was not something he had seriously considered doing, but anything that he could do to get his mind off what was to follow was welcome. In the end, Geoffrey decided that should a breach occur, his men would be instructed to demand the surrender of the keep immediately, rather than storm it.

Geoffrey did return to Pamplona, however, as news that his council were within a day or so of travel from the town reached him. He went over the possible scenarios in his mind, preparing himself for the worst - that something had happened to Margo or the young Geoffrey - while trying to come up with plans on what to do if another conflict was on the horizon.

If I am attacked, he reasoned, the vassals will be obligated to support me. They may not like it, but they will not be able to claim I do it for personal gain.

When the council arrived, Geoffrey was set up once more in the merchant’s home, with Berard, Rogier, Prince Guilhem and Alias, recalled from the keep, at his side. Mayor Frederic had been given leave to return to Saumur, as they were suffering under a severe outbreak of smallpox, which had mostly stayed north of the Loire but affected some of the towns along the south bank of it as well.

Maybe that plague is the problem, Geoffrey thought, though he realized it was unlikely that would require the full council to be briefed on.

Sure enough it was every council member was present. Including Adhemar, despite Geoffrey expecting him to be in Normandy. That hardly made the king feel any better about what this was about.

“So what is it?” Geoffrey demanded. “None of you look as if you have good news to tell me. And that you are all here does not bode well.”

Bishop Edouard looked down, at the forefront of the council, fidgeting with his hands. His eyes did eventually find their way to Prince Guilhem, by Geoffrey’s side. He focused on the boy for a moment, then said: “I beg your pardon, Prince Guilhem. But I have forgotten a gift of a sword I had made for my brother Rogier. Would you please fetch it for me? It is in my chest, which is still with the convoy, outside of here.”

“It can wait,” Rogier said. “I can see it after.”

“No, it would be best to have it ready,” Adhemar insisted. “If the bishop can trouble the prince - I have heard he has been a fine page and no one better could be entrusted to this task.”

The prince frowned and looked to Geoffrey. It was clear the boy didn’t want to miss anything. But judging by Edouard’s eyes, which were practically pleading to get the prince out of the chamber, that was the point of this errand. It was another ominous sign, but Geoffrey decided to trust in his cousin and uncle.

“Guilhem, go,” Geoffrey instructed. “It would be a great help to us all.”

The frown did not leave the prince’s face. Nonetheless, he nodded. “Yes, father.”

A couple of guards were quickly summoned, and Guilhem made his way from the chamber. Geoffrey then turned back to his cousin.

“And now this is news you don’t wish my son to hear?” Geoffrey asked. “What is it? I cannot wait any longer.”

“It involves his mother… and… I don’t think it would do him any good to hear your… well,” Edouard said.

“My what?” Geoffrey demanded.

The bishop took a deep breath but struggled to find the words. Finally Adhemar blurted out: “The queen has taken England to war.”

Geoffrey felt his stomach drop as time seemed to stop. It took a few moments for it all to fit into place for him - the fact the talk was not rumor but fact, that his wife had acted without his permission, let alone a consultation or notification.

“She has done… what?!” Geoffrey snapped.

“War with a sheikdom in the holy lands,” Edouard said. “Acre to be specific.”

“She has also demanded your assistance in the matter,” Duke Guilhem added.

“She has done WHAT?!” Geoffrey shouted as he exploded from his chair, knocking it over in the process.





The reaction caused the councilors to jump back or flinch. But Geoffrey didn’t care for their fear - he wanted answers.

“The queen has said virtue of our alliance we are required to aid her,” Edouard said. “There was an addendum from the archbishop of Canterbury reminding us that the church expects us to confront heathens and it would look poor upon us if we didn’t.”

“The bitch has done WHAT?!” Geoffrey shouted as he pounded the table. “THEY HAVE DONE WHAT?!”

“Apologies, nephew,” Adhemar said. “I was stunned when I learned of it as well.”

