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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

TheButterflyComposer

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Elf and Geoff are in a no win situation with Guilhem's studies. Send him to Oxford (or Cambridge) and all of Geoff's subjects are upset. Send him to the Sorbonne and all of Elf's subjects are upset. (What is a top uni in Aquitaine region? This would be better choice than Sorbonne (Paris)).
Bologna. So everyone is unhappy, and the papacy gets him instead.
 
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Fantastic chapter, especially with Guilhem learning some hard lessons about the nature of his mother's vassals., and how they will smile nicely while seeking to plunge a dagger in his back... Aevis's design's on Guilhem are especially worrying, given that she may seek to make him a puppet, or get an heir from him, and then dispose of him at her convenience......
 
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Another fine installment. The battle scene read very well, and I enjoyed it.

Geoffrey may not be as silver tongued as his father, but he has enough. However, when you throw in his military talent and confidence, I feel he is far more formidable than his father and perhaps the Iron Duke. The English lords are fools if they think they can manipulate him into falling into their schemes easily.

Guilhem, as his father stated, is truly lucky to have his father to guide him. After his experience in the English camp I think he will listen more to his father’s advice.

The English Lords have no idea what they are up against when it comes to Geoffrey and his family and followers.
 
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“You’re young,” Geoffrey told him. “You think kindness and friendship can win them over. It won’t.
He’s going to need some objects lessons to drive this home. Ones that don’t kill him. Dad telling him will never be enough by itself.
So be grateful your father does not think you too young or stupid for the truth of what awaits you.
A bit gruff here, but one of the smarter things Geoff has said and done.
Guilhem had seen many sides of his father - joy, confidence, frustration and anger. But this was different - he had never really spoken ill of the old king Geoffrey before… and certainly not with this level of bitterness.

Between that and his outright distrust of all the English lords and Guilhem wasn’t sure how to feel. So he said nothing on the long slow trot back to the Aquitaine camp.
Great lines and well taken by Guilhelm.
Aevis, who earlier in the day he had defended, wanted to use him.
thought a lesson would be coming, but hadn’t expected it so soon!
My father… was right… was all he could think.
Yup.
His confidence was shaken, his world turned upside down.
It had to happen, lest he be butchered like a lamb to the slaughter when things get serious. Sad but necessary.
 
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We been hoping for a ruler to bring balance back to the House for ages. G2 brother was killed. Now G3 may be the new hope. But have to see if the world breaks him before his time and he falls into sin like everyone else.
 
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Ooo. We live and learn. And G is not going to the holy land after all. Though the Queen may have to...
The prince learns quite a few lessons here. What he takes from them, we'll see in time.

Yeah, Geoffrey drops it here to his son - though he has yet to break that news to Ælfflæd. I had no intentions of shipping my army to the Holy Lands - especially because the Fatimids likely would have a large army and would force me to call up nearly the entirety of my forces to ship them halfway around the world.

I admit I kind of hoped they would come to Aquitaine - it would have been easy to crush them. But the AI seemed to know it was best to stay out of Aqutaine.

English royalty, the snake pit of Christendom. Doubters, just ask a Viking. King Geoff sounds like a man nearing the end of a long journey rather than a man beginning his prime. Power does age a man rapidly.
These English lords and ladies, especially a certain pair, are snakes rivaling the old Frankish dukes. It seems the fangs come out when the crown is weak - the strength of the Angevins in Aquitaine has blunted a lot of that. As I've gone to write these chapters, I've flipped the console on to see what the English lords were planning and whew... what a crew. And yes, Knud probably would speak ill of them, but who is he to talk? ;)

With Geoffrey and England... as you'll see in the upcoming chapter, it's a stress he resents. There's a bit of "what did you expect?" when we look at it, but Geoffrey's conquests have mostly been simple victories. In that, he wins, hands the lands to the vassal (the Count of Bourbon, Foulquesson, Prince Alias) and then leaves the rest to them. England is the first time Geoffrey has been dragged back into the governing of the lands he conquered... and it's not a happy situation. And I think, for the first time in a while, he's not fully certain of how he should handle any of these people - besides eyeing them all with suspicion. And that includes Ælfflæd.

such a nice chapter!! I did really enjoyed it, and now I see why it has to be from Guilhelm's perspective... It could not be another way... and also like the Realpolitik lesson he got from his future Saxon / Norman vassals...
Thank you! Yeah, there were multiple reasons why it had to be from the prince's perspective: it allows perspective into both sides of Aquitaine/England divide, and it let me present a battle differently than I had before.

