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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

stnylan

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Response to this post from 17th June

So I did read a comment for someone wondering why Geoffrey elder drew less oppriobrium than his son. I can't answer to that, because for all his talents I don't recall being particularly fond of Geoffrey elder either (though admittedly I was and do remain passing fond of Foulques - but hardly blind to the Iron Duke's many flaws). And here Geoffrey younger and elder are so alike I could slap them. Plans, plans, plans, and nary a thought for other people. Now Geoffrey elder was usually shrewder it was true. Geoffrey younger generally isn't, but he does still posses a quick mind and sharp tongue, and it shows. A great deal of the good he did with Elf - thrown away because of a careless few words and a near wilful desire to not see the plainly obvious: he cannot set Elf up as a Queen in her own right and expect her to kowtow.

The reality of this has comes clearly now: when push comes to shove she had the power here. He yields. He yields to her despite her being his puppet. I do wonder what his conversation with Berard later was though, especially given Berard will have talked to his wife. I imagine, perhaps, a certain amount of quiet cursing.

It is not the victory she wanted. But it is victory, and I am proud of Elf for standing up so.

And, to be fair to Geoffrey, he had the sense to make the discussion private. He would not necessarily have done so before. So perhaps he is learning ... but I have been disappointed before.
 
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Response to this post from 24th June

A brutal ugly siege. I mean, they are rarely "nice", but the ditch-filling was an especially Angevin touch (especially given the inspiration ;) ).

One cannot doubt Geoffrey's bravery, even if one can doubt his good sense. He is no slouch at war though - but I am surprised he did not realise the false queen was not there. All in all I wonder if he even seriously tried to find out. He has been convinced of how easy this jaunt would be. And ... it hasn't proven so. First the attack on Bordeaux, now the near fruitless siege.

There is work yet to be done to see the job through.
 
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Response to this post from 1st July

What a wonderful update.

The conversation between sisters is touching, homely, refreshingly domestic. After the siege, and all the war, and all the other bitter unpleasantness it is like a refreshing draught of water. The news Edouard brings ... less so.

I will say they make strange wine in Maulevrier. :)

I interpret this as Marguerite, confronted with her son's death, finally reaching a place allowing her some detachment. And who best to give us the lessons that we do not want to hear, but our parents and our foes? There are some very hard truths that ... truly... she has always known. Always. Her father's nature, her mother's actions, her own actions and inactions. Her father's nature perhaps most of all - it was one thing she has so fiercely denied all these many years. I won't say it was the murder of her father that made her entirely the way she is - but it left a hold on her that it is taken what, 45+ years? to start to break. And only because the death of her son.

Not the life wished for, but there are worse things than to end up as bishop of Maulevrier.

The conversation with Aines at the end ... one can sense a desperation from both of them. If I were Aines I would not trust my mother - not with her history, not even now with her baring her soul. But some chances you cannot trust you still have to take.

I do wonder what Geoffrey will do though. That is actually quite difficult to contemplate. And Elf for that matter. It is good that they are both far away.
 
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Response to this post on 10th July

Martinus is dead! Huzzah! Let all Christendom rejoice!

Two things occurred to me reading this. One is the Alias is really quite like his brother in some ways - impulsive, not quite thinking it through. The conversation between him and Geoffrey over Navarre is quite revealing - both of Alias' immaturity but also Geoffrey's own relative - relative - restraint. But I sense there is a limit to how far Geoffrey will allow the young lad to keep on pushing him. I sincerely hope - for Alias' sake - he too learns a little patience.

The second thing is that we have seen nothing of Elf of late. We had reports of her ... but nothing of her herself. The absence, given this is technically a war for her claim, truly speaks to how Geoffrey himself views things. I am not sure if that was intentional, but if it was it works brilliantly and if it is was not it is most serendipitous.
 
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Response to this post on 15th July

“So don’t be like you at all,” Alias said. “Understood.”

Again, this line just cracked me. It was absolutely beautifully delivered. And to be fair - given the evidence - Alais is not like Geoffrey in at least one fairly significant way.

There had been hints - broad hints - of this before of course so I am not surprised. And ... I am heartened by Geoffrey's response to it all. He took time. Not a natural thing for him to do. So he is growing - slowly - but he is. The whole later conversation was actually rather touching, even if he was unintentionally a bit crass. However, even if he thinks he cannot trust Alais, that is because he doesn't understand. He doesn't need to hold anything over his brother. He just needs to treat him with honour and see that he is, in due course, landed. That will win a loyalty far stronger than any threat. Alais is predisposed to like his brother, and I so very much hope Geoffrey never gives him cause not to.

In reference to my previous comment we now actually see some of Elf. The starting scene, standing up to her husband and getting something. Not everything, but something. It is important. The second scene - when Geoffrey coming to terms with his discovery - there is a touching moment there. I am reminded frmo both that they actually have a pretty good understanding of each other when they want to.

The final scene - it does not quite seem real. I have no doubt that Elf ruling England will be more than a a little challenging for them both. I suspect it will cause fresh estrangements. Perhaps very soon. But let them have this one moment.
 
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Response to this post from 29th July

Ælfflæd grew wide-eyed at the advice. So don’t anything you wouldn’t do? So then I am allowed to bed a lord like Duke Sigeric? Or Duke Hlohtere?
and
“She sponsored the work of a man named…” Adelise paused and then chuckled. “Geoffrey actually. Geoffrey of Monmouth,

So ... are you trying to make me laugh all the time? Not that I object - 2020 has been a beastly year and laughter is a balm for the soul, but you are slipping some truly wonderful lines in your work.

And this is the Elf chapter I have been waiting, and fitting it is now. Things are such a whirl. Geoffrey's thoughtlessness continues, but ... let him believe what he wishes. Adhemer and others did seem to make him understand that ultimately England is not his, though it will (hopefully) be Guilhelms. And .. Adelise surely has a point - all these English Lords and Ladies will surely prefer to deal with one at least technically their own rather than Geoffrey. Elf did have an interesting thought is: have they so under-estimated Geoffrey because they last they (mostly) understood of him was the feckless youth who pretended to be a squire? It might well be so.

Adelise ... has her own agenda. Well, at this level, who does not? Herve of old, Agnes (sort-of) - after a while. Alearde. Perhaps Berard - we shall see. And I think the discussion between her and Elf is both fruitful and useful, but especiall the point about who is queen. It is very important for Elf to assert herself.

I wonder if the next update we will get to see any of these meetings with her new vassals?

However from all of those I want to remember that - for once - Ælfflæd seems actually happy. It has happened so rarely. Her kindness to the lady of Cornwall ... I don't know if it will be seen as weakness or guilt, or even just kindness - but it is true that Elf has lived a life and seen things no one else in that hall truly knows.
 
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Response to this post from 6th August.

Alias d’Anjou never expected to attend his own funeral.

This sets the tone for the entire post ... and it is truly funereal. I found myself actually crying at it all. Even the surprise of the war against Navarre ... so empty and bitter. You have written some truly powerful pieces in this tale, and this ranks right up there with them. There is a restrained terror and horror both. What moments of levity exist - talking about getting Foulquesson drunk - have a dreadful desperation to them. Indeed, it reminds me of one specific line in what I belief is one of the finest episodes of comic television and film ever broadcast.

I am, naturally, talking about Goodbyeee. For those that don't know this is the final episode in Blackadder Goes Forth - a sitcom that in this series was set in the trenches of the Western Front. It has, what I genuinely belief, is the most stunning ending to a sitcom ever. But it is not quite that what I want to talk about. The whole series is about avoiding going over the top. But ... finally, ever plan has been thwarted, every cunning strategem defeated, and they are lined up ready to head off. There is no escape, and then Baldrick says "Oi, there's a splinter, a man could hurt himself". The humour of the gallows.

This update reminds me of that desperate humour. The procession, the fainting, the desperate hope for advice ... everything. The fact that his bride wants to couple, and is seeming pleased with him, the fact that there is no escape on campaign .... even Geoffrey's argument with Elf: we have the pagaentry and the celebration and the feasting and all that splendour - and we have a man shackled to a fate he abhors, a women so hopeful to be married again who will surely learn sooner or later (though I would bet sooner) of her husband's difficulties, an argument with England ... it all piles up as tarnish on silver, as rust on fine mail or a sharp sword.

It is all perfectly horrific. And sobering. And though this may be a work of fiction I cannot help but think how many men and women both have had to "do their duty" in a similar fashion across the long stretch of years. As I said, horrific.

I can't claim to want to read this passage again, but I will say again, it is as fine a piece of writing as I think you have ever done.
 
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Response to this post from 19th August.

For even if it were true, we are not in Iberia. We are in Aquitaine.
After last update, I am delighted to have a reason to chuckle.

It appeared his ego and bluster had made his situation more difficult than it needed to be.
Well yes, Geoffrey, it does seen to be a recurring theme Your Grace? I mean, why did you expect this time to be any different? Hope springs eternal?

I can’t hide him. If he is to be duke, he will need to fight. Come what may.
But he does learn - fitfully, sometimes actively fighting it - but he does learn.


Geoffrey has also shown himself to be more comfortable in action than thought. A man of passion - and one of those passions is war. Oh his father tried to make a thinker out of him, and his thinking sometimes leads him into terrible troubles, but the soundess of his military mind is plain. And so it was here. This is not on the scale of his grandfather's great victory against the Saxons, but it is still a significant achievement. He has earned his praise.

Also, I feel sorry for Simon. There is an innocence to him. Well, enthusiasm might be a better word. And I swear Geoffrey seems to want to make an enemy of him - he doesn't, to be fair. But it would be so easy to win Simon's loyalty completely, and his petty chiding prevents it. He let Aines live. He needs to take ownership of that. He still doesn't - railing in thougth against the advice he was given back then.

And Alias got his moment to shine. I hope he finds a release in it that he surely does not elsewhere.
 
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Response to this post from 27th August

Oh Elf - once again at the prey of other's plots. I seriously mislike this. In fact I cannot see except how this ends in disaster

I am actually not quite sure what else to say. The enormity of it just stuns me, if I am honest. There will be rebellion in England before long, I shouldn't wonder - and is there really any hope for this kind of foreign adventure? I must admit I cannot believe there is.

It all comes down to Geoffrey. This could very well be the break expected. For the truth is she is a Queen in her own right, for all that he pretends otherwise. Also, I cannot but help this brazen a course was somewhat out of spite because of how he treated her. If he had been a better partner in power (I don't say husband) she might well have sought his advice and aid beforehand. As it is...

I really like Elf - really like Elf - but her ambition - her ambition gets her into trouble again and again and again.
 
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Response to this post from 3rd September

Well that went about as "well" as I expected it.

I have said before Geoffrey has a knack for crafting enemies out of would-be friends. At this rate he will make one of his own son.

And he still doesn't "get" it. Berard knows him well - His wife hurting his ego is all he cares about . He is too old to act like the petulant teenager, and still he does.

So I think I need to say something at this juncture. I find the young Geoffrey a thoroughly unlikeable character - but I find him an incredibly belieable and well-made character. He is one of those I love to hate. The last AAR character I felt quite like this was Arthur from @coz1 's AAR. There is a knack to making disagreeable characters and crafting them well. It is too easy to slip into caricature, and the young Geoffrey is no caricature - he is fully-fleshed, with his good points. But these seems to be an essential core of selfishness to his him that is entirely unappealing, and immaturity.

I also love the structure of this piece. Apparent good developments, rumours, then news threatening disaster - and then the storm and tempest. And what a storm.

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.
And there is a grim humour. Not a caricature, but this does really show to be how pathetic he can be when so self-consumed.
 
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And now I am responding to the most recent post!

If Marguerite was convinced her son was wrong, her stomach would not have twisted during their conversation.
I really like this line. It is a beautiful turn of phrase.

The discussion with Alias and his wife - I was on tenterhooks the whole time. Part of me is amazed that Marguerite cannot put it all together, but then she would not have a reason to. And I was so very dreadfully afraid he would broach something with Geoffrey. Anyway the conversation with Alias circles round and around, it was like a minuet in a minefield, and set the scene most ably.

Geoffrey, I note, remains in "fine" form. I almost jaw-dropped at Geoffrey complaining at someone being wilful and not following counsel. I think Geoffrey may yet have cause to curse another Guilhelm.

I choose to see Agnes' appearances as a conjuration from Marguerite's own mind. It makes sense, she is so withdrawn into her thoughts and into herself, her contemporaries growing fewer and fewer, and time seems to be running fast. Who else to sub-create to tell you the truths that you yourself know but will yourself not to see, but your old foe and colleague?

For all that Marguerite has brought much upon herself, this rejection was still painful to read. What a bitter thing, to feel one is of no use at all. And ... in the eyes, still the memory of her father, from which her course begun. In a very classical sense Marguerite is a tragic figure.

...

And that's it. Finally I am all caught up! Weehee!

I had a day I could put aside to catching up, and I am glad I did. Along the way I have noticed that, when I happened, I didn't catch that your wife had surgery. I've been skipping most of the other comments because reading and writing my own comments has taken time as it is, but I hope she is doing well.

The other thing I wanted to say, over the six months of writing that I have read today, is the consistent quality of it. This remains one of the premier works ever to have been written on these fora.
 
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Thanks for all the responses! Shall split it up - as per usual. I know @stnylan has caught up, but there's lot's to respond to there! So will tackle that next.

Marguerite is extremely deluded if she thinks that Geoff will replace a more skilled, powerful vassal with her on the council. As a smotherer, she is probably better loved by grandchildren (can go home) than children. While I understand and feel sorry for Marguerite, she is someone that short visits are the best visits. Foulquesson is someone, who would be wonderful to watch from a safe distance upstream, but a major pain to interact with. Geoff equates Elf's war to his mother's affair with Meathead Karling. One was cold, calculated vengeance while the other is a desperate act of a desperate woman. Everyone be safe and happy.
Marguerite hasn't always had the best of ideas, and there is an air of desperation in her behavior. There's also a bit of envy, remembering Agnes' high position. Her grandchildren are much more likely to tolerate her - especially her grandsons, as she is more likely to be deferential to them than her granddaughters. (I base this a bit off my own experience - my own grandmother talked to me differently than she did my sister)

But Alias' point about a relative paucity of good candidates is not idle chat. He's right. The list of people who could improve Geoffrey's council is mostly non-existent right now (there's one exception, but that will come into play later). Foulquesson would be a great marshal on merits - his martial his high but his combat is horrific thanks to his illness - but yeah, it's not worth it because he's just a fight/duel waiting to happen. Plus given his condition, pissing off Guilhem for a marshal who could drop dead at any moment is a bad idea.

Likewise, Marguerite's stats are good! But Adhemar's are better. He's also younger and doesn't get a massive malus for appointing him.

What is up with France, incapable king, disease widespread? Do you have any ideas at what ages that Elf was imprisoned in Tunis? She just wants someone to turn Tunis, into Carthage after the Romans, to the 10th degree.
Not sure what happened with Alphonse. He ended up incapable fairly young (over 50, but only just). It just fit nicely into the Iberian curse, with pretty much any Frankish king who heads there suffering some really bad effects soon after.

Elf was imprisoned from about age 7-14. So much of her formative years. I do think there is a bit of revenge factor in her decision making, as well as a restoration of her own honor. Carthago delenda est indeed.

Welll....*cough cough* I happen to know an AAR about a CK2 player's experience with the CK3 tutorial...I hear that many have used it as an opouritny to talk about their ck3 experiences/gripes/pleasures...*cough cough*

Also there's lots of poetry about Hell and the torturous life of Ged Ned, petty King of Meath.
I will need to check it out. (I need to catch up quite a bit with a few stories. Perhaps while I sit with my son for his remote learning, if I'm not trying to bang out another chapter).