“You were stunned?!” Geoffrey exclaimed. “Why did you know nothing of this?! Have you not been in contact with my wife or her advisor? And Count Douard?! Where were you? Where are my spies?!”

Douard lowered his head and blushed, while Adhemar rubbed his own forehead.

“I admit, this was a surprise,” Adhemar said. “That is why I rode immediately to Bordeaux, summoned the council, and we have come here. For there is much to plan.”

“Plan??” Geoffrey shouted. “Plan?!! There is nothing to plan! Nothing! To hell with them! To hell with England! Damn them! Damn them all!!!”

Geoffrey’s breathing was rushed, and his eyes nearly bulged from his head. “That fat, ungrateful bitch. After I raised her… spilled the blood of my knights for her… and let her claim rule…”

He began to curse, loudly and yet mostly to himself, not looking at any of his councilors directly as he stared off almost into a void.

“King Geoffrey,” Emmanuel began, “I realize her actions are reprehensible, but it advisable to deal with it in private. In public it will be expected you aid in her war.”

“I don’t care!” Geoffrey exclaimed. “I don’t care what is expected. I will not be made to do anything, least of all by an ungrateful cow of a wife who forgets her place! England can burn for all I care. In fact, it is better if it does! Let it be nothing more than smoldering rubble. I will rebuild it and make it a proper place for my son to rule! And it will be easier with the nobles gone or broken!”

“Nephew, I understand your frustration,” Adhemar said. “Bu--”

“You understand?!” Geoffrey shouted. “You understand it? No you don’t! Have you ever spilled the blood of your men to raise an ungrateful woman to the throne of a barbaric realm? And then had that woman try to force you into a war a half a world away?! No, no you haven’t. None of you have! I will not hear anything of this, and you are to send word she is on her own!”

“My king, please listen to reason--” Emmanuel pleaded.

“There is no reasoning with a woman who would abuse my trust so!” Geoffrey spat. “I will have no more of this, do you hear me?! Nothing else! We provide nothing to her! Let England burn!”

“Cousin,” Edouard began.

“Out!” Geoffrey ordered. “I want to hear nothing more from you all! You have all failed me! Worthless!!!! All of you!!!! Get out!!!”

“Brother,” Alias added.

“NO!” Geoffrey shouted. “I don’t want to hear anything else from anyone! Out! OUT!!!!!”

The councilors looked at one another, and then Edouard, shoulders slumped, turned and dragged his feet as he left the hall, the rest of the councilors following. Geoffrey then heard his son arrive back, intercepted by the departing councilors, just outside, as well as Alias tell the prince that it was best to leave him alone.

Geoffrey almost wished his son didn’t, so that he could shout all sorts of insults and profanities at the queen, showing his son what an ungrateful harpy his mother was. But Guilhem listened to his elders and left Geoffrey alone.

He could still scarcely believe it - his own wife had practically betrayed him. It was not enough that she had not even sought his approval for war - something he expected of all his vassals and once wished to punish his uncle over - but now she expected him to aid her. And had done it in such a way he would need to wreck his reputation to refuse her.

I don’t care, he thought. No one will dare challenge me. My vassals may think less of me for a time, but I will break anyone who gets any ideas. I am not Simon. I am not my wife. I am not the so-called Kaiser.

He punched the table, enough to send the wine and the cups tumbling to the floor. Then, screaming at the top of his lungs, he cursed the name “Ælfflæd”, and added a few extra swears over his continued struggles at actually pronouncing it correctly.

….

Geoffrey said nothing to anyone the rest of the night.

Then in the morning, the king again decided to quit Pamplona for his army’s siege camp around Tafalla. He did not bother to speak with his advisors before he left, ignoring even Berard, taking just Rogier and Guilhem with him as they made the trip south, arriving before dusk.

Once more Geoffrey spent his time inspecting the siege works, and again considered throwing an army at the walls. Though he wondered if he pondered a grand assault to justify not having the men to supply to his wife.