Yeah, Guilhem learned a lesson. I don't even know if it was that mean a lesson - I can see Aevis' perspective! She's in a really tough spot and even had she sided with Ælfflæd initially, I'm not sure she can escape the biggest problem for her - her sister. But there's also the truth that none of these lords actually like Ælfflæd. Even Adelise doesn't seem to like the queen, even if she is loyal.

And in that, I feel for Ælfflæd too. Geoffrey, for all his faults, has close confidents who he likes - Berard and many of his maternal cousins. Ælfflæd wants the same... but it may not be possible for her to get.

Guilhem is going to need therapy for anxiety now that he realizes he's inheriting an entire country of people who'd prefer he were dead. I literally laughed at Aveis' gamble on the the demon family's infamous propensity for older women! But she's seriously overestimating herself if she thinks she can measure up to, or surpass, past influential wives, mistresses, and dalliances.

Geoffrey was pretty unflappable despite the English lords' goading. I feel like the Iron Duke or Geoffrey I would have levied a much harsher punishment for an accusation of cravenness, for opposite reasons.
Guilhem was never going to have it easy and this all just adds to the list of things he'll need to get over! The good news for him is that he hopefully should have quite a few years before he has to deal with that hornet's nest. And, unlike his dethroned cousins, he'll likely have a massive army either allied with him, or under his direct control.

Aevis is bold. I like @alscon considering her the next in line of "idiot savants" for lack of a better term. In her case, I imagine Aevis to be quite charming, and a good diplomat but with blindspots. If she had the chance... she might be able to do a lot! Of course, that's a big "if" - she has a lot to overcome to get anywhere near that point.

I think there's a confidence in Geoffrey in that he regards the English lords as more gnats than true rivals. They catch him in a good moment though - he's quite pleased to have notched his first Holy War victory and established himself as "the King who defended England". You'll see next chapter, he's a bit grumpier when it comes time to deal with their disrespect.

I do think you're right that, victory or not, Foulques would have dressed them down. Geoffrey I might well have punished them, but after the fact.

The battle went well, and all the experience Geoffrey has by now acquired in his favoured field really showed there. The Aquitain army might truly be the strongest of Christendom under his leadership, especially with the HRE both excommunicated and splintered all the time.

The Saxon specialty is another, and Guilhem has seen a mere facet of it now. That may help his relationship with his father, seeing him as being the party in the right, but it remains a fact that the snake pit of England hasn't lost its venom under Aquitain dominance. Not at all.


And I do find it fascinating that Aevis is yet another of the Hervé-type characters. By that I mean that they are actually dumb, but highly qualified in one field, which makes them very useful and beloved in Hervé's case and potentially dangerous in Aevis'.
At this point in time... yeah, I don't think there's an army in Christendom that can match Aquitaine. Around the world... the Seljuks probably can... but even that's likely it. But it is worth nothing that would be in a knock-down, no-holds ball, everything thrown into the fray type affair. Geoffrey, at this point, isn't interested in that. Plus it feels like a waste to do that for anything but a big claim. Like, I probably could find reason to fight the HRE, but over a county? It's not really worth it.

I can promise some larger wars are coming though. The 1140s are just one conflict after another.

Guilhem's "lesson" could make him sympathetic toward both parents in a way. He gains understanding toward his father's cynicism toward England, but also sympathy for his mother having to deal with this snake pit. And dread for what awaits him. Ælfflæd has mentioned it to Geoffrey before, but the fact he is disconnected to these English lords and ladies on a personal level will make his responses far colder than hers. And so it goes for Guilhem - even if he knows his father has valid points, he cannot fully free himself from his Saxon/English family. It is not as simple as saying "I will crush them all."