While I do feel sorry for poor Margurite here, I'm sure Aines would find her daughter's attenpted betrayal of Ademar to be rather amusing, as it was Margurite who hated her mother for betraying her father.... I hope that Margurite can live for another decade, but it's not looking good for her.... I also like how Margurite noted Geoffrey's hypocrisy when he scolded Guilhem.... Great job, I really enjoyed it!
I'm sure Aines would not mind calling her daughter a hypocrite, though Marguerite would surely respond with the fact taking her brother's position is hardly taking his life - and the matter isn't some lustful relationship, but her son's future. Not that it would matter, of course.

Marguerite is certainly not blind to her son's flaws. Indeed, I'd argue she's gleaned more information about him because of how she can exploit that with Ana.

Glad you liked it!

Marguerite may not have passed on just yet, but I get a feeling that her time draws short. When you lose the will to live at that age, it's usually only a matter of time -- the only question remaining being whether she will pass quickly or simply linger and wither away. For all her flaws, neither is something I'd wish on her :(
Marguerite's future... I can't say just yet. I feel a bit for her because in my original save game, when I didn't play Geoffrey I as the degenerate, sister-loving, King of Aquitaine, Marguerite had some badass moments. But alas, it was not to be in this story.

Here she's beaten here... with one of the worst rejections she's ever faced. It's not entirely fair - for all her flaws as a person, she has both true love for her son, a desire to protect, and the skills to handle the position. But as Agnes tells her - life's not always fair. And even if Agnes didn't tell her that, Marguerite of all people should know it.

Doesn't make the rejection any easier though. And it came on the heels of Alias basically telling her to stay out of his business... there is a definite sense of "I'm not needed anymore."

Marguerite has always been driven by stubborn hate, and if that leaves her, then her time is indeed short. But Adhémar who is trying to prove himself as Geoffrey's loyal lapdog is certainly not a person to replace.
Still, there's hope for her. Her love for her children focuses more and more on Alias. Aines is somewhat accepted, but she'll never forgive her. And Geoffrey - that last realization makes me think that Marguerite won't die too soon. She's channelling some of her hate of the late king towards the current king.

As for Alphonse - that man has the worst luck. Captured as a child by Champagne, lost father and crown. Used his inheritance of Normandy to take some form of revenge against those who have taken his father's title, taking part in shattering France. Gaining respect through wise rule, only to almost die of cancer.
That cancer is miraculously cured without him losing any body parts, and he seizes his birthright, the crown of France, gets hailed as "the Great". And now, he ventures into Iberia - and gets reduced to a vegetable. His story is truly tragic.
Marguerite accurately appraised there are only two jobs she could do - chancellor and advisor. I think she also realized the value of Berard, or at the very least the overall values of the Perigords, even to her, so it falls on Adhemar. Since this isn't written from either of their perspectives often, their relationship can be lost, but at best, it's always been an alliance of convenience. Marguerite saw her brother as a more likely/useful ally than Agnes for a time, and Adhemar appraised his sister could prefer him to hold a more powerful role than other potential Angevins. But as Geoffrey has grown stronger, Adhemar weaker (at least in a power/reputation sense), Marguerite doesn't need him anymore. And Adhemar himself likely knows Marguerite's time is growing shorter and needs other means to stay where he is.

Alias makes a lot of sense as an outlet - I wonder if he would have taken her as chancellor! But on the other side, Alias also seems awkward around her - possibly because he is protective of his secret.

One of my favorite part of your commentary is how you note the stories of other characters in this story. And Alphonse's is truly epic as you note. Perhaps his journey is the wildest of any character in this story, and at a moment that should be a triumph, he is felled by fate. Should France recover, he would be seen as a great king. If not, historians likely would see him as an interesting figure - one who did much but couldn't arrest an inevitable tide against the kingdom.

France has had a rough time in general, I think.
Very much so. This was an old school France game, when it would blow up. Back then it was because they'd always create the title of "Kingdom of Aquitaine", but in this case, I at least played a role.

The crazy thing about it though is that while I did play a role, the reason it happened this early was because of stuff I didn't do. If the old Geoff doesn't get installed in Aquitaine, something I had absolutely nothing to do with, he doesn't get the want to "Become King of Aquitaine" which prompts my rethink of how I should play it. And if Philippe I didn't get replaced by his insane brother who loved to disregard the council, I probably don't even think of the plan to blow up the realm that way.

In short, France's bad luck was partially my doing, but also opportunity created by AI stuff I didn't even think of at the outset.

It's sweet that Ness tried to visit her sister. I wasn't able to read for a while. I won't be able to post all these detailed posts for a while. Guilhielm seems to be taking his bastard siblings in stride. His estrangement from his father comes from other sources. I suspect that Elf will not take the news well. Their will be tensions in the future, especially with Geoff 3's increasingly obvious unfitness for command. Guilheilm's place is secure and the boy will never be heir, but I would not be supprised if Anna's little boy finds himself landed or wed to an heiress, something Elf will feel should be given to her second son.
It happens. I myself haven't been good about reading my usual AARs. I find some difficult to read on my phone, though I should read more while I'm with my son for his classes.

I think Guilhem's lack of concern is due to two factors - his sisters have kind of always been there. I think Azelma is just a year younger than him. And at this point, he doesn't quite yet know of his bastard brother, and even if he did, probably feels quite secure in his position. But yeah, there are other potential issues that can arise between parent and child.

Even if Geoffrey the potential III is an idiot, he's still a prince though, and one who *could inherit* two kingdoms should anything happen to his older brother. I would suspect he wouldn't have much issue finding a wife of prominence. Not to say Geoffrey II won't look to toss his bastards a nice marriage, and Elf is unlikely to be pleased with anything given to them.

Although ghosts are not my favourite narrative device, if there's any Paradox grand strategy game where they might be contextually appropriate, surely it's the Crusader Kings series.

You could always mention to your wife that the historical Macbeth ruled just 50-odd years before your first use of ghosts (1109, at Foulques' death). And the current generation of Anjou are roughly contemporaneous with the oldest written record of the legend of Amleth (Hamlet), prince of Denmark. Both stories feature ghosts prominently in their best-known 17th century adaptations by Shakespeare. In this TL, some ghosts would surely become on-stage portents in any 17th century history plays adapted from the tales of your Anjou dynasty.
Oh, it's fine. She accepts it's something I use. Generally, I agree - there's a supernatural aspect of CK2 that I enjoy because it usually is ambiguous whether it is supernatural or just misinterpreted events. (There are a few exceptions of course, namely the immortality quest line if it works) So I take that with my ghosts - leaving open the question of whether it is real or a figment of the character's imagination.

The point my wife makes though, that I need to avoid overusing it, is fair. After Marguerite, I'm unlikely to use it again until the end of the story. But in her case, I felt it was the best way to explain her thought process.

But thanks for your concern and suggestion!

To all - Marguerite, Marguerite, Marguerite. She's not *quite* the last of her kind, Emmanuel is actually a little older than her, but she's kind of isolated when it comes to her social circle. I was left here trying to figure out the best way to show this fun event, and her rationale, and settled on Agnes since she was both her rival, someone who knew her well, and someone who held a council position. Mascarose was the only other real option, but I thought that conversation would go similar to how it went with Alias, and Alias was more important than Mascarose.

There's more I can say, but I'll leave it at that for now. There will be more to talk about with her soon enough.

I will note that as I was rolling through the portraits, I noticed something. Marguerite is right about Alias possessing the same eyes as Adhemar de Limoges (both of them). But she is wrong in a literal sense with Geoffrey. Geoffrey does not have the same eyes as his brothers, Foulques the Younger, nor his bastard-half brother Guy d'Anjou. So his eyes did not come from his father. Where did they come from then? I believe they're actually from Aines de Poitou (and possibly Beatritz de Poitou).

So ironically, Geoffrey does reflect Marguerite... but I'm not sure knowing it comes from Aines would make her feel much better!

The next chapter remains in progress. The battle section is frustrating as I have an idea of how I want it to go, but translating that into action has been a pain. Some other things are coming up this week as well, so this may also be a delayed chapter. We'll see how it goes - sometimes things come to me and it comes together. And it's also a case of me being more interested in the following chapter than this one, even if this one is still pretty important for the Angevin family. ;)

In any case, thanks for your continued support through readership and commentary! I hope this past chapter proved worth the wait and the next chapters are up to similar standards.
 
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Oh, it's fine. She accepts it's something I use. Generally, I agree - there's a supernatural aspect of CK2 that I enjoy because it usually is ambiguous whether it is supernatural or just misinterpreted events. (There are a few exceptions of course, namely the immortality quest line if it works) So I take that with my ghosts - leaving open the question of whether it is real or a figment of the character's imagination
Mm. I ended up accidentally doing a study of absurd and mystical events in ck2, including the infamous and unparalleled events that turn random courtiers into bears. Must return to that after CK3. Its good fun to see how far ck2 will go once shoved off the edge of sanity.
 
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What a binge! That you read it all and did this level of commentary for each chapter is really something. Thank you so much!

On to the responses, of which I have much to reply to!

In response to this post from the 10th March

I was very much expecting Geoffrey to throw Adhemer out of his ear, but it appears Adhemer's cutting remark was enough to finally jolt the young man into something akin to sensibility. I swear though I think one could sometimes wallop Geoffrey with a fencepost and he wouldn't notice if he were distracted by "family pursuits".

But he did focus. The conversation with Sarrazine was rather touching. The conversation with Phillipe less so ... but I would not completely abandon hope the man may yet remember it. In this moment it unlikely that he would have believed Geoffrey, but in due course he might - might - think about it in a clearer fashion. Or might not. Geoffrey has a master of making a bed he does not wish to lay in.

And so to Berard and Edouard. Edouard - I have so much sympathy for the poor beleagured (beGeoffreyed?) man. He just feels tired. Tired of all of this ... again. It's like he can see his life stretch out before him having to deal with yet another transgression by the King. And Berard, Berard decision is a mercy - and hopefully it will help Geoffrey. But we have seen Geoffrey make extravagent self-declarations before.
One of the things about Geoffrey is that he's not beyond reason, but he tends to get lost in the moment. But sometimes a rather dramatic flair is exactly how to get his attention. As you can see in the latest chapter with Berard and his threat to go to England, it can be rather impactful. So Adhemar challenging him, and daring him to take it to the logical extreme is successful here. I will note it's not foolproof - just look at how near Elf got herself punished for challenging him on not going to see Agnes on her deathbed.

I think both Berard and Edouard are men who both enjoy their positions and genuinely care for Geoffrey, having spent a great deal of their lives with him. But dealing with him is, as you note, tiring! There's a want to do right by him, but also not run afoul of him. Managing him is not easy, especially since he can appear level-headed and fine most of the time, only to make a mess of things when you turn your head for a moment.

In response to this post from 17th March

“Can the two of you stop speaking to each other and address me?” Ælfflæd demanded.

This made me laugh As Elf says the sisters can be entertaining - but they do surely harp on at each other. It's like they "enjoy" each other so much that any other person present is just a ... part of the stage in which they conduct their work, which involves much audience participation.

What also strikes me here is Elf's self-knowledge of her temper. "That she had, in anger, again abandoned him" - I do think that if Geoffrey were to make a suitable approach he might be surprised. Of course, knowing Geoffrey there is every chance he would ignite her fire again. And I note that her haven watching her scene is shown to be an entirely false one, with the sisters sniping at each other and plotting. I find the child at play, a grim future being decided whilst he misprounces his mother's language, to be a true sign of the dark undercurrent to this world marred by the ambitions and passions of highborn men and women both.

There is so much else going on here though as well. Marguerite's concerns about Essa I am sure are sincere. I am not sure they are genuine. Marguerite was (and is) a plotter, and so sees plots everywhere. I think Elf is right to be skeptical - but also right not to reject things out of hand. They must be weighed. The truth about Agnes may be bitter, but I note so very soon she misses Agnes again. I think chosing to go to Marguerte, to "play along" is an interesting show of maturity. But she must make sure she plays Elf's game, not Marguerite's.

Aevis - you know out of both sisters I rather thing I prefer Aevis. I can quite understand her thinking Elf fortunate to have a husband of near her own age. I have the feeling we will get to see the sisters more.

Finally I like the bookending of the update. It often shows a journey and here we see a child's play as being a haven from the world - albeit one impinged on by plotting - to one where her thoughts have once again been overtaken by the world.
The sisters... well the sisters play a rather important role in future events. I don't want to say they're the drivers of things to come - that's selling Elf short. But Adelise and Aevis are at the center of so much when it comes to English politics, it only makes sense they are allowed to feature prominently. They are different on the surface, and as you've seen Adelise takes a different approach to her sister. But I suspect their end goals are not to dissimilar, which is a bit of a problem for everyone involved!

One of the nice things of your impressive binge read/commentary is that I can out rightly congratulate you on correct predictions! And that's the case here, where you note a bit of effort on Geoffrey's part could go a long way toward repairing their relationship, but he would blow things up eventually. That, as you can see, is precisely what happened. Geoffrey is... just Geoffrey. And his nature is bound to piss off everyone close to him at some point. What keeps the likes of Berard and Edouard going, to a degree, is the respect Geoffrey has for them. They're his friends, and arguably his surrogate brothers. So he's willing to give a bit with them.

But Elf...I don't think Geoffrey respects his wife. Not yet at least. I'd say the only two women he's truly respected are Agnes and Essa and the former more than the latter. And it shows in his dealings with Elf and Marguerite. With Elf, there's just a litany of things he keeps adding to her list of grievances as well.

The queen is learning here though. And she continues to learn, like her husband. It's a journey, and sometimes journeys aren't planned out. I think that also has borne out here - I don't think Elf entered into this looking to outmaneuver Marguerite. I think she just wants to protect her children, and as it turns out, their interests align. But as time moves along... things change.

In response to this post from 24th March

Well that didn't take long did it? Geoffrey - like his father and grandfather - really is incorrigible.

I really did enjoy Alias. The audacity of youth ... really if he got over his dislike of Berard they could form a "we like Geoffrey but we think he can be an idiot" club. Come to thnk of if there might be quite a few members of that club. I think his dislike of Berard though does show a thing Geoffrey may have to deal with - the perception of nefarious influence even when none truly exists. "Evil Advisors" is a refrain that haunts many a mediaeval monarch.

Edouard bears much important news. I call cliffhangar!

But since I am reading this nearly six months after this update I don't have to wait and can just read on - and so I shall take full advantage of my inexcusable tardiness with this fine tale and proceed to do so!
People can't fully change. Geoffrey can't help himself. And I think this says as much about Ana knowing her love(r) as much as it does Geoffrey. His relationships always have had a "mothering" aspect to it. In the terms of Essa, Sarrazine, Anne and Elf, there's been a direct physical nature - they're older than him, have had children. But with Ana, there's far more of a mental component. Ana always looks to take care of him. To provide comfort. Make sure he's feeling right. While she's certainly become a mother at this point, it's the mental aspect which she has, as opposed to the physical component the others do.

There's definitely a reputation of the "nefarious advisor" that Berard must overcome, not the least of which because his father no doubt had such a reputation among many in Aquitaine. Marguerite herself believed it, and there were no doubt others who believed and spread it, out of anger or jealousy. And I don't want to say Berard is wholly innocent either - he certainly benefits from his position. I try to write it as a balance, Berard is not a true schemer, but it doesn't mean he won't take an opportunity when it comes.

Response to this post from 31st March

I think Marguerite might be especially averse to having her children go on another Iberian adventure, seeing how that worked out so well in the past.