He remained in Tafalla that night, with the conversation as he, Rogier, Knud and Guilhem ate, stilted at best. They talked about the siege, about what would be expected of their enemies, with Geoffrey pressing them into the potential idea of hunting down the Navarrans and Transjuranians - which Knud and Rogier thought ill-advised.

“They are in the mountains,” Rogier said. “Let them come to us.”

“I want them broken,” Geoffrey said. “I bested them once in the mountains. I can do it again.”

“Why the rush?” Knud asked. “I would think it better to drag this out as long as possible, since other matters are hardly appealing.”

Geoffrey turned his glare toward the Dane, who he had not mentioned anything of Ælfflæd’s betrayal. However, he guessed Rogier almost certainly did as to avoid Knud stepping into it - but the Dane always did have issues with avoiding trouble.

“I don’t care how quickly this war is done,” Geoffrey said. “We do nothing for her.”

Guilhem swallowed hard. “You… you would abandon mother?”

Geoffrey’s eyes now pinned his son with his glare. The boy, nine years going on 10, shifted his chair back slightly as the color faded from his face.



“She chose this path, not me, when she did this without even so much as a warning,” Geoffrey spat. “A woman who is not loyal to her husband is not one worth caring for. Understood?”

Guilhem, wide-eyed, was still as a statue. His chest barely rose and fell from breath. And Geoffrey realized he had done something he never thought he’d do - he’d terrified his own child.

He turned his gaze away for a moment, cursed under his breath and then debated how he was to fix this. Or if he even wanted to. Maybe it would serve Guilhem well to know his mother’s machinations and the anguish it caused his father. He might learn something from it, and lose the undeserved sympathy he has for her.

“You… you would let mother die?” Guilhem asked, his voice breaking.

Geoffrey didn’t say anything at first, swallowing hard. He did not think they would kill Ælfflæd - they would likely imprison her instead, expecting a ransom. Which he probably wouldn’t pay.

“She won’t be killed,” he finally said. “She’s too valuable.”

“But you would let her be captured?” Guilhem asked.

Geoffrey looked at his son, who’s complexion remained pale and his expression fearful. It was enough for Geoffrey to turn his eyes from him, before he grunted out: “If that is her fate, then she can suffer knowing she brought this on herself.”

Guilhem lowered his head to that, and then, to Geoffrey’s surprise, rose from his seat and marched his way out of the command tent. Wide-eyed, Geoffrey was nonetheless speechless.

“I can drag him back here,” Knud said. “He did not ask to be excused.”

Geoffrey slowly shook his head. “No. Let him go. But Rogier, keep watch of him.”

“Yes, cousin,” Rogier said as he stood from his chair and made his way from the tent, leaving Geoffrey and Knud alone.

“Saxons,” Knud said. “They’ve never been very bright. My people know full well--”

“Shut up,” Geoffrey told him. “I don’t want to hear it.”

The king wondered if that might annoy the Dane. But, perhaps offering it for sympathy more than anything else, Knud simply nodded and fell silent. And so the command tent remained for the rest of the night.

….

Guilhem’s departure did not stop at the tent. He left camp to ride to Pamplona in the morning.

He did so with Geoffrey’s approval, of course, Rogier riding north with him with some of Geoffrey’s household knights as protection. The prince was angry at his father, which annoyed Geoffrey, but he also knew he could not break him of this now. Eventually, the boy might understand.

After all, Geoffrey had seen his own parents fight. At the time he’d picked sides depending on the argument. Now that he was older, he’d seen he was foolish - they were miserable people who were usually both wrong.

Of course, the irony was not lost on him, and he was made to wonder if perhaps he was following in their footsteps. He dismissed it quickly of course, but it was a question that was applied more directly later in the day, as Prince-Bishop Emmanuel and Berard rode into the siege camp.

Geoffrey was not totally surprised to see his councilors arrive, though he did expect more of them. He guessed they had come to plead with him, and perhaps the highest official of the church and his closest friend might be able to apply the right amount of pressure to him. Or so, he guessed, the council hoped.

“If you think my mind can be changed,” Geoffrey warned. “You are sadly mistaken. My wife has made her bed. I will not share it with her, no matter our vows.”