Yep, it's always fun when "stupid" characters can find their way into being very good at one specific area. And Aevis is very good at diplomacy. It's useful, and probably explains why even in game she seems to get along better with Saxon lords than her sister does, despite both being Norman culture. I like to imagine Aevis as very likable, charming and almost irresistible in a way. You can't help but want to be her friend. And she milks it for all that it is worth.

That said, she's not great a lot of things, and it may mean her common sense is lacking. Thus her grandiose plan and utmost faith in her abilities, when she might see there's a limit to how far they can take her.

To be sure, England is very lucky the Queen is technically in control. If G2 was, he has the power, reach and will to just revoke all the current landowner titles and execute/throw them all in prison. And if they try to revolt, they will lose.

Indeed, if G3 comes to power whilst G2 is still alive, he may well push for his son to do that. Or to do it as soon as he has Aquitaine as well.

England may whine, but they are playing a dangerous game. G2 does not need them, and G3 will not need them specifically. If I were Aqutiane, I'd tribute war the HRE, and then use them to turn England into North Aquitaine. Remove all these Lords, good and bad, and replace with occitans. Then convert the whole culture.

G3's other problem is, as ever, the family reputation. If he can learn the lessons of restraint before puberty, perhaps he will act as a restoration of piety in the public view. Surely st some point, one of the House has to try for that.
Oh for sure. If Geoffrey was truly king (I had control,) he'd would be well on the way to remaking the entirety of the kingdom and handing out titles to the royal family. You'll see hints of wanting to essentially provoke them into doing something that allows for that, but Ælfflæd isn't Geoffrey.

Long term, I think the English fear that Occitan dominance of England is an inevitability no matter what action they take - if they remain under Angevin rule. Hence, they are quite angry that Ælfflæd is allowing Guilhem to be raised in Aquitaine. Of course, their behavior is precisely why Geoffrey wouldn't let Guilhem anywhere near them when he was younger, so... it's a catch-22.

That's why Aevis' plan makes sense for her to pitch to the English. And why she might think it's the best available option. If she can essentially get him to view England first ahead of Aquitaine, for whatever reason, there's a chance they can survive. Of course, her plan has already taken a hit because Guilhem's heard it.

Guilhem is learning lessons. But he may not learn *all* the lessons. Remember, his father reprimanded him once because he basically said it was OK to take a mistress... while talking to his grandmother. He was a year and a half younger, but... yeah...

I will say Guilhem takes some... interesting roads. Not all I agree with. There will be periods where you will see Geoffrey voice frustration with his son.

do you imagine in-game terms what that would mean? to revoke all Duchies and some counties? the opinion's handy cup would be just terrifying... and I do not see Guilhelm going such a thing... just being aware of the kind of vassals he has should be more than enough... of course, should he inherit England first... he would be very dependant on his father's armies...
I don't want to spoil the situation when the next change over of power happens in England... but there is a very clear opportunity to revoke land at that point. Interestingly, there is a problem with just revoking lands because it would piss off Aquitaine's lords too. But if you could provoke England into rebellion, the revoking of lands is totally fine, since they're traitors.

Or if you discover plots against you... which disloyal lords tend to jump into in droves. Remember, that's how Geoffrey I snagged Poitou and Saintonge - Patricia refused to back down on a plot to kill him. So he declared her a traitor and seized her lands. So, it wouldn't be as simple as just revoking, but with a good spymaster, it's certainly possible.

Oh at this point, Aqutiane is bulletproof in terms of gameplay. The only reason there will be any struggle is cos of role-playing and lack of cheese. If so desired, tribute all the kingdoms neighbours and have them deal with any revolts so you don't even need to use the Royal army. And once that's set up, none of the vassals matter at all. Most ck2 money now comes from well-developed private family holdings, and tributaries if you have them.