Picking up on something @Specialist290 said in response to this same update, with a bit of prompting and rehearsal Geoffrey can perform quite well. When confronted by an unanticipated request - Guilhelm here - he often struggles. He just does not have the lightness on his feet of his father, or the indomitable will of her grandfather. Yet, anyway - but he does posses a growing confidence, albeit a confidence that grows in fits and starts. But here, with Guilhelm, his position feels defensible - but if he had been his father other promises would have followed. Assurances. Leaving Guilhelm empty-handed was not a great move.

Also, Geoffrey really ought to take notes on how he is being played by the Arrigo, for Arrigo is plucking his strings and making Geoffrey sing very sweetly.
You're not wrong on that Iberian adventure! Again, the benefits of being able to speak freely.

I've always imagined Geoffrey having grown up with plenty of acting practice. He'll never have the natural flair for it his father has, but with effort and practice, he can put on a pretty impressive production! But yes, once things go awry, things get dicey. He can get through, as he did in Brittany before, but things can also go south quickly.

I think part of his issues here stem from the fact he isn't quite his father, nor grandfather. I think his knowledge that he's not either indirectly affects him as he struggles to figure out who he is. There's that temptation to emulate what came before, especially his father, which isn't natural to him. That said, he's just not as... willfully cold as as grandfather. So I don't think he could pull that off without feeling it later. He has to strike his own balance, which he's still finding.

I will also note I did enjoy Arrigo... and am saddened he died before he could have ascended to higher things. There certainly would have been opportunity, especially given his youth - most cardinals don't end up in such a role so young! Then again, that he could have gone places and didn't, all while being aligned against Martinus likely helped enhance his role. So perhaps it worked out in the end.

In response to this post from 7th April

Oh Alias so innocent: “The snake! To plot against blood! And a boy not even fully grown!” To be sure the King of Navarre is not blood, but still a boy not fullly grown. Well, innocent is not truly the right word, but perhaps he share sa certain lack of introspection common to this family. And secrets ... if this family tells of anything it is that secrets fester.

I didn't foresee Guilhelm's play at the Council at all. I mentioned earlier that Geoffrey should take notes from Arrigo - he should take notes from Guilhelm as well. As both Essa and Adhemer pointed out this can only delay, it is more annoynace that true threat, so I am not sure this politicking is actually wise on Guilhelm's part, but the way he maneovured Geoffrey the young King should pay heed. He must not neglect his realm, as he has been doing.

In these last updates I have read we have gone from Geoffrey wanting to throw Adhemer out on his ear for speaking truth, to now truly listening to him, carefully, considerately ... I know Geoffrey is changeable, a man of his passions both fair and foul, but it is a noticeable difference I feel.
Alias is young here... and as you've seen he's done some growing since. I'll also say he's got a flair for the dramatic, as the youngest child of Geoffrey I and Marguerite would almost have to, which I think influences him as well. I think his lack of introspection is an age thing however, and one he slowly grows out of. Whether that's a good thing or not... remains to be seen.

In fairness, I didn't foresee Guilhem's actions either! I was completely caught off guard, since Geoffrey's council relations had been really good up until then. And Guilhem wasn't a malcontent at that time... he just was not interested in the war. He really did want war with France, because of the claims he held over La Marche. I added the bit about Essa possibly driving it... but that was the heart of it. It was a good way to show Geoffrey had not been as diligent as he should have been, and got caught out.

In the midst of his foibles, I do like to show a change in Geoffrey's actions. If for no other reason than he isn't 16 anymore. I think we can all attest to thinking differently as sophomores in high school and college seniors. Him listening to Adhemar is certainly driven somewhat by circumstance, but also maturity.

In response to this post from 14th April

News comes thick and fast. First of Essa - now of Thoræd.

Guilhelm - seems to have forgotten whatever victories he may have had, they are but temporary. He is doing himself no favours ... but for the moment he needs to be handled carefully. And publicy one can excuse him due to his apparently uncontrolled grief. Actually I have some sympathy for him - and he is a very bitter man. A bitterness that betrays him. But also ... I wonder how much he truly cares anymore? Cares for consequences I mean.

The news from England though ... there is so much hope and peril contained therein.
I did enjoy that double whammy, which really did come back to back! Sometimes the game just puts it on a platter for you.

I do like to try to keep characters realistic... in that they don't always do the wisest of things, especially when affected by emotion. It's hard to say how much Guilhem loved Essa - their relationship was clearly strained. But they shared much together, they had multiple children, and they did both gain a great deal of prominence. There was an understanding there between them, which suggests the pair had a bond of sorts.

But there's also ego. And a history. Guilhem has to deal with the stain of being a legitimized bastard, who was on a bit of eggshells with many of his siblings. His brother was willing to use him, but Agnes didn't care for him, to say nothing of Haldora's children. And there's also a wonder of perhaps Etiennette's bastards were also better treated. There were the rumors Geoffrey I slept with Essa. And now Geoffrey II has practically confirmed that to him before... how much can he take? It must seem like just repeated slaps in the face. Every man has his breaking point.

But Guilhem also is no fool. He knows it now falls on him to protect his sons. So he can't surrender to emotion just yet.

In response to this post from 21st April

Oh Elf ... your played Marguerite's game and now your essential good nature punishes you for it, and now you fall prey to Adelise's. In an earlier update she reflecter on her own bitterness and anger, and there is plenty of bitter memory on display here as she contemplates her father. Of what he was. Of the shrunken thing he became. In that earlier update she reflected how it must have broken him to chose between her and her mother ...

I read this update, and the image in my mind is of a leaf on the breeze, tossed by a gust one way, and then another, in a tumult.

The politicking in England ... I don't say it is not important. Of course it is. But I think it pales compared to the sorrow of Elf once again being twisted by another. Her ambition for her son is such an easy thing to abuse, and so many make use of it.
I think when it comes to Elf, she's not... wholly innocent in all of these. She is willing to do things because she sees the benefit to her family. And perhaps her own ambition as well. Her son may have been threatened with Essa, so she did a deal. And the same with Burgheard. But in both cases she also stood to retain/gain influence as well. That carrot on the stick might well play a role.

But you're right to notice Elf is/was so often the tool of others. That's not to say she's escaped that yet, but it does show why it would weigh on her mind in more recent chapters and impact some potentially rash decisions.

I'll add in that Thoraed's end here... he is a character who certainly could be considered tragic. I've tried to write his legacy as balanced as I could, with Elf reflecting on it through bitterness but also further distance as time has moved forward. There's that understand of a man who wasn't capable of handling what he walked into. If any man could. And I'm not sure anyone could, tbh.

He made two "good deals" on paper. Had Geoffrey I come to his aid, things might have changed. Had the HRE not rebelled after the marriage of Elf's sister to the HRE prince, maybe he gets through that. But it didn't happen. Sometimes you can make the right moves and lose. And sometimes you can make the wrong decision in a tough spot and compound things. Thoraed has aspects of both.

Response to this post from 28th April

The insistence upon 'Lady' Ælfflæd is calculated to insult. It is almost as if the good Chancellor actually wants this war. Either that or he is just being dense. For a man who is oestensibly there to ensure the security of the new King it seems strange to keep insulting the threat. Unless he things war is inevitable ... which, to be fair, it might be. Still it does him no credit whatsoever.

I think most though this updates makes me regret that Elf and Geoffrey do not combine more often - when they do work together they can be a formidable team. Their conversation here - their support of each other, is actually quite heartening. And yes, they are talking about plotting murder - but their fears are real (may or may not be justified, but real) and they do share a great bond in the form of their son. And .. they actually do know each other quite well. Geoffrey clearly knows the source of her indecision, she knows the way he turns to the church.

Finally I have to applaud Emmanuel for the deft manner in which he handled that interview with the King. Very adroit with words :)
I think the chancellor realized that at this point, his statements are somewhat irrelevant. England believes Geoffrey intends to make war (thanks in no small part to Adelise practically screaming it from the rooftops) and there's not a whole lot Sigeric thinks he can do to stop it. His purpose is to deny Elf any claim of legitimacy for her or her children to emphasize how they will not accept her. The threat of constant rebellion or war... might be the only deterrence England has to offer at this point.

I do like to show the capability and potential of King and Queen. When both pursuing a common goal, it's easy to see how both can make it work. And much like Geoffrey's parents, their children are probably the easiest common ground they can find (but not always). But I do think they understand each other better than Geoffrey I and Marguerite did - considering Geoffrey I didn't "get" his wife even at the end of his life. That's not to say Geoffrey can't be blinded by his own selfish things or belief in things that are "clear". But I do think they understand each other... which both leads to success and conflict.

If Geoffrey didn't know his wife well enough to build her confidence, for example, he probably doesn't run into issues later on when he tries to essentially bust her back down.

The clergy has had a much bigger role in this generation, so Emmanuel has been an important side character to add. And he's only more important later on. ;)

Response to this post from 5th May

“Reading what?” Berard asked.
“Books,” Geoffrey said. “On Roman history. Britain specifically.”
“Truly?” Berard asked. “You must be desperate.”


I admit - this made me laugh

Berard should really have been on the Council instead of Essa - and now he is. I think he will do well, though for those who think there is a malign Perigord influence will not think so (looking at Alias). However between him and Adhemer it feels like Geoffrey does now have a couple of stalwarts he can fully trust has his own interests at heart, even when they disagree with his passions (I note that six months is about all Geoffrey can do to restrain his passions). What is notable though is how Geoffrey - again - takes seriously Adhemer's advice. But also his pride in his Queen reflecting on the meeting with the English Chancellor. "You should have seen..." - personally I think Adhemer's slighly curt response is because he knows just how Geoffrey gets wrapped up in moments and does not appreciate the larger reality, but Geoffrey is not wrong to proud.

I have said how I think Geoffrey and Elf make good partners when they work together, when they have a common goal. I think there is more evidence of that now. I also don't think Geoffrey really understands how unusual his upbringing was, surrounded by books and learning. Elf's ignorance should be no surprise. (also, a Saxon might not be so enthralled at the success of a 'celt' fighting off invaders to Britannia if Geoffrey thought about it for a while longer, but then Geoffrey's mind does not run that way - but I digress). Even so there is a sense - not of love (I will not say they are past that being a possibility, but it is not what is going on here), but of partnership.

Though ... I sadly note that Elf once more remains but a leaf in the breeze. If she does this, she will yet again be acting out someone else's plan.

Oh Elf, I do hope you find space to be yourself at some point, to become more than someone else's plaything.
It made my wife laugh too.

So, I think these council meets serve to illustrate a difference in Geoffrey from what came before. This level of managing and finding a way to get through to him just wasn't there under Geoffrey I, partially because outside of Agnes and perhaps Alias, there was no getting through to him. He was set in his ways, he was playing them all the way he wanted, and that was that. Foulques never cared much for his council anyway - after his initial problems in Tours, his council was basically people he trusted and were left on their own. He had no interest in anything but his martial matters.

With Geoffrey, I think there's a level where he is welcoming of advice, partially due to his insecurities when he first rose. It's a balance - he both loathed to be told what to do, but also wanted to be told what he was doing was right. Agnes is basically the only council member who got this initially, but Adhemar has eventually caught on. Berard just has a natural connection - the gift friendship provides. They all know him though, and the smart ones can use that knowledge to keep their status, but also reign in his worst impulses.

I think it's fair to say you're right - he doesn't know. When that's all you know, that's all you know. And I'd say it goes beyond just the idea of the how, but also the what. With a Roman-phile of a father, it's natural Geoffrey would have been handed histories and insight others may not. It's not just being well-read, others were. But it's the subject matter. As you note there are other examples he could have gone for, but he didn't know them, anymore than Elf knew Boudica. Even someone knowledgeable can be limited by external factors.

And your last wish... well, you've seen what happens now. It's certainly debatable whether she's broken free entirely, but there's more of a will to do what she pleases.

Reponse to this post from 12th May

And typically Geoffrey makes things more difficult than it needs to be.

You know though, this plotting reminds me very much of his father. His father was adept at the political game - but especially has he did a time or two fall into the trap of thinking that people would act as he thought was rational. His son may well be doing the same here, and Berard is right to warn him of it. Not that Geoffrey is listening. His passions - not just of the bedchamber - really do overcome him. Guilhelm, you sorry sot, but denying Geoffrey Navarre look what you have wrought.

I wonder what Marguerite's reaction to all this will be?

And once again, Elf, trapped.
I am mindful of Geoffrey acting as his father (and his mother) does. Because we are often reflections of our parents. And even if Geoffrey is not the perfect image of either, he will invariably end up doing things that one of them would do. And when it comes to politics, his father is the easier one to slip into because that's what he grew up with. (When it comes to emotional things, I think he tends to go both ways, often diving into the passive-aggressive stuff of his mother, and the vindictive, petty aspects of his father)

Berard, of course, having now grown knowledgeable of both king and queen, tries his best. But there are limits to anyone's abilities.

And Elf remains a pawn. But she might be a true queen yet. ;)

Response to this post from 19th May

OK - I laughed very much at the Marguerite mix-up. That was a really fun way to end the update. Guilhelm is a snake, and I do not envy his new bride her wretched husband. And ... Guilhelm must really hate himself, trying himself yet closer to the Angevin family. Foulquesson not being the most ... congenial ... of Angevins.

The not-Council meeting was refreshingly frank. Perhaps a good sign for the future? Geoffrey's time so far has been a yo-yo ride of good and bad. But not forcing the issue, waiting, that is hopeful.
Humor is essential with stuff like this, right?

The younger Marguerite certainly does not find herself in a great position, to say nothing of the little upside in it. Even if she has children, she's unlikely to have them inherit much of anything, given Guilhem has four* children ahead of her. It's status, but her best road toward anything is probably if something happens to her brother.

But Guilhem probably knows he's left to be aligned against some Angevin. And I suspect this deal is much more with Ancel/Beatritz, than it is Foulquesson. Given that they all probably think Foulquesson can't last much longer. But they would be wrong, as you've seen.

Geoffrey is maturing. That doesn't mean he'll completely avoid bad moments, but he's not the 16 year old he once was.

Response to this post from 26th May

Oh Geoffrey. You have this knack of wanting to turn friends or would-be friends into enemies. If this keeps up he may yet give Ivan the Terrible a run for his money. It must sting to be outwitted by Martinus, yet again. When will time rid Geoffrey of this turbulent priest?

It is good to see both Beatriz and Ancel again. Ancel ... he appears to have committed that greatest of crimes: doing what an authority tells him to do. It is terrible when people do that. Authority figure just speaking, passing time, and then someone dang it goes an actually listens. Not just listens but acts on it. The nerve! Now I could make this seem like a mess of Geoffrey's own making, but I won't because it is not really true. But his response to the news very much is. A man of passion - there is very little half-way with Geoffrey. Especially so energised regarding England right now it should not be a surprise. But it betrays him, and it betrays him here. I note with a measure of some gratification that he did actually listen to Adhemer, but even though he is following that advise his event view on Adhmere is simple: coward.

I also had to chuckle about Geoffrey finding his inquisition of Ancel to be tiresome - though I do understand. It is excessively tiresome when one keeps finding evidence of one's over-reaction and of one being wrong. Don't I know it all too well?

I wonder how Beatriz's meeting with her mother went?

And, inevitably, I almost wonder if - I was tempted to say when, but I am doing my best to give Geoffrey benefit of the doubt - if he lays with Duchess Marguerite.

But to England we go. His father would say Alea Iacta Est. Our Geoffrey, being somewhat harried by all the talk and chatter, probably just wants to hit someone. In that ... more like ihs grandfather. And ... to be fair ... his grandfather is probably the better person to channel when it comes to hammering the English.
Speaking of characters that continued to persist... Martinus! But he did eventually kick on, it just took far too long.