“We cannot simply ignore the request,” Emmanuel said. “The eyes of Christendom… and beyond, watch us.”

“Then they will see what happens when someone crosses me,” Geoffrey insisted.

“They will see you abandon your wife to heathens,” Emmanuel said. “Something that no Christian king should do. And you will also admit you are unable to control her, which will make you appear weak. It will embolden our enemies, both around us, and in Rome.”

“My efforts were to be made in Iberia,” Geoffrey said. “Nothing was said about the Holy Lands - lands which have brought nothing but ruin to the Christian king who ruled them.”

“They have doubts about your sincerity here in Iberia as well,” Emmanuel said. “This only adds more kindling to the fire.”

Geoffrey glared at the prince-bishop. “Heathens in Iberia are not the same as the Holy Lands. One requires me to send men a few hundred miles to the south. The other - halfway around the world.”

“Your concerns are valid,” Emmanuel said. “Given we fight here. But any excuse will be used by our enemies. Pope Nicola, excuse me, Urbanus, is no friend of ours.”

Geoffrey rubbed his temples. “I find myself in a vice that my enemies could never have dreamed placing me in. And it is my wife who has sprung the trap. The harpy. The bitch. Good for nothing except causing me trouble. She must be punished severely.”

“It is no simple matter with her,” Emmanuel admitted. “Weakening her could embolden the English lords and clergy further.”

“Then I will crush them all,” Geoffrey said.

“It will take years,” Emmanuel said. “Look at what happened to their Guilhem the Bastard, or Conquerer, if you speak to the Norman duchesses. It likely is the best path - but it will not be easy.”

If this goes as poorly as I expect, there may not be much for me to destroy. The heathens will do it for me. But Geoffrey would not dare say that.

Instead he just shook his head. “The church has no love for my wife. They will not fault me for not honoring the call of a woman who steps out of place.”

“You can’t see it is just an excuse?” Berard demanded. “Or do you just not want to see?”

Geoffrey turned his eyes toward his friend, surprised he had finally said something. “I see. I. Don’t. Care.”

Emmanuel sighed. “My king, please. There are ways we can perhaps lessen our contribution. But we cannot ignore her call entirely.”

“Watch me,” Geoffrey said.

“We’re wasting our time,” Berard said. “He’s too stubborn to see reason. His wife hurting his ego is all he cares about. Nothing else and no one else matters.”

Geoffrey narrowed his gaze. “Should something else matter?”

“We have bound our realm to England,” Berard said. “And to a degree, to Rome as well. We cannot turn our back to them, regardless of what the queen has done.”

“There is no ‘we,’” Geoffrey said. “I can. And I will.”

“Even as your son spits your name in anger?” Berard asked.

“He should be spitting his disgrace of a mother’s name,” Geoffrey said. “She is the one who has done this.”

“He has been raised to think it is our duty to fight for Christendom,” Berard said. “Now he sees his mother does that and you respond like this?”

“It is not that she fights for Christendom,” Geoffrey said. “It is how she has done this… to force me into a fight I did not ask for, when I am not ready. It is a betrayal - she is my wife. And she has acted as my enemies would. It is principle.”

“It is foolishness,” Berard said. “On both your parts. She is wrong. That much is clear. But you are wrong as well, for you know the damage that will be done if you refuse. And yet you would incur it anyway!”

“It is my choice,” Geoffrey said. “If there is a price to be paid, I will pay it.”

“And we will pay it with you,” Berard said. “My wife. The mother to my sons. She is in England. I have heard talk the Caliphate of Egypt come to the heathens aid. And they make for England’s shores to raid again as they did when they fought your wife’s father. When they come, and they make for Lydford, who will protect my Lida?”



Geoffrey lowered his head, before shaking it. “The Saxon cow, I suppose.”

“The wife you expect to fail,” Berard said. “No… you would let my wife suffer. You would let her die.”