If G2 were so inclined, he could rule over most of europe in a few years just by using the tributary war system. And, going full game cheese for a moment, he can tear England away from the queen and give it to his son himself. After hes stripped all the titles of course, so the kid doesn't have the opinion mallus.
It's an interesting thought. I might try that with my save game that "ends" this story - just to see what might happen. But Tributary wars do get you threat level right? That was a major problem since you can gain threat by inheriting, even if you don't fight to take land. (Which makes sense, but is annoying).

I knew about holdings - though I admit I am trying to role play for this, so I don't maximize it. For example, it would be best if I had Geoffrey divest from some of his northern lands around Angers and Tours, and seize Perigord and Castillion, which are in his capital duchy. But I didn't want to do that because of Geoffrey's relationship with the Perigords, as well as Herve's family holding Castillion.

I didn't even think about tributaries. Again, you're making me think about going down and firing up the save game just to see how broken it is.

There's also another HUGE money-maker now in CK2 as well. Crusades. Win a crusade and take part, and you can get filthy rich. OH and guess what's coming up in a few years! ;) In fact, I'll be blunt, but if you get on good terms with the church, it's kind of broken how much land you can get. Navarra was the start. But it was certainly not the end.

Elf and Geoff are in a no win situation with Guilhem's studies. Send him to Oxford (or Cambridge) and all of Geoff's subjects are upset. Send him to the Sorbonne and all of Elf's subjects are upset. (What is a top uni in Aquitaine region? This would be better choice than Sorbonne (Paris)).
The studies didn't really work out like I'd have liked. I should have taken control of Elf, and assigned him what I wanted. But I left it, which... meh. Not everyone can end up Shrewd like Geoffrey II.

But yeah, there's no great solution. Once Guilhem is 12, he's locked into Occitan culture, but I don't want him leaving Geoffrey until he's of age to keep him safe. So... the English will just have to suffer the penalty.

Bologna. So everyone is unhappy, and the papacy gets him instead.
HA. You know, this is funny in hindsight, based on future events of this story. Indirectly, it kind of proves... true? (VERY indirectly). I'll say someone Guilhem knows quite well finds his way to becoming very close to papacy by the end of the story. He's not there yet at the end, but if he lives long enough, he's basically guaranteed to end up pope eventually.

Fantastic chapter, especially with Guilhem learning some hard lessons about the nature of his mother's vassals., and how they will smile nicely while seeking to plunge a dagger in his back... Aevis's design's on Guilhem are especially worrying, given that she may seek to make him a puppet, or get an heir from him, and then dispose of him at her convenience......
That last part... chills down the spine. Aevis certainly wishes to make him a puppet, or at least malleable to her. A lot of her plans might still result in Guilhem (and the Angevins) getting what they want... but what happens when their interests diverge?

Well it could be that last thought!

Another fine installment. The battle scene read very well, and I enjoyed it.

Geoffrey may not be as silver tongued as his father, but he has enough. However, when you throw in his military talent and confidence, I feel he is far more formidable than his father and perhaps the Iron Duke. The English lords are fools if they think they can manipulate him into falling into their schemes easily.

Guilhem, as his father stated, is truly lucky to have his father to guide him. After his experience in the English camp I think he will listen more to his father’s advice.

The English Lords have no idea what they are up against when it comes to Geoffrey and his family and followers.
Thank you! I really wanted a different style. Originally, I wrote it from Ælfflæd's perspective, but I didn't like it. Guilhem proved a better vessel for this.

As a * gameplay character* - Geoffrey II probably is better than both his grandfather and father. He has shrewd, giving him that sweet boost (and it makes it more likely he can pass that +2 to all stats on). His stewardship is not bad, his martial is top notch and his intrigue is also quite good. So he's hard to kill in battle and out of it. He is Foulques-like in that regard, but the shrewd trait makes him better.

In story, he's got traits of both, but I think there's a cynicism (despite him having the zealous trait) that tinges him more toward his father's camp in his view of the world. Foulques wanted to restore his family and be the biggest vassal in the kingdom. He wanted freedom through strength. But he never wanted to be king. And he rarely dealt with vassals.