This is a chapter my wife did a nice job at saving, full disclosure. She pulls me in when I get too overboard with the drama, and Geoffrey's initial argument was just... off the rails. This had the right balance of emotion without losing the plot.

But it is a situation that Geoffrey is right to be concerned about. And yet, while his instincts may be right, the details can be wrong. I find it's something I like to explore - a character having a general grasp of something, but missing the details. And in this case, I think Geoffrey does miss who benefits from this deal long-term though he comes oh, so close to putting it all together.

Beatritz and Marguerite... I've thought about their relationship a great deal lately, particularly because of events of a coming chapter. I tend to think those conversations are far more... guarded and awkward than one might expect. After all, why wouldn't Marguerite have nothing but praise and love for a daughter who has done everything asked of her? But I think Beatritz is the one who struggles, for she has been placed in a difficult position. Her parentage is practically an open secret. She has been married to a man who... is not particularly likable. Her relationship with her other siblings is either strained or non-existent … and that may have to do with that open secret as much as her age difference to them.

That's not to say Beatritz doesn't love her mother. But I just... don't think it's nearly as harmonious as one might think. But then who in this story actually has a good relationship with their parents? Elf and her mother... I guess, but even that's fraught with Elf feeling a bit of survivor's guilt. Perhaps Geoffrey I and Beatritz de Poitou?

And oh yes, Geoffrey knows full well who to channel (heh, saw what you did there) when fighting the English. But it is funny the granchildren of the rivals at Rouen stand to conquer England together.

Response to this post from 4th June

When Elf finds her core of strength she really is magnificent. It may be buried deep at times, but it is there. I so wish she would discover it more often and deploy it for her own worth.

And yes ... her life holds terrors that none should ever know. They haunt and harry her - but if Marguerite thought she was broken she was always wrong. The evidence has been plain as the nootide sun: Elf is not broken. Hobbled, maybe. But a broken women would not have stoop up to Geoffrey or Martinus both. A broken woman would not have school the English chanceller on matters of courtesy.

In other words I see in Elf a very human figure, who in her relatively short life has experienced more that pretty much any other character in this story yet has. Even those who have lived to a ripe old age. That she does not always know herself ... does not surprise me.

Yes, I think it is quiet clear I am on the side of Queen Ælfflæd. I really wish Geoffrey would give her a book on Æthelflæd.

I also want to speak a moment about Guilhelm here. Obviously I think little of his plotting, but I want to acknowlegde his essential loyalty here. He may disagree with the King, oppose him, and all the rest - but Geoffrey remains his King. He is here fighting a war he voted again, but he is fighting it. He may be a fool in politics. He may be, in some things, an opponent. A definite stone in Geoffrey's boot. But still, when the fighting comes, a loyal lord.
That's the tough part for Elf. Surviving what she did shows she has strength. But I think there's a tiresome aspect to her fighting for her - in that she's been fighting ever since. Fighting against those memories. Fighting against the dings against her reputation. Fighting against her former peers as a result of that. Fighting against losing herself to her new home. Fighting against the plans the men in her life have of her. Fighting against impulses she probably has been told aren't right. Fighting against her mother-in-law. And I could list more.

Tunis was the start of her fight, but perhaps more than any other character in this story, her fight just seems unending. And it can be wearying. I think part of her situation here is fighting against that desire to lay down and just... stop fighting. Surrender, spend her life kept in a small manor home (but in England)... and that's it.

Marguerite at one point may have wondered if Elf was broken. But I think here it's more of a desire to not see her break. Perhaps out of respect she's gained for her. Likely out of the realization, out of her own experience, that it's better for her grandchildren to have their mother.

As for Guilhem, you're right. Perhaps under different circumstances he might have seized upon his opportunity, but he did not here. He knows his responsibilities, and he will fulfill them. In some respects, it's a game I can imagine Geoffrey I would have appreciated more than Geoffrey II.

Response to this post from 11th June

Foulquesson is a bit of an arsehole. Let's be honest, often more than a bit. But you always know where you stand with him - dishonest he is not. There is a simple directness to him. I even believe his general approval of his nephew is not feigned (leastways when comparing to the older Geoffrey). I wan't say it was 'good' to see him again, but this is his element.

And Geoffrey has emerged from the fight unscathed, which is the main thing. I wonder if you will show the family reunions in the aftermath? Will have to quickly jump onto the next post to find out.

He is, of course, right. He must let Alias fly on his own, and soon. But this English prisoner gives a harbinger of what is to come. England shall not easily be won.
Foulquesson has always been something. I've certainly made him even more blunt and downright prickish now, as he gets further and further into his illness. But this is a character who, even when healthy, took the hand off a prince and member of a holy order in a duel when it was not at all necessary. Foulquesson has always been the worst of his father when it comes to such impulses and life has only made it more exaggerated.

And that plays into the fact there is very little... deceit to anything. His father was blunt - something lords could always appreciate with him. And so it is with Foulquesson, something Geoffrey can appreciate, though not always tolerate.

And yep, England is just going to be a thorn in Geoffrey's side. It's not just what happens with Acre, but we all kind of know what's coming there.

Response to this post from 17th June

So I did read a comment for someone wondering why Geoffrey elder drew less oppriobrium than his son. I can't answer to that, because for all his talents I don't recall being particularly fond of Geoffrey elder either (though admittedly I was and do remain passing fond of Foulques - but hardly blind to the Iron Duke's many flaws). And here Geoffrey younger and elder are so alike I could slap them. Plans, plans, plans, and nary a thought for other people. Now Geoffrey elder was usually shrewder it was true. Geoffrey younger generally isn't, but he does still posses a quick mind and sharp tongue, and it shows. A great deal of the good he did with Elf - thrown away because of a careless few words and a near wilful desire to not see the plainly obvious: he cannot set Elf up as a Queen in her own right and expect her to kowtow.

The reality of this has comes clearly now: when push comes to shove she had the power here. He yields. He yields to her despite her being his puppet. I do wonder what his conversation with Berard later was though, especially given Berard will have talked to his wife. I imagine, perhaps, a certain amount of quiet cursing.

It is not the victory she wanted. But it is victory, and I am proud of Elf for standing up so.

And, to be fair to Geoffrey, he had the sense to make the discussion private. He would not necessarily have done so before. So perhaps he is learning ... but I have been disappointed before.
It's hard to say. Upon reflection, I tend to say Geoffrey I was the worst person of my characters - amoral, dishonest, and cruel in some pretty messed up ways. But he came after a character who could be overtly cruel in Foulques, and he was always well spoken. He did make people "feel" good, treating his subordinates well. Alias, Herve, even Agnes - they were loyal and tended to receive some reward. So in a way, Geoffrey I appeared fair and just. He was also cool, almost to a fault at times, in a way his son simply isn't.

Geoffrey II is... well he's emotional, impulsive and selfish. And he struggles to hide any of that. As he's grown older, I do slide him more toward his father in that he can be selfish and cold, whereas before he tended to be emotional and then also be selfish.

We've certainly seen this with Geoffrey I. The most similar example was Adhemar - setting him up in Gascony to bring it along with him in the rebellion against Hughes, but then being shocked Adhemar wasn't going to simply bend the knee just because he'd done that, after promising to raise him to an "equal" status. But Adhemar was never as sympathetic as Elf.

We also saw it with Geoffrey I with Agnes, when it came time for Duke Gilles. He sets her up, expecting her to play along. But Agnes is too deft and experience by that point to do so, so she doesn't, and finds her peace in a method neither Geoffrey nor Gilles could have expected. The fact she was capable of that almost... gave Geoffrey cover, in a way. He did something lousy to the person he supposedly loved most, but because she navigated it so well, it's forgotten about.

But Elf isn't as good at this as Agnes. And Geoffrey II isn't as good at it as Geoffrey I. So it doesn't come together nearly as harmoniously, and Geoffrey II looks worse than his father.

I will say that just as Geoffrey I was forced to admit somewhat of a defeat to Agnes with Gilles, Elf does get that concession from Geoffrey too. So the parallels are there.

That's just my theory though. Obviously, every reader will have their interpretation of the characters and why they like/dislike them!

Response to this post from 24th June

A brutal ugly siege. I mean, they are rarely "nice", but the ditch-filling was an especially Angevin touch (especially given the inspiration ;) ).

One cannot doubt Geoffrey's bravery, even if one can doubt his good sense. He is no slouch at war though - but I am surprised he did not realise the false queen was not there. All in all I wonder if he even seriously tried to find out. He has been convinced of how easy this jaunt would be. And ... it hasn't proven so. First the attack on Bordeaux, now the near fruitless siege.

There is work yet to be done to see the job through.
Sieges rarely are nice, and it was an opportunity to show a wild assault. I actually had not really show one, so it was a good chance for it.

Geoffrey is done in by hubris quite a bit. THAT is something he clearly gets from his father. Once he gets a self-belief, it is hard to shake him from it. It's good that he's confident, but it can some ugly consequences. And, it can also make his subsequent collapses of confidence all the more damaging.

Response to this post from 1st July

What a wonderful update.

The conversation between sisters is touching, homely, refreshingly domestic. After the siege, and all the war, and all the other bitter unpleasantness it is like a refreshing draught of water. The news Edouard brings ... less so.

I will say they make strange wine in Maulevrier. :)

I interpret this as Marguerite, confronted with her son's death, finally reaching a place allowing her some detachment. And who best to give us the lessons that we do not want to hear, but our parents and our foes? There are some very hard truths that ... truly... she has always known. Always. Her father's nature, her mother's actions, her own actions and inactions. Her father's nature perhaps most of all - it was one thing she has so fiercely denied all these many years. I won't say it was the murder of her father that made her entirely the way she is - but it left a hold on her that it is taken what, 45+ years? to start to break. And only because the death of her son.

Not the life wished for, but there are worse things than to end up as bishop of Maulevrier.

The conversation with Aines at the end ... one can sense a desperation from both of them. If I were Aines I would not trust my mother - not with her history, not even now with her baring her soul. But some chances you cannot trust you still have to take.

I do wonder what Geoffrey will do though. That is actually quite difficult to contemplate. And Elf for that matter. It is good that they are both far away.
I'm glad you enjoyed it. Those emotional chapters can be hard to get right, but when they go right... it's great.

I lament Mascarose not having a bigger role in this story, but such is the price of being kind of normal in this abnormal world. She was a good match for Herve in that sense - just did what was asked of them. But their son... well more on him in future updates.

I think you're interpretation is a good one. There's also some significance to the moment - it's not just her son. It's which son.

Marguerite's descent did start with her father's murder, but much of her misery came in the aftermath. Certainly her relationship with her husband was forever tarnished in a way that could not be repaired. And it grew to affect everything in her life. And those in it. Agnes. Ness. Her children.

There's sort of a line of demarcation - before Bordeaux and after Bordeaux. Aside from Beatritz, everything before Bordeaux is gone now. And since Beatritz is recognized as a legitimate child of Geoffrey I, regardless of the truth, Aubry is the last official vestige of "before Bordeaux." Foulques, her parents, her husband, Agnes, Ness... they're all gone. Marguerite is alone. What is there left to hate? What is there to focus on?

The answer, ultimately, is her children. And grandchildren. Because she's very much a remnant to a world that no longer exists, and they are her only real connection to the current world. Yes there are passive links, like Adhemar (who really was only coming of age before Bordeaux) and Emmanuel, who is of the right age but came into power literally just months after Marguerite arrived in Bordeaux, but it really is something that she remains alone in. One might argue Mascarose, but again, Mascarose is removed herself because she's "normal." She's not bitter. She's not angry. She doesn't hate the Angevins. She's woman, who was content with her life as a baroness, then a countess, and now is ready to move forward to the next stage, wherever that takes her. And it's worth noting she is practically telling Marguerite to do the same, even if Marguerite should have done it a decade before.

However, as much as the tone here is hopeful, I'd say it culminates in the chapter you just read. The tragic irony of it, that Marguerite begins to show growth only for her to be rejected by her son, despite her sacrifices for him, which outstrip the ones she did for her others.

Response to this post on 10th July

Martinus is dead! Huzzah! Let all Christendom rejoice!

Two things occurred to me reading this. One is the Alias is really quite like his brother in some ways - impulsive, not quite thinking it through. The conversation between him and Geoffrey over Navarre is quite revealing - both of Alias' immaturity but also Geoffrey's own relative - relative - restraint. But I sense there is a limit to how far Geoffrey will allow the young lad to keep on pushing him. I sincerely hope - for Alias' sake - he too learns a little patience.

The second thing is that we have seen nothing of Elf of late. We had reports of her ... but nothing of her herself. The absence, given this is technically a war for her claim, truly speaks to how Geoffrey himself views things. I am not sure if that was intentional, but if it was it works brilliantly and if it is was not it is most serendipitous.
I was thrilled too!

I think Alias' impulsivity is partially due to both a fear of being forgotten about... but also a desire to get away. And maybe get his before the truth he feared would be revealed. Geoffrey's not blind to that either, even if he doesn't full grasp it as his father did, so I think he does let his brother have more rope than another might.

That was a bit intentional. I think one of the benefits of third-person limited narratives is to force the author to resist impulses to include everything. Instead you're focused on what the character himself/herself sees. Geoffrey is removed from Elf, and has intentionally walled himself off a bit to her (though the flipside is she is to him as well) so she fades to the background. It doesn't blow up in his face here, but as you know, oh boy does it later.

Response to this post on 15th July

“So don’t be like you at all,” Alias said. “Understood.”

Again, this line just cracked me. It was absolutely beautifully delivered. And to be fair - given the evidence - Alais is not like Geoffrey in at least one fairly significant way.

There had been hints - broad hints - of this before of course so I am not surprised. And ... I am heartened by Geoffrey's response to it all. He took time. Not a natural thing for him to do. So he is growing - slowly - but he is. The whole later conversation was actually rather touching, even if he was unintentionally a bit crass. However, even if he thinks he cannot trust Alais, that is because he doesn't understand. He doesn't need to hold anything over his brother. He just needs to treat him with honour and see that he is, in due course, landed. That will win a loyalty far stronger than any threat. Alais is predisposed to like his brother, and I so very much hope Geoffrey never gives him cause not to.

In reference to my previous comment we now actually see some of Elf. The starting scene, standing up to her husband and getting something. Not everything, but something. It is important. The second scene - when Geoffrey coming to terms with his discovery - there is a touching moment there. I am reminded frmo both that they actually have a pretty good understanding of each other when they want to.

The final scene - it does not quite seem real. I have no doubt that Elf ruling England will be more than a a little challenging for them both. I suspect it will cause fresh estrangements. Perhaps very soon. But let them have this one moment.
One of the points of conversation that I mentioned in the last chapter, but it really started to come to the fore in this chapter you're commenting on here, is the difference between love and respect.

Geoffrey loves his brother. He doesn't have the relationship he wants with him, but he sees what others have and wants it too. He's also reminded of the promises he made to his father, the things his mother expects of him.

But does he respect him? I don't think so. And I think that's at the heart of this. His conversation is clumsy, his manner of speaking is callous. He wants to be compassionate. He wants to be there for his brother. But it bothers him. And he has lost respect for him. There's a level of embarrassment there, which I imagined on Geoffrey's face when Alias in his wedding chapter, when the prince loses his lunch so to speak and Geoffrey orders to get Alias up.

I say that because it obviously comes back when Alias deals with Marguerite and the conversation about Elf. He understands the difference between loving/caring/aiding someone and respecting them. He feels sympathy with her because of conversations like this one, where he knows Geoffrey is trying, but can't overcome that... lack of respect. It's Geoffrey's trick dichotomy, he does try, coming from the right place. And he does so far more so than his father or grandfather ever did.