“She will not die,” Geoffrey said. “At best, they will take her prisoner. She’s valuable. They will want to ransom her. I will pay, you have word.”

Berard’s eyes widened. “You pay? That is it? That is all you have to say?”

“What more do you want?!” Geoffrey demanded.

“Protection!” Berard shouted. “As should be expected for a king to his subjects! Lida is only in England because you placed her among your wife’s ladies! Do you not see? It is as I have said - you have binded us! We cannot abandon England any more than we can abandon our own people!”

“She should have left when she saw what that traitor did,” Geoffrey said.

Berard was silent for a moment, slowly shaking his head. His breathing grew rushed and the prince-bishop approached him.

“Sir Berard, understand the king is angry,” Emmanuel said. “I do not agree with him, and I suspect in time he will not even agree with himself, but…”

“But nothing,” Berard said. “This is who he is. This is what happens when he does not get his way. And that is fine. We must accept the results, if this is what he chooses.”

Geoffrey nodded. He knew Berard would understand, even if he did not like it.

“I resign,” Berard said. “I step down as your advisor.”

“You do what?” Geoffrey demanded.

“Yes, you do what?” Emmanuel echoed.

“I am leaving,” Berard said. “If you will not protect my wife, then I will do so myself. I will hire out of what money I have, a small band of mercenaries. And I will take them to England to protect her, and with her the queen, I suppose. But mostly her. And that is that.”

“You cannot,” Geoffrey said.

“I can,” Berard said. “I ask nothing of you. Not men. Not money. And I do not ask for leave, for I resign all of my positions, advisor and commander. If you wish to throw me in the dungeons for such an act… then you truly have fallen. But I do not think you would. I think you would at least allow me the dignity and respect to leave and protect my wife.”

“You are not serious,” Geoffrey said.

“You dared me to watch you,” Berard said. “Now I throw down the same challenge to you.”

Geoffrey was practically speechless. He did not think Berard could truly do this. But he could not see any doubt on his face, or hear any hesitation in his voice.

“You… you will be killed,” Geoffrey said. “They will take a woman prisoner, but they will kill you if you fight to protect her as you say you will. A few hundred men will never be enough.”

“If I die, I do so knowing I did so with honor,” Berard said. “And will go to God, hoping my sacrifice will be enough to protect Lida. Which is about the only way it’s going to happen.”

Berard stormed from the tent, leaving Emmanuel and Geoffrey alone. The king, dumbfounded at first and then slightly panicked after at the thought of his friend riding off to die, turned to the clergyman.

“Stop him,” Geoffrey ordered.

“Me?” Emmanuel asked. “You’re his king. You can command him.”

“I cannot,” Geoffrey said. “I would be a tyrant and… he would hate me forever. I cannot do that to a friend. But you… suicide is a sin, is it not? That is what this is.”

“If he goes to fight in defense of others and Christendom, it is more martyrdom,” Emmanuel said. "That is no sin."

“Damn it!” Geoffrey shouted. “Damn it all! Damn her! Damn her!!!!”

The king continued to scream at the top of his lungs, not caring who heard him, as his words grew less and less clear, his shouts becoming intelligible shrieks in the brisk, early evening air.

…..

Berard did ride north the next day, but Geoffrey came along with him, as did Prince-Bishop Emmanuel.

The king had sent word ahead for his council to gather once more in the merchant’s home. The prince was to be in attendance as well. Savarics, Berard’s son, was also expected to be there as was Prince Alias.

When he arrived at the home, Geoffrey dismounted his steed and went right to the main chamber with Emmanuel and Berard. The council, along with the princes and Savarics, were all gathered around the table. All bowed when he entered.

“My king,” Edouard said as Geoffrey approached the table. “If I could offer you a drink…”

“No,” Geoffrey said. “Straight to business. First… uncle.”

When Duke Guilhem and Duke Adhemar both looked at him, Geoffrey glared at the Duke of Gascony. “Uncle Adhemar, I am disappointed that the first I hear of any of this is when I am told war is happening. I expect better hearing from you, in Normandy. England is not far.”