But he fails. And that has pitfalls of its own.

There is a part of me that thinks Alias and Elf would actually be excellent confidants for one another. But I don't know that will ever happen.

And as you can see Elf/Geoffrey certainly have found new things to disagree about!

Response to this post from 29th July

Ælfflæd grew wide-eyed at the advice. So don’t anything you wouldn’t do? So then I am allowed to bed a lord like Duke Sigeric? Or Duke Hlohtere?
and
“She sponsored the work of a man named…” Adelise paused and then chuckled. “Geoffrey actually. Geoffrey of Monmouth,

So ... are you trying to make me laugh all the time? Not that I object - 2020 has been a beastly year and laughter is a balm for the soul, but you are slipping some truly wonderful lines in your work.

And this is the Elf chapter I have been waiting, and fitting it is now. Things are such a whirl. Geoffrey's thoughtlessness continues, but ... let him believe what he wishes. Adhemer and others did seem to make him understand that ultimately England is not his, though it will (hopefully) be Guilhelms. And .. Adelise surely has a point - all these English Lords and Ladies will surely prefer to deal with one at least technically their own rather than Geoffrey. Elf did have an interesting thought is: have they so under-estimated Geoffrey because they last they (mostly) understood of him was the feckless youth who pretended to be a squire? It might well be so.

Adelise ... has her own agenda. Well, at this level, who does not? Herve of old, Agnes (sort-of) - after a while. Alearde. Perhaps Berard - we shall see. And I think the discussion between her and Elf is both fruitful and useful, but especiall the point about who is queen. It is very important for Elf to assert herself.

I wonder if the next update we will get to see any of these meetings with her new vassals?

However from all of those I want to remember that - for once - Ælfflæd seems actually happy. It has happened so rarely. Her kindness to the lady of Cornwall ... I don't know if it will be seen as weakness or guilt, or even just kindness - but it is true that Elf has lived a life and seen things no one else in that hall truly knows.
I'm glad I can get a few laughs, especially since it's been a rough year on many levels. Sometimes things come together well, and while I didn't originally go in preparing to make a Geoffrey of Monmouth allusion, the year and the characters just fit too well not to use!

And characters handling others hypocrisy... especially when they're not quite able to respond as they surely want to.

I've mentioned it before but I do like the long format for this type of thing in regards to the 16-year-old Geoffrey versus the much older Geoffrey. Because we've seen the growth, but those English lords? No, they haven't. Most of them haven't interacted with him since his coronation, and their impressions of him would be of that. I'd also say there's a bit of an arrogance to a foreign lord conquering... after all, this is an England that ultimately beat William in the long run. They probably think they can do the same to that boy they imagine from back then.

And to a degree, I think the underestimate Elf as well. Because she was the girl who was taken to Tunis. And the girl who was passed off to the supposed children of the devil. Rude awakenings are in store for just about everyone.

You're right though that Adelise has her own agenda. It may well align with the queen, ultimately, but it is her agenda. Which can be problematic.

In a different world, or perhaps earlier in the narrative, when I was getting out three chapters a week, I might have pushed it out a chapter going into the relationships in depth. As it is, there will be more snippets and hints, more than a lot of direct meetings.

Response to this post from 6th August.

Alias d’Anjou never expected to attend his own funeral.

This sets the tone for the entire post ... and it is truly funereal. I found myself actually crying at it all. Even the surprise of the war against Navarre ... so empty and bitter. You have written some truly powerful pieces in this tale, and this ranks right up there with them. There is a restrained terror and horror both. What moments of levity exist - talking about getting Foulquesson drunk - have a dreadful desperation to them. Indeed, it reminds me of one specific line in what I belief is one of the finest episodes of comic television and film ever broadcast.

I am, naturally, talking about Goodbyeee. For those that don't know this is the final episode in Blackadder Goes Forth - a sitcom that in this series was set in the trenches of the Western Front. It has, what I genuinely belief, is the most stunning ending to a sitcom ever. But it is not quite that what I want to talk about. The whole series is about avoiding going over the top. But ... finally, ever plan has been thwarted, every cunning strategem defeated, and they are lined up ready to head off. There is no escape, and then Baldrick says "Oi, there's a splinter, a man could hurt himself". The humour of the gallows.

This update reminds me of that desperate humour. The procession, the fainting, the desperate hope for advice ... everything. The fact that his bride wants to couple, and is seeming pleased with him, the fact that there is no escape on campaign .... even Geoffrey's argument with Elf: we have the pagaentry and the celebration and the feasting and all that splendour - and we have a man shackled to a fate he abhors, a women so hopeful to be married again who will surely learn sooner or later (though I would bet sooner) of her husband's difficulties, an argument with England ... it all piles up as tarnish on silver, as rust on fine mail or a sharp sword.

It is all perfectly horrific. And sobering. And though this may be a work of fiction I cannot help but think how many men and women both have had to "do their duty" in a similar fashion across the long stretch of years. As I said, horrific.

I can't claim to want to read this passage again, but I will say again, it is as fine a piece of writing as I think you have ever done.
Given the delicate nature of this chapter and perspective... I'm glad you it moved you. And relieved!

I have seen... the last bit of that episode. And the first time, I was struck by... the bleakness of it all at the end. It's memorable, even for a show I did not watch (though probably should!)

All of those events in this chapter serve not only as a state of Alias' mind, but also the realities of the world. A reminder that his problem is but one of the litany that people can face when it comes to marriage and relationships. Even the bit about Elf - (again reflective of Geoffrey's dismissive nature toward other people's problems if he can cloak himself in "what is expected"), shows that reflection - Alias assumes one problem when it is something far more mundane... and yet equally if not more serious. A reminder that many issues can arise in marriage.

This family has always indulged in misery before the pageantry and Alias is just another form of it. Like Geoffrey draws from his parents, I can't help but say Alias draws an analogue to his mother a bit.

Glad you enjoyed it. As I said, I was nervous about the perspective and lacked someone who could really provide feedback.

Response to this post from 19th August.

For even if it were true, we are not in Iberia. We are in Aquitaine.
After last update, I am delighted to have a reason to chuckle.

It appeared his ego and bluster had made his situation more difficult than it needed to be.
Well yes, Geoffrey, it does seen to be a recurring theme Your Grace? I mean, why did you expect this time to be any different? Hope springs eternal?

I can’t hide him. If he is to be duke, he will need to fight. Come what may.
But he does learn - fitfully, sometimes actively fighting it - but he does learn.


Geoffrey has also shown himself to be more comfortable in action than thought. A man of passion - and one of those passions is war. Oh his father tried to make a thinker out of him, and his thinking sometimes leads him into terrible troubles, but the soundess of his military mind is plain. And so it was here. This is not on the scale of his grandfather's great victory against the Saxons, but it is still a significant achievement. He has earned his praise.

Also, I feel sorry for Simon. There is an innocence to him. Well, enthusiasm might be a better word. And I swear Geoffrey seems to want to make an enemy of him - he doesn't, to be fair. But it would be so easy to win Simon's loyalty completely, and his petty chiding prevents it. He let Aines live. He needs to take ownership of that. He still doesn't - railing in thougth against the advice he was given back then.

And Alias got his moment to shine. I hope he finds a release in it that he surely does not elsewhere.
Geoffrey in a nutshell, he can learn, but he will kick and scream the whole time.

I enjoyed the strange way things ended up - Foulques disliked how Geoffrey I became a thinker, and Geoffrey I tried to make his son a thinker, only for him to turn out like his grandfather. That was happening with Foulques the Younger, but there, the Iron Duke had a large hand in his raising. Geoffrey II was a child of his parents. So ending up this way was more of a surprise.

Simon is another one who might be fun to write a narrative for. His parents are characters in their own right, and he has enormous potential. But also placed with some rather large pitfalls. Geoffrey has every reason to suspicious of him, especially now given he's handed him someone who plotted against him, but so much of that is beyond Simon's control!

Response to this post from 27th August

Oh Elf - once again at the prey of other's plots. I seriously mislike this. In fact I cannot see except how this ends in disaster

I am actually not quite sure what else to say. The enormity of it just stuns me, if I am honest. There will be rebellion in England before long, I shouldn't wonder - and is there really any hope for this kind of foreign adventure? I must admit I cannot believe there is.

It all comes down to Geoffrey. This could very well be the break expected. For the truth is she is a Queen in her own right, for all that he pretends otherwise. Also, I cannot but help this brazen a course was somewhat out of spite because of how he treated her. If he had been a better partner in power (I don't say husband) she might well have sought his advice and aid beforehand. As it is...

I really like Elf - really like Elf - but her ambition - her ambition gets her into trouble again and again and again.
I think your point about how he treated her... I think it's the driver of this. But I also think it's a lot of things. I mentioned before, Elf has been fighting for so much of her life. There comes a moment where I think she can't help but go all in, bringing it all to a head. Because here she basically fights her husband, her lords, those who were like those who captured her, her reputation, her father's legacy and much more.

It's not wise. But I feel it is the effect of a life that has been one conflict after another, with few, besides her mother, looking to actually help her. The few that have always have their own agenda. And the desire to push that all off. To finally seize control, to reach heights her grandfather did... proves too tempting to refuse.

Obviously a lot of this is justifying a decision by the AI. But this is where the long-game helps. I started this generation's narrative knowing this would happen, so hopefully I built a convincing rationale as to why this happened.

Response to this post from 3rd September

Well that went about as "well" as I expected it.

I have said before Geoffrey has a knack for crafting enemies out of would-be friends. At this rate he will make one of his own son.

And he still doesn't "get" it. Berard knows him well - His wife hurting his ego is all he cares about . He is too old to act like the petulant teenager, and still he does.

So I think I need to say something at this juncture. I find the young Geoffrey a thoroughly unlikeable character - but I find him an incredibly belieable and well-made character. He is one of those I love to hate. The last AAR character I felt quite like this was Arthur from @coz1 's AAR. There is a knack to making disagreeable characters and crafting them well. It is too easy to slip into caricature, and the young Geoffrey is no caricature - he is fully-fleshed, with his good points. But these seems to be an essential core of selfishness to his him that is entirely unappealing, and immaturity.

I also love the structure of this piece. Apparent good developments, rumours, then news threatening disaster - and then the storm and tempest. And what a storm.

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.
And there is a grim humour. Not a caricature, but this does really show to be how pathetic he can be when so self-consumed.
There are moments when Geoffrey reverts to his old ways... and this is one of those moments. He usually avoids it because he doesn't place himself in bad situations as much anymore, and those around him are aiming to prevent it.

And yet, and this where Elf probably is paying him back a bit. Why does that matter? Because she knows him well, she likely knows full well what this will trigger. And that's the point, she wants to anger him, but still expect that he'll come to her aid. Because he can't really not do it.

But to a degree, Elf underestimates Geoffrey's petulance, possibly because he has been better. And possibly because he's hidden his worst petulance - starting an affair with Essa because Elf left him - from her. (Elf may have learned of Essa's place but she probably never figured out the exact timeline of why he fell into her arms at that time)

So for all of Elf's actions here, it nearly does blow up in her face. Because Geoffrey nearly does leave her to her fate. But the reality of the situation is as Berard says - those close to them can't abide by their petty stuff. This, perhaps is the greatest difference between Geoffrey I/Marguerite or Foulques and any of his wives. The lords of two realms now have a vested interest in how these two get along with another. And it sets up a very different dynamic, and a check on what either of them can do to one another. That's not to say they won't push the limits, but there are more limits.

Geoffrey is interesting because I do feel he's not really worse than his predecessors. Indeed, I think he probably has more redeeming qualities than them. But the nature of his... assholeness for lack of a better term, far outstrips them. There's always a petulance to it that is grating - like a spoiled rich kid, whining he has not gotten his way. Because that's often what Geoffrey is. So regardless of whether he is more compassionate than either Foulques or Geoffrey... it's hard to escape his bad moments.

It comes to the head when he's cursing his wife, and still can't get her name right. But if Geoffrey respected her enough to learn her name, that he could break free of who he was to do that... well he wouldn't be in the situation to begin with.

It's an interesting to compare and contrast with Arthur, whose cruelty and ambition was what pushed me to the edge. Geoffrey can be cruel, but it usually isn't intentional. He's often just being that spoiled kid who is in his own head. But I think we all have met many a real Geoffreys in our life... and he represents a more mundane type of assholeness that can still really make people's lives miserable. Which makes him as unlikeable as he is.

And now I am responding to the most recent post!

If Marguerite was convinced her son was wrong, her stomach would not have twisted during their conversation.
I really like this line. It is a beautiful turn of phrase.

The discussion with Alias and his wife - I was on tenterhooks the whole time. Part of me is amazed that Marguerite cannot put it all together, but then she would not have a reason to. And I was so very dreadfully afraid he would broach something with Geoffrey. Anyway the conversation with Alias circles round and around, it was like a minuet in a minefield, and set the scene most ably.

Geoffrey, I note, remains in "fine" form. I almost jaw-dropped at Geoffrey complaining at someone being wilful and not following counsel. I think Geoffrey may yet have cause to curse another Guilhelm.

I choose to see Agnes' appearances as a conjuration from Marguerite's own mind. It makes sense, she is so withdrawn into her thoughts and into herself, her contemporaries growing fewer and fewer, and time seems to be running fast. Who else to sub-create to tell you the truths that you yourself know but will yourself not to see, but your old foe and colleague?

For all that Marguerite has brought much upon herself, this rejection was still painful to read. What a bitter thing, to feel one is of no use at all. And ... in the eyes, still the memory of her father, from which her course begun. In a very classical sense Marguerite is a tragic figure.

...

And that's it. Finally I am all caught up! Weehee!

I had a day I could put aside to catching up, and I am glad I did. Along the way I have noticed that, when I happened, I didn't catch that your wife had surgery. I've been skipping most of the other comments because reading and writing my own comments has taken time as it is, but I hope she is doing well.

The other thing I wanted to say, over the six months of writing that I have read today, is the consistent quality of it. This remains one of the premier works ever to have been written on these fora.
Marguerite has known many a homosexual characters in this story, but I think it's different when it's a bit closer to home. For one, I basically wrote the old spymaster Toumas told her when they were younger. The others she likely learned via others. Here? Alias has been guarded and Geoffrey as well.

But I will say in my original idea/draft ideas for this chapter it was brought up - but with her sister Ness. Originally I planned to have Ness and Agnes appear before her, but I decided against it since I felt it would take too much focus away from Marguerite herself. And getting to why she's doing what she's doing.

Alias does serve to bring certain ideas back to the forefront. Again, that idea of love vs. respect. Once more, we see it. Marguerite *is* loved by her son. He hurts her, and she can see he feels guilty about it. But he doesn't respect her. Like so many of the people he's close to. Marguerite, as she does, probably still doesn't fully grasp it. Indeed, she might let go her anger at Elf if she did, just as Alias is not mad the queen. But it's Marguerite, and epiphanies are not easy to come by.

Geoffrey remains... well Geoffrey. He can't help but complain when others do as he does, but again, cloaking himself in "what is expected/right." Guilhem *should* listen to him. Elf *should* have asked permission first. Marguerite *should* know better. Alias *should* find children with his wife. And you can see the conflict it's causing between them all. And again, I'd note the lack of respect he's giving all of them. Guilhem's biggest transgression is he's only 10, so Geoffrey doesn't respect his opinion.

I always leave open the interpretation to whether the ghosts are real or not, and I think you make good points. Marguerite is, in many ways, the last of the old guard. As mentioned earlier, the last of before Bordeaux, save Mascarose. And that loneliness could produce other affects as well.

And on the other side, Agnes has always felt a penance of sorts was required with Marguerite. And this could be another step along that road.

Marguerite herself has always been tragic. A character who suffered much but also was the architect of so much of her own misery. The cruelest sense of this tragedy is her wanting to be better and finding more misery as a result. Though one might note she should have known better, but charged ahead anyway. Which is very Marguerite.

I sincerely appreciate the time you have taken to get yourself caught back up. It is no easy thing... six months of chapters is a lot! And I appreciate your excellent commentary and analysis and hope my responses made the effort worth it.

And thank you for your well wishes. My wife is improving, slowly. She has had a rough year to be sure, and we're hopeful things can continue to improve.

Thank you once more your high praise. One always worries the quality won't be there, especially as other things in life distract you, but it's reassuring to know you and others are still finding it enjoyable.

Hopefully, I can have a new chapter done soon, and you won't be stuck waiting too long.
 
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Finally got to finish the chapter.

Marguerite appears to be trying to find a purpose as her life winds down. Her arrogance let her walk into a rather shocking to her rejection of her plans by Geoffrey. Given how she has treated others it is not surprising how she is treated.
 
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I read the last chapter not long after it came out, but then have just noticed I didn’t offer a comment. I think the ball got dropped when helping our youngest son move out last week!

Anyway, much has been said since, so I’ll just say I have a little ear worm of the tune from Danny Boy now, except to the words of:

Oh Marguerite, the ghosts the ghosts are calling,​
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.​
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,​
It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.​
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,​
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,​
It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,​
Oh, Marguerite, oh Marguerite, I love you so!​
But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,​
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,​
You'll come and find the place where I am lying,​
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.​
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,​
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,​
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,​
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!​

But, sadly, who still living would sing such a song to her now, or say an Ave for her when she’s gone? Mayhap only another ghost, from long ago, a long dead lover ...

The other thing I wanted to say, over the six months of writing that I have read today, is the consistent quality of it. This remains one of the premier works ever to have been written on these fora.
Very true. :)
What a binge! That you read it all and did this level of commentary for each chapter is really something.
He’s da man! :cool:
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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But, sadly, who still living would sing such a song to her now, or say an Ave for her when she’s gone? Mayhap only another ghost, from long ago, a long dead lover ...
Con te partirò, more like. A song that sounds a century and a half older than it actually is.
 
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JabberJock14

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Finally got to finish the chapter.

Marguerite appears to be trying to find a purpose as her life winds down. Her arrogance let her walk into a rather shocking to her rejection of her plans by Geoffrey. Given how she has treated others it is not surprising how she is treated.
There's always been a bit of... obliviousness with everyone in this family as to the situation around them. Even Geoffrey I had moments of it - less with politics and more with those close to him. It led to some difficult moments in all of their lives and Marguerite does not escape it here. Much like her cold rebuke of Geoffrey I at the end of his life, it is something that will be difficult to come back from.

I read the last chapter not long after it came out, but then have just noticed I didn’t offer a comment. I think the ball got dropped when helping our youngest son move out last week!

Anyway, much has been said since, so I’ll just say I have a little ear worm of the tune from Danny Boy now, except to the words of:

Oh Marguerite, the ghosts the ghosts are calling,​
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.​
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,​
It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.​
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,​
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,​
It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,​
Oh, Marguerite, oh Marguerite, I love you so!​
But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,​
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,​
You'll come and find the place where I am lying,​
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.​
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,​
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,​
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,​
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!​

But, sadly, who still living would sing such a song to her now, or say an Ave for her when she’s gone? Mayhap only another ghost, from long ago, a long dead lover ...

Very true. :)
He’s da man! :cool:
There's a level of irony, I suppose with Marguerite's last quiet (and arguably unintentional) insult of Geoffrey I, where her depression had rendered him a nothing to her. Those who despise her due to her infidelity, people like her late husband, the Iron Duke, Count Alias, are dead. But people who cared for her - her sister Ness, her eldest sons, also are gone. At this point she is just... the mother to the king. An old woman, who is seen by some as a nuisance, others as relic, and her living children as someone who will critique their choices.

I wouldn't say that she's beyond love, however. Marguerite's inner thoughts are undoubtedly more pessimistic than the reality - such are the difficulties with depression. She assumes things that... may or may not be true. Whether a ghost or her consciousness, Agnes is trying to warn her of that.

Thank you for that compliment and @stnylan is really something else when it comes to the work he puts into commenting!

No worries about the delay in commenting. I've had delays in posting, and taking care of the family is always of top importance (I say as I respond while my son does his remote PE class, jumping up and down as a type). :)

Con te partirò, more like. A song that sounds a century and a half older than it actually is.
;)

But I will admit I do not expect Marguerite's death chapter to be from her perspective. I have something in mind for it and I don't think it would work well from her point of view. I will leave it to your imagination then who she is greeted by or if she is greeted by anyone at all.

To all - this was another chapter that took forever to write. Battle chapters and the like... they're just harder these days, for whatever reason. But it is done, and it is set to go up later today. Hopefully you all enjoy it. I do hope the next chapter is back to a more normal pace, but we shall see. Thanks for your patience and your commentary!

UPDATE: My image hosting service is giving me problems! Hopefully it gets resolved soon and I can post it later this afternoon.
 
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Chapter 267 - October 1138

JabberJock14

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Before Plantagenet - Chapter 267
October 1138 - Leyre, Kingdom of Navarra

The mountains were in the distance, but Geoffrey’s head was already in the clouds.

Sitting on his horse, dressed in his mail and ready for battle, the king was on a small hill, overlooking an area of flat land, with a river to his left and thousands of Navarrans and Transjuranians before him.

In between the king and his enemies, of course, was Aquitaine’s larger army, eager to get at their opposition. But at the moment, the valley remained calm and eerily silent, as a calm breeze blew through.

A bird flew overhead, it’s red plumage striking, reminding Geoffrey of the banners he carried.

“It is a sign,” his cousin Rogier told him. “A good omen. Perhaps your family watches over you.”

Geoffrey looked to Alias. The brothers exchanged grins, with the king convinced they were ready to seize the opportunity before them.

....

It was a chance Geoffrey wondered if he’d ever get.

For over a year, the king had laid siege to the Duchy of Navarra, methodically moving south, bringing keeps and towns under his control. It was effective, but slow, and he longed for another chance at a decisive battle that could bring Navarra to its knees.

His mind returned to his first success - defeating the Duchess of Dauphine at Murat, where he’d captured her to force peace. At the time, his 16-year-old mind could not comprehend demanding more than just Forez, which he had fought the war for. In retrospect, he wondered if perhaps he should have demanded total fealty, given he held the duchess in chains.

Since he’d later forced England, a stronger kingdom than Navarra, into subservience, Geoffrey had begun to think he might do the same here. Perhaps not the whole of the kingdom, but why not also take the Duchy of Aragon from the boy king, since it bordered the Duchy of Navarra?

The only way Geoffrey could do that, however, was with a decisive battle, for it would take far too long to seize the other duchy by siege.

As it was, Geoffrey was forced to keep an eye on England, which was comically undefended. His wife’s new chancellor, her uncle Osmund restored to the role, had informed Geoffrey that the bulk of the realm’s forces had been sent to the Holy Lands to take Acre.

In theory, Osmund claimed the queen reasoned, it would force the war to be fought there, well away from their shores. In reality, the heathens had not obliged.

There was little question an army from the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt, alongside men of the Sheik of Acre, were making their way toward England’s shores. Geoffrey knew it because his coastal towns had been “raided” - the heathens had landed on the coast, demanded supplies from weakly fortified villages, and moved on, making their way toward England.

It meant there was pressure on Geoffrey to wrap up this conflict in Navarra and turn his armies north. It would take time for them to reach England, and the longer he was in Iberia, the more danger his wife and her ladies would be in, much to Berard’s dismay.

And the Perigord man wished to follow through on his vow, though Geoffrey kept him from leaving by promising to send some aid north after they took the town of Najera. He would either move his army north, or call up his vassal levy and put Berard at the head, sending it to deal with the heathens.

However, only a few days after Najera fell, word had reached Geoffrey that the combined forces of Navarra and Transjurania had come through Aragon to the east. Their goal was to attack Pamplona from that direction and reclaim the seat of the boy king of Navarra. Alias had requested reinforcements to hold Pamplona, but sensing the opportunity, Geoffrey was not going to just reinforce - he planned an attack.



The timing was perfect. Najera’s fall meant Geoffrey could simply turn his army around, having ransacked the supplies in the town, and march to meet his enemies. And between the fall of Najera and another grand victory on the battlefield, Geoffrey believed he was in position to win the war, and potentially secure much of northern Iberia for his brother.

By the time Geoffrey reached Pamplona to link up with the skeleton garrison he had left Alias, the Navarrians and Transjuranians had reached Leyre, which was about a day and a half away under normal circumstances. But by forced march, Geoffrey could be there in less than a day.

Breaking camp before dawn, Geoffrey pushed the bulk of his men forward, swinging around the flank of his enemies and coming at them from the north. He hoped to trap them in the valley with the river at their backs and destroy them.

By sunset, he learned he had done exactly that, finding them in the valley, near the river. If not for the fact his army had been marching since before dawn, he would have attacked immediately. But Geoffrey decided to hold for the day, confident he had them. They could not withdraw back from where they came - Geoffrey had covered that escape east. To the north was Aquitaine. To the west, Pamplona and to the south, the now conquered Najera.

Geoffrey figured he probably could get the Duchy of Navarra right now if he offered them a truce. But thoughts of taking Aragon, which the boy king had inherited just before the war danced in Geoffrey’s mind. He might give that to Alias, or perhaps even his Guilhem in a few years.

But his opportunity was likely fleeting. With the Fatimids bearing down on England and his reluctance to call forth his less loyal vassals, Geoffrey needed a victory that rivaled Pau. Otherwise, he would be forced to settle for just the Duchy of Navarra.

So there was no offer of peace. No offer of negotiation. Emissaries from his enemies were turned away. Geoffrey intended to destroy his enemy and nothing would deter him.

…..



That next morning, Geoffrey drew his army into two main blocks, possessing both infantry and cavalry, with the bulk moving forth under his command. Knud was at the head of the other part. The rest of the commanders would be arrayed in those two blocks, though Mayor Frederic was missing as he returned to Saumur to handle an outbreak of smallpox there.

But any concern Geoffrey might have had over Frederic’s absence was long gone as he watched the red bird fly overhead, circling high above his army. Then it flew off to the west, toward the enemy, before disappearing into the horizon. Still smiling, Geoffrey gave the order for his men to move forward.



The battle began, as they usually did, with archers and skirmishers trading fire. And much like at Pau, Geoffrey’s archers struggled against a group of lesser number. It was clear from his vantage point on a nearby hill that his men were getting the worst of it, with his forces falling more frequently than the enemy’s.

“We need to do something about this,” Geoffrey told Berard. “Do these men not know how to handle a bow and arrow? It is not that difficult.”

It truly was confounding to the king, given his own proficiency with the weapon, though he’d never actually used it in battle.

Having seen enough, he decided to quickly bring his infantry forward. As his archers let loose a few more final volleys, the rabble and infantry came forth. The archers then fell back and their comrades stormed forth, screaming at the top of their lungs.

The armies met with the thunderclap of shields colliding reverberating for at least a half-mile. Or at least that was the case on the right opposite Knud’s attack. However, opposite Geoffrey and extending along the enemy front to the river, the opposition skirmish line was not as quick at falling back. The result saw some get stabbed and trampled as the Aquitaine army rushed forward.

Closest to the center of the action, the Navarrans managed to quickly regroup, allowing the fleeing archers through their ranks, and then locking shields to receive the Aquitaine assault.

But on the Aquitaine left, where the opposition was primarily the Transjuranians, the retreat was not nearly as orderly. The Aquitaine forces cut through the skirmishers, who’s panic brought chaos to that section of the army. And instead of forming up properly, the Transjuranians broke and fled.

“Should we pursue?” Rogier asked.

Eyes wide, Geoffrey could barely get the words out to order his men forward.

Such an opportunity was a dream. Normally flanking attacks had to be made to shatter an enemy front line so quickly. If Geoffrey’s army could run and ride them down, he could eliminate the Navarrans’ allies, and then turn those pursuers on the remainder of the enemy army.

But Geoffrey did overcome his shock enough to turn toward his brother, sensing an opportunity to secure not only a grand victory, but make a show of it that would make their late father proud.

“Alias,” Geoffrey began. “Care to deliver the final blow necessary to secure your duchy?”

Alias smiled and nodded. “It will be done, brother.”

Alias rode off with the men who had joined him at Pau, to take charge of the pursuit. Some of the Aquitaine forces opposite the fleeing Transjuranians had already started after them, but the prince urged the whole of the nearby forces forward.

The rabble and the light cavalry launched the most aggressive of the pursuit, aided by the relative lack of armor. The sergeants and knights were slower, but that was to be expected. Still they hurried along, the knights at gallop and the sergeants at a jog.

Ideally, the Transjuranians falling away would have made the Navarrans easier to flank. But Geoffrey saw his enemies opposite him were able to compensate, with small groups of men on their flank in tightly packed shield walls, spears pointing out. Geoffrey guessed they wouldn’t be very mobile, but it would take time for his men to ride around them, especially if they were at a trot and not a gallop.

Still, that was fine in his estimation - if everyone around the Navarrans collapsed, they could be encircled and captured at Geoffrey’s leisure.

Along those lines, Geoffrey’s attention turned to his right, where Knud moved to get around the flank of their enemies. Unlike on the Angevin left, the resistance was stronger, and it appeared much of the Navarrans had deployed their knights there, in an effort to block the flanking effort. So Geoffrey decided to tilt the balance further in his own favor.

“Berard,” Geoffrey said. “Go around the right. While Knud has them occupied, we can hit them from the flank and rear.”

Berard nodded and rode off to get the reserve moving, while Geoffrey again viewed the battlefield. Given his victory at Pau saw him observing, rather than taking part in the initial cavalry charge, Geoffrey decided to repeat that here. But with Alias leading the pursuit on the left, he looked to Rogier to move the first wave into position, when the opportunity arose.

“They hold stubbornly,” Rogier noted of their enemies. “But we could ride around them.”

“Do so,” Geoffrey said. “I will join you shortly.”

Rogier then took his group and rode off to engage as Geoffrey looked out in the distance, and realized the pursuit of the fleeing Transjuranians had taken his men about as far as he wanted them to go - if they went much further it would take much too much effort to rejoin the battle. Letting a thousand or so men go to capture three times their number was a better use of their resources.

He hoped Alias might realize that and stop the pursuit, but it continued on without any signs of slowing down. So Geoffrey was left to send a rider over as quickly as possible to order the light troops back, while also directing Alias to bring the armored men into position to close the encirclement of the Navarrans.

In the meantime, Rogier was bringing his men around to attack the flank and rear of the center. There was no screen, so Geoffrey doubted the Navarrans would be surprised. But they likely could do little to stop it, especially if the bulk of their forces were opposing Knud and Berard. And once Geoffrey joined his cousin, they would finish the Navarrans off.

About ready to move to get into position for his coup de grace, Geoffrey took another look at the battlefield to make his final adjustments. He was pleased to see the pursuit on his left had stopped, and started his horse forward.

However, his eyes caught sight of that red bird again, which was surprising, since he thought it had left the battlefield. Unable to resist, he followed it’s path, which drew his eyes back to the left. And his gaze shifted from the bird to his men when he realized something odd. He would have expected the left to be moving closer to the rest of the army. But instead, they were static.

His eyes returned to the enemy there and, squinting due to the distance, Geoffrey was able to make out that the Trasnjuranians had stopped fleeing and turned to fight.