“I have been… focusing on building support for your claim in Normandy,” Adhemar said. “We may even have a breakthrough---”

“I don’t want to hear it,” Geoffrey said. “You speak with Adelise. You should not be in the dark as to what my wife plans. Understood?”

Adhemar nodded slowly. Then Geoffrey turned to his spymaster.

“Douard, how is it my wife’s actions are shrouded from me?” Geoffrey demanded. “Why does my master of spies hear nothing when my wife plans war? I am left to look to my advisor’s wife for such things? Should I make her my spymaster?”

Douard dropped his gaze. “My apologies, King Geoffrey. I will… I will look to find places for our people. It is hard to find those who speak Saxon and Occitan.”

“Find them,” Geoffrey ordered. “You are not short on funds. So I expect results. Or I will find someone else who will get them for me. Understood?”

Douard nodded, slowly at first but then picking up in pace.

“Uncle… Guilhem,” Geoffrey said. “Look to my remaining levy. I want to know how long it will take to prepare them for combat, if necessary.”

“Then…” the Prince Guilhem began, “you are going to help mother, father?”

Geoffrey said nothing to that, instead turning to Bishop Edouard and saying: “Inform my wife that we will join England in this war. But also make it clear that we are currently busy here, and cannot spare any men at the moment.”

“Of course,” Edouard said.

“And when this is finished, which I do pray is soon,” Geoffrey continued, “I will need to allow my men to return home so that they might attend to their personal affairs. Farms. Businesses and the like. So our military aid will come after that.”

“Then why do you need the men ready?” the Duke of Poitou asked.

“I hear talk of the Caliphate of Egypt getting involved,” Geoffrey said. “If they come here, I may need men at the ready to stop them. I will not let the realm be damaged by my wife’s recklessness. And that includes England - I will defend it, should a heathen force of a sizeable number come to their shores.”

The duke nodded. “Understood.”

Geoffrey then glared at the council. “Never again. Do you all understand? Never again. England is not a separate realm. Not anymore. Ignore them at your own peril. For if you do , I will find councilors who don’t.”

There were a group of nods from them all and then the king dismissed them. The prince moved with them, though he stopped before Geoffrey and bowed.

“Thank you father,” he said.

“I do this because it is what is required,” Geoffrey told him. “I do not do this for her.”

Guilhem swallowed hard, and nodded quickly, before lowering his head and hurrying off, Savarics following close behind.

And then Geoffrey and Berard were alone, allowing the king to bring his singular focus to his friend.

“I trust that is enough for you to remain,” Geoffrey said.

“You will go to aid them if they face invasion,” Berard said. “No questions asked.”

“Yes,” Geoffrey said. “It is pretty much the only way I will send anything substantial there. I have no intention of going to the holy lands. I do not think Lida’s protection depends on my knights going near Jerusalem.”

“Unless the queen decides to lead her men there,” Berard said.

Geoffrey felt his stomach twist. “She would not…”

His voice fell off as he no longer was certain exactly what his wife was capable of.

“By the way,” Geoffrey said. “When I said, ‘never again’, I didn’t mean it for just them. It was for you as well.”

“Me?” Berard asked. “I was the one who urged you to investigate the rumors.”

“Not that,” Geoffrey said. “You were right about that. I meant what you did in Tafalla. That stunt. Never do that again. I do not like to be pressured like that.”

“It was no stunt,” Berard said. “I was deadly serious. If you would not defend my wife, then I would. It is my duty - I made my vows to do so. When you said she should have… chosen to leave…”

Berard paused for a moment, taking a drink before he continued. “The only reason I stopped was because you were willing to change your mind. I know that is hard for you, and your promise was not nothing. So I will remain by your side, as you wish.”

They were words that should have eased Geoffrey’s frustrations, but instead they just added to them. Not at Berard, but at Ælfflæd for doing this to him. For putting them all in this position.

“I am going to have to punish her,” Geoffrey swore. “I don’t know how yet. But I must.”

“What if she wins?” Berard asked.