“They recovered?” Geoffrey wondered aloud. Did he break off the pursuit too soon?

And then Geoffrey saw, coming from the Aquitaine right, a mass of men emerging from a large group of trees that was partially obscured by a small hillside, toward the light cavalry and rabble. A chill ran down Geoffrey’s spine.

“An ambush.”

He had tried to guess the numbers of his enemy, but eyeballing what was over 5,000 men was apparently beyond his capabilities. Instead, he must have been hundreds of men short, and had not accounted for this group that was launching a counterattack.

“Get out,” Geoffrey said. “Get out. Get out now.”

The rabble was never very brave, nor trained, so running was a distinct possibility. But they did not, as perhaps the shock that their enemies had turned to fight froze them in place. The light cavalry stuck in and around them, they too were unable to get free.

And to the left flank of those men, the river. They would be trapped against it, not his enemies, and completely overwhelmed. Geoffrey’s mind raced to find a way to save them.

At full gallop it would take time to get there, he reasoned. And the horses would be exhausted, and unable to charge when they arrived. If they arrived. We would be too good a target…

He looked toward Alias and the heavier troops. They’re closer. They could…

But then he saw the Transjuranians converge. And like a wave breaking over his men, they soon disappeared in a mass of humanity as what must have been over 2,000 men hit them, infantry from their one flank, knights riding around to strike them at their rear.

Geoffrey could not even watch.

Instead he turned his gaze toward elsewhere on the battlefield, hoping that his men could make quick enough work of the Navarrans to turn their focus on the Transjuranians. If his rabble and light cavalry fought long and hard enough, they could buy time for the rest of his men to still win a great victory.

It was wishful thinking.

When he managed to bring himself to look back toward the left, the mass of men that was the Transjuranian army was already turning to march on Alias. If there was any part of the Aquitaine rabble still among that throng, Geoffrey was unable to see them.

He swallowed hard. Hundreds of his men… just gone in what seemed like an agonizing instant.

But he had no time to truly contemplate the loss of those men, for his thoughts shifted to his brother, now isolated and ripe to be plucked.

The prince had wheeled his men around to face them, but Geoffrey could see he was outnumbered. And his men were likely tired after running after their enemies, making them less likely to fight well. Even the knights were forced to dismount, as they had exhausted their horses in pursuit.

His stomach twisted into such a knot he nearly vomited. It is not whether he will be overwhelmed, Geoffrey thought. It’s only a matter of when.

That when, however, Geoffrey guessed would not be immediate. They wouldn’t be able to hold out long, but unlike the rabble, they would not break instantaneously. In that time, Geoffrey could bring his knights to his brother’s aid... though it might not be a full compliment if he could not get Rogier back to him. Quickly, he sent a rider off to try to redirect his cousin toward Alias.

Riding off from his position, Geoffrey lost one advantage he’d had - the ability to see the battlefield. Now he saw less of the enemy approaching his brother, and just the rear of his brother’s forces.

Though that changed somewhat quickly, as the Transjuranians began to swarm, with Aquitaine forces pushed against the river.

Part of Geoffrey wanted to order his knights forward now, to charge forward as quickly as possible to reach and save his brother. Of course that would both mute the effectiveness of the charge, and leave the knights hard-pressed to contribute the rest of the battle.

Yet another part of the king looked around to the relatively small group of men he had alongside and the mass of men attacking his brother and wondered if perhaps this was a mistake. Alias was caught, but was attacking the Transjuranians compounding the mistake? It was cold to abandon his brother, but was it wise to risk himself if this truly was lost? Perhaps joining Rogier in the center would result in victory…

No, Geoffrey thought. I cannot abandon my brother. He is here because of me. I cannot fail him. Mother, father… they would never forgive me… I might never forgive me…

As he neared, Geoffrey saw his brother’s forces close up and push forward. They had engaged the enemy. Time was of the essence, and yet Geoffrey was limited in what he could do. Rush his horses too quickly and his counterattack would be muted. Move too slowly and it would be too late.

A bit of good news did arrive, however, as Rogier men neared, which meant Geoffrey could bring the full might of his remaining cavalry against the Tranjuranians. He even slowed his own men to wait for Rogier.

“The rider came just in time,” Rogier told him. “I was about to order the charge. But what has happened? Alias has been tricked?”

“The Transjuranians reformed and then attacked with a group of men concealed by a patch of trees,” Geoffrey said. “It was an attack we stumbled into. And now we must rescue my brother.”

“And we will, cousin,” Rogier assured him. “If we were not meant to, I would have attacked before you warned me to halt. I had a moment of doubt… a voice in my ear which whispered to wait for a moment. And I think it was God… holding me back, with good reason.”

That explanation sounded likely enough, and eased Geoffrey’s nerves, if only slightly. But it was temporary - his nerves grew frayed again as he lost sight of his brother’s knights as the Transjuranians began to envelop them. And somewhere in there, was Alias…

“Go,” Geoffrey ordered Rogier. “Get your men into position.”

His cousin rode on up ahead, to take part in the first wave. It was a position Geoffrey often took, but could not today. It was too risky to throw himself headfirst into this, not with Alias in danger. If the king and the prince, even if Alias was no longer crown prince, both fell, Aquitaine would be thrown into turmoil.

The Transjuranians weren’t going to be idle either. Their knights and some light cavalry quickly arranged themselves, ready to countercharge, in order to protect the men enveloping Alias’ forces.

So when the horn sounded, the thunder of two sets of horses charging forth caused the ground to shake. Geoffrey, however, did not watch intently. He was directing his own men a bit wider, so he could strike at the Transjuranian cavalry from their exposed flank, knowing if they were routed, they could likely turn the battle back in their favor, or at least avoid disaster.

Once in position the horn was sounded and Geoffrey took his opportunity - one that would have not been there had Rogier committed to the attack. He said a quick prayer, raised his arm, and urged his horse into a gallop, with the thunder of hoofbeats behind him.

His eyes should have been focused on the task before him, and they would be, but once more he saw that red bird, flying right overhead, straight toward the enemy.

…..

The midday sun beat hot in the sky, leaving Geoffrey to bake in his armor as his horse trudged along into his camp. He slumped in his saddle, more exhausted than he had ever been after a battle.

The stablehands had gathered in preparation, but Geoffrey paid them no mind and actually rode past them at his slow pace.

“Father!”

The sound of Prince Guilhem’s voice caused Geoffrey to snap free of his thoughts and the king brought his horse to a stop. The prince had been in camp, waiting for his return and seeing him made Geoffrey realize he had actually come to where he needed to be.

Dismounting from his horse, he was not oblivious enough to miss the raised brow of Guilhem, who was clearly concerned.

“Are you alright, father?” he asked.

He was, because they had survived. Barely.

The Transjuranians had been driven off. Their knights had not handled the arrival of their Aquitaine counterparts well and had fared poorly in the melee. Once they had been forced to retreat, Geoffrey had begun to attack their infantry, the Transjuranians had fled the field. Normally that would have resulted in far more deaths for the enemy, but Alias’ men were too tired to pursue any great distance.

Geoffrey’s own men were needed to potentially fight the Navarrans. As it turned out, Knud and Berard broke through in their attack, sending the Navarrans to flight. But after a long march that left the men fatigued, along with a slog of a fight in the hot sun, only a light pursuit was ordered.



“Do you need some water?” Guilhem asked.

Geoffrey nodded. “Yes, fetch me some. I will… I will be in my tent. Is your uncle there?”

Guilhem nodded and ordered some camp hands to fetch the water. But as he went to follow his father back to the tent, Geoffrey stopped him. He had to handle this matter in private.

Entering the command tent, he found Alias alone. Sitting on the cot, head down, motionless. It sent a chill down Geoffrey’s spine.

But when Geoffrey did reach him, Alias picked his head up and looked at him, his eyes bloodshot.

“He’s dead because of me.”

Again the words made Geoffrey’s stomach twist. The someone was the knight Carles, who had come into his service when he ascended, and fulfilled numerous roles in guards among his family. He had dispatched him to keep Alias safe at Pau, and again throughout the campaign.

He had done his duty… at the cost of his own life.

After the Transjuranians had been chased off, Geoffrey had found Alias holding Carles’ body, his neck twisted. There were no tears in the prince’s eyes… just fear and horror. He had been so pale, Geoffrey wondered if Alias had been wounded himself and was bleeding to death. But beyond a few bruises received from blows that his armor mostly absorbed, Alias was physically unscathed.

Mentally, however, was another story.

“He stopped a man from smashing me with a mace,” Alias said. “But his horse was wounded, it reared… and threw him from it. He landed… when I found him, he was all twisted. He was already gone.”

Geoffrey found no words. Despite Carles having been in his service for a decade, he had not been overly close with the man.

His greater concern was for his brother, who was clearly shaken by this. But then who wouldn’t be, given Alias had nearly been killed in that fight… a fight which he had entered expecting it to be a celebration.

And it was in a manner eerily reminiscent of their elder brother’s death in Iberia - thrown from his horse and broken. Carles did not survive the fall, unlike Foulques, but the d’Anjou man’s escape from death had only been temporary, as he eventually did die a mangled cripple months later.

Geoffrey was a small child when that happened and Alias was not even born yet. But both had heard the story as they grew, and it no doubt was at the forefront of Alias’ thoughts at the moment as well.

The flap to the tent opened and servants with the water entered alongside Prince Guilhem. They placed it down by Alias, and then were dismissed. Again Guilhem seemed to expect to be allowed to remain, but Geoffrey wasn’t having it. Not with the meeting he had planned for his commanders.

They began to arrive not long after, with Berard and Rogier arriving first, then Knud and Toumas. Geoffrey told his brother to get up and join the others around the large table to discuss their plans, as well as review what had gone wrong.

“We captured a few Navarrans,” Rogier said. “But the bulk of their forces escaped.”

“Do we have a better sense of our losses?” Geoffrey asked. “And theirs?”

“It seems close to equal,” Rogier said. “Perhaps we have a bit more… especially on our left. But we did hurt the Navarrans a great deal. More than the Transjuranians.”

“The Navarrans are who we fight,” Knud said. “Break them, and the war ends."

“We can look to renew the attack tomorrow,” Geoffrey said. “Have scouts watch them.”

“It will be done,” Toumas said, with the knight picking up Frederic’s scouting reigns.

“What happened out there?” Knud asked. “I could not see much from where I was, but your cousin says we were ambushed?”

Geoffrey nodded. “The Transjuranians feigned retreat. When we pursued, they turned and their knights pounced on us.”

“Prince Alias… he was nearly killed?” Knud asked.

Alias nodded slowly. “Carles… he gave his life for mine.”

“A tragic loss,” Berard said. “Unfortunate… it was needless.”

“Such things happen in war,” Geoffrey said. “We will honor his bravery, and bury him as a man of his rank and service deserves.”

“I just feel as though this should not have happened,” Berard said. “Had Frederic been here…”

“He wasn’t,” Rogier said. “That is what matters.”

Alias corked his head toward Berard, his gaze narrowed as he appeared to have finally cast off the shock that paralyzed him earlier.

“Are… are you accusing me of something?” he asked the Perigord man.

“Incompetence,” Berard said. “You stumbled into an ambush. If your men had been destroyed by the enemy, all of us would have been put in a precarious position! Our king, your brother might have shared the fate of Carles!”

The words sent a shiver down Geoffrey’s spine, as memories of his brother’s death again came to his thoughts. And it may have done the same for Alias, as his defiance faded as quickly as it came.

Lowering his head, Alias just grumbled. “I… I did not see them.”

“That’s the point!” Berard exclaimed.

“Berard!” Geoffrey interrupted. “I did not see them either.”

“You would not have pursued so far,” Berard insisted. “Had he reigned his men in, he could have met the Transjuranian attack with the full complement of his forces! Instead his light infantry were butchered, alone, and the rest were nearly overwhelmed.”

There was truth to that - and had Geoffrey not seen the attack at the last moment, or had he not notified Rogier just in time, Alias likely would have been defeated. And the army with him.

“We were all caught unaware,” Rogier argued. “I heard not a man voice concern that it was a trap. And yet all here wish to escape blame… except the king and prince.”

Berard fell silent to that, his eyes dropping away from both Rogier and Alias. Geoffrey said nothing either, feeling the shame of such a narrow victory… if it could even be called that.

“I do not know what the fuss is over,” Knud said. “They sprang a good trap. We beat them even with that. Rabble died, but our knights and sergeants mostly escaped unscathed.”

“As my brother Edouard says of his flock,” Rogier began, “without the rabble, who would toil in the fields? Raise the animals? Do not be so dismissive of them.”

“Agreed,” Toumas added. “They are… were... brave men, who have done as they were asked, in lands that are not their home. Respect is deserved.”

The Dane rolled his eyes. “I speak in martial terms, not farming. We are fighting a war, not growing crops. Our knights are the backbone of our efforts… and our knights are fine.”

That was also true. Though as Alias’ problems in this fight showed, simply having knights was not enough. Someone had to make up the numbers to hold the enemy in place, after all.

But Geoffrey had heard enough.

His military training had seen him take lessons from many great generals - Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal… and then there was Pyrrhus of Epirus. Cousin to the legendary Alexander, he had the reputation of one of the ancient world’s finest leaders of men, but had suffered through costly victories against Rome that prompted him to break off his war against them.

“If I have any more victories like this, I will be lost,” Geoffrey grumbled, echoing what he had been taught the Greek king had spoken over a millennia before.

“Forgive me brother,” Alias said. “I should have seen it.”

“Yes you should have,” Geoffrey told him. But then he felt his conscience scream out to him, for if Alias made a mistake in his ad-hoc command, Geoffrey had erred in his overall assessment of the battle. He had eagerly ordered his brother forward, believing a grand victory was near.

The so-called “brilliant strategist” had been duped.

“We all missed it,” Geoffrey finally added. “We all could have taken greater precautions. Instead, we charged forward without a care, and our carelessness saw many of our men pay the price.”

There was a silence in the tent at that assessment. Part of Geoffrey hoped someone would disagree and give him a pass for the error. And yet, the commanders all had their head down, unable to face him.

“It could have been worse,” Rogier argued. “One might have expected it to be, given the whispers of curses in Iberia. But when the worst came for us, we persevered. And won a victory - costly as it is, a difficult win is better than a difficult defeat.”

That drew a sigh from Geoffrey, but he nodded in agreement. In fact, he liked that rationale the more he thought about it - the same sinister forces that had taken his brother had come for him and Alias. But through quick thinking and good fortune, he had evaded their grasp.

After all, it was a deadly trap that nearly worked. And perhaps it would have, had Rogier not still be able to join in the assault. And that only happened because Rogier felt that moment of hesitation that stopped his assault. And the bird… the bird which alerted Geoffrey to the ambush in the first place? Divine intervention, surely.

“I think you had it right on the battlefield, Rogier,” Geoffrey said. “God was with us. He was what allowed me to see the ambush before I left the hill. And gave you that moment of doubt that stopped you from committing to the charge. He granted us mercy and protection against those that might harm us. But we must be vigilant. Such protections cannot be what we come to rely on.”

That drew nods from the commanders and Geoffrey dismissed them all. However, Alias remained behind, with an eye on continuing the conversation in private.

“Thank you,” he told Geoffrey. “For coming to my aid, both on the battlefield and here, now.”

Geoffrey grunted while nodding slightly. “It was a mistake. But… it was both of ours. Do better. Such things are required of lords. Or they do not remain lords very long… just ask our de Poitou cousins.”

Alias scratched his head. “We have living de Poitou cousins?”

Geoffrey eyed him. “My point exactly.”

Alias’ froze in place, his complexion turning pale. A slight nod was his only movement.

“I need to be alone,” Geoffrey told him.

Another slight nod followed and Alias hurried from the tent. Once he was gone, Geoffrey slumped in his chair again.

He closed his eyes and saw the battle once more. It was easy for him to imagine a situation where he didn’t see the ambush before he left the hill. And then… how Alias would have been overwhelmed… captured and perhaps killed. Once that had happened, Geoffrey’s remaining men might well have been caught by the Transjuranians and defeated, if not worse.

Just the thought of such things made Geoffrey’s heart race. And the only thing that could calm him is the fact it had not succeeded. He had God’s blessing to thank for that.

In a show of appreciation, Geoffrey dropped to his knees and prayed.

…..

However, Geoffrey’s good fortune and blessings did not appear to last long.

The king had believed his enemies were trapped and he could renew the attack once his forces had recovered from the day before. But instead, his enemies had managed to cross the river again, and then fall back to the east. Given his army had traveled so far, so quickly, to engage the fight, Geoffrey was forced to let them go.

He’d hoped the battle, costly as it was, would bring the Navarrans to the table, especially as he saw their losses were comparable to his, even if slightly less. After all, they were less able to sustain them, and had many more enemies.

But with their withdrawal, and no emissaries, Geoffrey was left to regret missing an opportunity, as well as left to wonder if Leyre had been a costly draw with nothing gained. A true Pyrrhus indeed.

Geoffrey was now at an impasse - did he stay put? Did he march southwest, which would see him pass through Castillian lands - Castillians who might not be friendly - or did he go east, into the mountainous regions of Aragon, and risk battle in disadvantageous terrain?

Further reports of the Fatimids and the men of the Sheik of Acre also reached him, further complicating matters. He had hoped to have finished off this war by the time that happened. Now, he would be forced to demand his vassals provide their levy… or abandon Navarra, which was not a real option.

However, before he could send word out, an emissary arrived from Duke Gunzelin of Transjurania, requesting a meeting between himself and Geoffrey.

A few years younger than Geoffrey, the duke had plenty of history with the king despite having never met him. He was married to Geoffrey’s paternal aunt Ermengarde, who had come to be known as the dwarf duchess after the diminutive Angevin was the consort to a pair of dukes in her life.

Beyond that, Gunzelin’s mother was the Duchess of Dauphine, whom Geoffrey had bested in his first martial conquest. And that latter may have been enough to overrule the former when Gunzelin had decided to intervene on behalf of the boy king of Navarra.

It was odd that Gunzelin gave no word about his allies attending, but Geoffrey agreed to the meeting, wondering if perhaps the duke had enough of this war and wished to negotiate passage back to his lands. Geoffrey was inclined to let him go, though he would want something as restitution after the trouble Gunzelin had caused him at Leyre.

Despite the meeting being a neutral ground - an open field not too far from Geoffrey’s camp - the king decided to be cautious and leave Alias behind, to say nothing of Prince Guilhem. The king did take Berard, Knud - the Dane’s intimidating presence was useful in these moments - and his household knights as he rode out to meet the duke.

Banners waving in the breeze as they traveled, Geoffrey made his way to the designated spot. After his scouts returned to report no traps had been spotted, the king arrived to see Gunzelin seated in the field at a table with a few men behind him.



As he approached the duke, Geoffrey was surprised by Gunzelin’s dress - his armor was still muddied and dirty. His hair was a mess and, while Geoffrey originally thought it was the horses, it turned out Gunzelin himself smelled as if he had not bathed in weeks.

It was true, such luxuries were not frequently available on campaign for most. But a king, or duke for that matter, could have his armor cleaned, and he certainly could afford a tub to bathe. Especially when meeting a person of great importance, which Geoffrey was certain he qualified.

The king, after all, had taken care with his appearance, making sure his armor was made to look pristine after Leyre and taking care to be clean in face and body. His father, had he still lived, would not have expected anything less when meeting a lord, even if the duke was a lesser one.

To say nothing of the fact they were technically united by marriage.

“Nephew,” Gunzelin said, reminding Geoffrey of that fact.

“Duke Gunzelin,” Geoffrey replied, trying his best not to show his frustration over being addressed truthfully, but still in his mind disrespectfully. Nor the fact Gunzelin remained seated upon Geoffrey’s arrival, just staying in his hunched position over the table.

Was this man raised by wolves, Geoffrey wondered. Though he remembered that Gunzelin was the son of the Duchess of Dauphine, who Geoffrey thought was pleasant to look at, even in armor. Apparently such gifts had not passed to her son.

He almost wanted to call him out on it. But if there was one area he remained a bit uncomfortable in - it was diplomacy. Insulting the duke might be foolish, given he might offer an opportunity for Geoffrey to succeed in his goals.

Besides, Geoffrey had others to do that for him.

“Your legs don’t work?” Knud snapped. “You are in the presence of a king.”

Gunzelin’s eyes widened. “And who are you to speak to a duke in such a manner.”

“Knud is the grandson of a King of the Franks and the King of the Danes,” Geoffrey answered. “As well as a fine mentor and commander, who taught me much of war.”
Gunzelin didn’t look pleased at the disrespect, but given what had preceded it, Geoffrey couldn’t muster up any sympathy.

“This is Berard de Perigord,” Geoffrey said, continuing on. “My advisor.”

“Ah, but no Prince Alias?” Gunzelin asked. “Since you fight this war for him?”

“I was not aware he was needed for this meeting,” Geoffrey said. “Are we discussing peace? I do not see the Navarrans present.”

“Technically it is not peace talks…” Gunzelin said. “But… I think we can all but end the war today.”

The duke offered Geoffrey a seat across from him, which Geoffrey took after dismounting. Berard and Knud took their places behind him. He was offered a drink, but Geoffrey politely refused.

No need to risk being poisoned now, he thought.

“So, the battle the other day,” Gunzelin began. “Quite the fight, wouldn’t you say?”

Geoffrey eyed him. “It was certainly was a difficult encounter. But you left the field to me in the end.”

“That is true,” Gunzelin said. “There was only so far I was willing to go for the boy. Though… I must admit, I have been eager to test myself against you for some time. Ever since you defeated my mother a decade ago, I have wondered if it was her feminine weakness or her paltry number of men that allowed for such a victory.”

“And now you have seen it was far more than that,” Geoffrey told him.

“It is true,” Gunzelin said. “I thought I had you with that ambush. But you managed to force my men away, despite the advantage we had gained. Your reputation is well-deserved.”

“Then your curiosity is sated?” Geoffrey wondered.

“Quite,” Gunzelin said. “I believe me and my men acquitted ourselves well. It was a close fight - few can boast such things after having clashed with the mighty Aquitaine.”

Geoffrey did not enjoy Gunzelin’s arrogant tone, but he also didn’t think the duke was wrong. He had fought Geoffrey better than any lord previously and could have defeated him on a different day.

“But defeated you were,” Geoffrey said. “And now you are here to talk. About what, I am not certain, though I expect you will not keep me in suspense any longer.”

Gunzelin grinned. “I wish to ask for passage through the realm of Aquitaine.”

“Why is that required?” Geoffrey asked. “Could you not head east, travel along the coast back to Provence and move north?”

“My mother and the lords of Provence have not gotten along,” Gunzelin explained.

“And we have?” Geoffrey asked.

“I trust you are a reasonable man,” Gunzelin said. “It would be in both of our benefits to allow my departure, along with that of my men.”

Realizing he was offering this without the Navarrans present, Geoffrey’s brow rose. “You abandon your allies to me.”

“I have honored my obligations,” Gunzelin said. “All they have managed, what little it was, owes to the efforts of myself and my men. But I will not spill any more blood for a lost cause. The boy’s lands in the Duchy of Navarra are yours. Needless fighting for the next year will only prolong the inevitable.”

“I wonder if they will agree,” Geoffrey said.

“They will have no choice,” Gunzelin said. “For I will come to them offering a peace - they give you the duchy and the conflict ends. If they do not take it… that is their choice. But they will be at your mercy, alone.”

It was a fine offer on the surface, but Geoffrey also had begun to harbor dreams of seizing more than Navarra, establishing a stronger foothold in Iberia.

“But what if I think more is deserved?” Geoffrey asked. “We have made relatively short work of Navarra, so far. You do not wish to be here any longer - that much is clear. Why should I not demand Aragon?”

Gunzelin frowned. “I would not think you greedy, King Geoffrey.”

“This venture was to establish a strong presence in Iberia to turn back the heathens,” Geoffrey said. “Aragon would only further that end.”

“I might believe such things if you were in any rush to defeat the heathens who make for England’s shores,” Gunzelin said. “Yet you look to fight for more land here, against a fellow Christian.”

“Who said anything about more fighting?” Geoffrey asked. “They could give me those lands now, and the boy can keep what he has in Castille. I think it fair.”

“I would imagine most would disagree,” Gunzelin said. “And it would be difficult for me to justify my departure - for you will be demanding far more than what Rome granted you.”

Geoffrey eyed Gunzelin. “Do you really wish to spill the blood of your men over such things?”

Gunzelin met his gaze. “Do you really wish to confirm Christendom’s suspicions that you would extort your fellow Christians while allowing heathens free reign?”

“I allow the heathens nothing,” Geoffrey said.

“We will not quit this war if you insist on this,” Gunzelin said. “Which means you will either have to quit Navarra to go deal with the Fatimids in England, or let England burn. If you choose the latter, what else would you be doing but confirming the worst suspicions of those around us?”

Geoffrey had no real answer to that. At this point, it was probably one or the other - even if he demanded his vassals provide their levy, he was not certain how large the Fatimid army heading toward England was. Which meant deciding between England and Iberia.

He had hoped Gunzelin would not fight him on this. If Tranjurania wanted out, then the Navarrans would be hard pressed to resist any demand he was to make.

“So I am to let you go, unmolested,” Geoffrey said. “After you have caused me problems.”

“Yes,” Gunzelin said. “Is that such a strange request? Again, you benefit - the duchy is yours. If we fight, it will be in time, but not without more problems for all those involved. Is that what you wish? Or is this some type of request for greater formality? Shall I have your aunt Ermengarde plead for me so you can have the appearance of granting mercy?”

“It is more principle,” Geoffrey said. “You disregarded my offers of friendship to aid the boy. And now you wish for friendship and leniency?”

“I don’t wish for anything except a return home,” the duke said. “This war has gone on long enough and the boy has no chance against you. I am not indebted to him, nor am I his vassal. I honored the terms of our alliance and I will fight this battle no longer.”

“That is fine, but why am I to simply let you go?” Geoffrey demanded.

“Because he cannot stand without our aid,” Gunzelin said.

“He cannot stand with your aid,” Geoffrey said.

“But he will be propped up longer,” Gunzelin said. “Months. Which will delay you in defending England. If that truly is your choice, then I cannot stop you. I will look forward to another test against you on the battlefield. It will be the only good that comes of it.”

“You think you can beat me?” Geoffrey asked.

“I nearly did once,” Gunzelin said. “I would be willing to try again, if that is God’s will.”

A challenge, but put forth in an underhanded way. And Geoffrey was tempted to accept the challenge, putting this disrespectful duke in his place.

But Geoffrey also knew what might happen if he did refuse - his wife in danger. Which meant Berard’s wife in danger, and his friend likely to taking his life into his own hands by going to defend her. Plus it would involve a longer stay in Iberia, and he probably did not need to take another chance with the curse after the near miss at Leyre.

“You can guarantee the boy and his handlers give up the duchy?” Geoffrey asked.

“I would not expect you to grant me passage without it,” Gunzelin said.

Taking a deep breath, Geoffrey nodded.

“It will be done,” the duke said.

“One more thing,” Geoffrey said. “Should you violate our lands or our people, I will be forced to respond in force. Do you understand?”

“Any man who violates the people or lands of Aquitaine will be hanged by my order,” the duke swore. “You have my word, nephew.”

Geoffrey eyed him, not pleased at being called that once more. So he stood up, glared at Gunzelin and replied: “Give my regards to your mother. I should like to see her again in my tent, as I did when I conquered her at Murat.”

The duke’s eyes narrowed. “If you do, I look forward to another test of our mettle on the battlefield.”

“Likewise,” Geoffrey replied with a smirk on his face.

….

Despite the air of discord toward the end of their meeting, Gunzelin held up his end of the bargain. A rider arrived the next day, informing Geoffrey, who was with Alias at the time, that the Navarrans were ready to capitulate. A meeting was arranged for a few days out, but it was a formality. The war was over.



The moment the emissary left the tent, Alias fell onto a chair, wide-eyed, but silent. Geoffrey couldn’t help but grin at his brother’s reaction.

“Overcome by the moment?” Geoffrey asked as he poured them out some wine.

“A bit,” Alias admitted. “It has not been that long, and yet… it was been quite the journey. And it almost came to an abrupt end in that battle."

His eyes dropped. "For many, it did.”

The reminder of that sent a chill down Geoffrey’s spine. Their near brush with the curse of Iberia was hopefully the last twist in this road - one which had given Geoffrey arguably his finest military victory… as well as a near defeat.

And it was a reminder the best laid plans could still turn sour thanks to things outside of his control. Perhaps he might have been able to press for more than Navarra had it not been for his wife’s decision to attack Acre. Or had he not stumbled at Leyre.

But he had. England was under threat, and it would take months for him to shift his men north, both due to the logistics of taking near 7,000 men across the channel, and the fact they were exhausted after all of this fighting.

Calling forth his unused vassal levy was an option, but he again wished to hold off. Even if there was no open dissent over the war for Acre - it would look poor on any Christian who complained of such things in public - Geoffrey had heard his lords preferred if England bore the brunt of the expedition.

And naturally Geoffrey agreed. So he felt even less willing to push for their aid, and incur their wrath.

It left Geoffrey with little choice but to take what had been offered. Which was what he set out to do, after all. And yet, after conquering a kingdom, taking just a duchy felt almost… quaint.

Of course, the problems of conquering a kingdom were there for all to see. Vassals who resented him. A realm to drag him into new conflicts. His initial celebrations were joyous, but the hangover induced headache left him with a small pang of regret with his decision to win England.

But the issues that lay in the near future could wait until tomorrow. He looked to his brother and raised his cup.

“To the new Duke of Navarra,” Geoffrey told him.

Alias smiled and raised his own cup in response. “And to his generous and caring, liege.”

Geoffrey smiled at that and the two made their way to the edge of the tent flap, as the king wished to summon his commanders to inform them the good news.

And as they went outside, Geoffrey looked up and saw that red bird flying overhead once more.





NOTE: I've mention before that I thought Pau was closer than it looked and this is why I think Geoffrey would have lost that battle had the Toulouse soldiers not intercepted Transjurania. Leyre nearly went south, as those casualty numbers show. Part of it was a mistake on my part (Frederic's departure meant I needed a new commander, and I forgot to place one - hence the two blocks of men in the story, rather than the CK2 tradition of three). But that should have been balanced out by the advantage in men - on flat land no less! That it wasn't leaves me to think in the mountains, against what would have been close to equal numbers, Geoffrey would have lost Pau.

So thanks to the Toulouse retinue, which saved his bacon!
 
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First Lieutenant
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Dec 10, 2018
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Excellent job, a very good read... The battledidn't exactly go well, but I wonder if perhaps Berard complains about Alias because he is jealous that he receives land instead of himself, the king's favorite.... As Geoffey already mentioned the losses were regrettable but Aquitane could afford them, whereas Navarre and Transjurania could not... Hopefully Geoffrey's men may be enough to fight off the Moslems, but who knows... The Fatimids have the men and money of Egypt at their disposal...
 
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