Geoffrey eyed him before a smirk came to the king’s lips. “If she wins this herself, I will throw her a triumph in the streets of Lydford and Bordeaux!”

He took a sip of his drink before adding: “But she won’t. Hopefully, she will learn humility and her place.”

“And if she doesn’t?” Berard asked.

“Then my son will be a king sooner than I expected,” Geoffrey said. “Even if I have to raze England to make him safe.”

Berard nodded. “I shall start the search for a merchant’s home in London then.”

Geoffrey tossed him the side eye, and shook his head. It was no laughing matter. None of this was.

And yet, despite his best efforts, his friend’s promise left Geoffrey unable to resist a small chuckle.

 
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TheButterflyComposer

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The tenuous house of cards just fell over a bit. Straining relstions with his best friend and closest advisor (again) and his own son. And the Queen could easily be arrested and murdered for this. She might win by herself though...if the ai screws up royally which it might considering the distance.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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A magnificent update and all, but more importantly:
King Karel's facial hair is glorious.
I miss the classic ck2 chocolate box beard. Every man over a certain age used to get one, or a gandalf style one.
 
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tpmcinty

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Well that was a fun ride. Geoffrey reacted as I thought he would. I was worried for a moment that he would not come to his senses and honor his obligations. I think Berard's solution worked perfectly. Despite the problems that will come with this war in the Holy Lands there is a possibility for Geoffrey to improve his stature in the world.

I think a friendship with King Karel could be beneficial to Aquitaine.
 
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Specialist290

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A magnificent update and all, but more importantly:
King Karel's facial hair is glorious.
Seconding this. That beard alone gives him more right to rule than any of the pomp and ceremony of the beardless emperors.

Once again, Berard comes to the rescue as the outward voice behind Geoffrey's conscience. I've said it before, but I'll say it again -- Geoffrey really is blessed to have a friend who has both the moral character to see the right thing and the wherewithal to confront him when he's heading down a path that may end up destroying him. It'll be a dark day when Berard is gone for good.
 
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Midnite Duke

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Is Geoffrey an Islamic sympathizer? His goal should be clearing Iberia of infidels, not worrying about his hurt pride. Greater Occitania should include southern France and northern Iberia. The only Islamists north of Gibraltar should be court eunuchs. Baby Geoff and Margo can be used to forge alliances. Rescue Elf. Then make the Iberian infidels option A, B and C. Quit bullying good Christians like Navarra. Let the Pope worry about the Holy Land. The Occitan inquisition should make the Spanish inquisition look like child's play.
 
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alscon

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Things went far too well in the beginning. Sure, we knew what was coming... But Geoffrey's outburst was still glorious :cool:. He can be lucky that Bérard acts as voice of reason yet again - and for once, he acted before making the mistake. Granted, it was because Bérard clearly showed him the possible consequence of the mistake, but it isn't like his amorous adventures' potential for disturbance was a great surprise. Shows that he's learning, even if it comes down to waving a giant signpost in his face saying "do this, and I do that".
Then again, the comparison is problematic insofar as with his lovers, Geoffrey can always say that "nobody will ever know".

Now I'm looking forward even more to the royal meeting that may take place during this war one day. Likely when Geoffrey comes to Ælfflæd's rescue, not as her knight in shining armour, but rather as her black knight of vengeance ;).

King Karel looks like a great ruler. Not just his admittedly great facial hair, also his character. His guardian tried to mould a man who could strike from the shadows, but Karel rejected that destiny and grew up to be a man fully deserving of his epithet of "the Wise".
 
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codie

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Oh my... Geoffrey II is awfully good at alienating those closest to him, even Foulques likely would've joined a wife's war with little hesitation, if only to project strength and to protect his progeny.... Should Berard die before Geoffrey, I would truly worry for the state of the realm... The alliance with King Karel seems an interesting prospect, for it could even be useful against the King of France... Even so, I would imagine Guilhem has plenty of good options, possibly even heiresses available to him.... Excellent chapter!
 
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