Geoffrey clearly does have regal desires, and arguably Imperial dreams. In fact, I think this chapter is actually one of the first times it's clearly stated. In some ways, it's kind of a blink or you'll miss it line too. But it's in this bit:

“And murdered your uncle,” Geoffrey said. “And then forced his son, your cousin, from the throne. These lords and ladies are snakes - not interested in Christendom beyond how it will help them grow more powerful. They care nothing for your family’s legacy.”

“Could someone not say the same of you?” Guilhem demanded.

“They already do,” Geoffrey said. “And they are right in that I care nothing for that legacy. I will bring a new dawn to Christendom, to be sure. But I will do it in my own way, and not follow in the footsteps of a man who’s ego walked him straight into the mouth of the heathen scourge.”
Right there, Geoffrey's actually said it. He's got designs on remaking Christendom, and more plainly, England, Aquitaine and possibly more - Iberia and the rest of Francia have been on his radar.

It doesn't mean he'll succeed - but he clearly is dreaming of expanding his influence over even more than he has now.

Guilhem is lucky in one sense - he has a father who wants to guide him, which is something that Geoffrey II somewhat lacked. (And Geoffrey I, in a way, though that was his own choice). But he also has a mother who wants to teach him too, and sometimes those lessons might well conflict.

You are right - England has not fully grasped what they're in for. And why should they? After all, they've been tossing out invaders since the 9th century in this story, the Danes, the Normans, fighting back heathens... why wouldn't the Angevins be next?

He’s going to need some objects lessons to drive this home. Ones that don’t kill him. Dad telling him will never be enough by itself.
A bit gruff here, but one of the smarter things Geoff has said and done.
Great lines and well taken by Guilhelm.
thought a lesson would be coming, but hadn’t expected it so soon!
Yup.
It had to happen, lest be be butchered like a lamb to the slaughter when things get serious. Sad but necessary.
The lessons have begun, but they probably won't stop. And even here, his father's advice is met with reluctance and resistance. He might admit his father is right... but doesn't mean he can't try to work around that.

This chapter was a touch different in that I think I revealed bits of Geoffrey's personality/thoughts that I haven't shared a lot even in his head. We've seen hints of certain things... like when he complained about his father's Rome obsession upon seeing the city, but it's more plainly stated here. Geoffrey II's come to think his father didn't think much of him. Which... unlike Foulques/Geoffrey I... wasn't quite true. It's more that Geoffrey I was a control freak who barely trusted anyone to carry on his legacy. But Geoffrey II doesn't really understand that, so it comes out here, like that.

As I noted, there will be other moments for the Angevins young'ins to learn. But this is an important one for the prince.

We been hoping for a ruler to bring balance back to the House for ages. G2 brother was killed. Now G3 may be the new hope. But have to see if the world breaks him before his time and he falls into sin like everyone else.
Yeah, things do change a bit before the next Angevin inherits. And the circumstances at the time make it... kind of wild. Fortuitous? Tragic? I'm not sure the words I'd describe it.

To all - Glad this chapter was enjoyable. It provided a perspective necessary to get the different views out there and move us forward. The battle was weird because of the AI pulling characters in and out of battles. I had a save file right prior to the battle, and tested to see what happened and that time the Caliph was leading a flank. So... go figure. Also Geoffrey won that battle with an even greater disparity of casualties, so maybe it's better for the heathens that the Caliph high-tailed it prior to the battle. (Though he's still in England - I have a save file from later, and that crown is clearly visible with the army)

The political stuff is based somewhat off what I can see with the game at this point, but as noted above, I did peek in with the console to see the plots that were running. That was after the fact - my game "completed" to what I deemed satisfaction for the story. It's mainly to provide context to the English characters actions, as I don't have as much "access" to them with Geoffrey as I do his vassals. But the English are plotting. And there is at least one faction against the queen.

Some of that will come to light next chapter! That chapter is written but is being edited. It may go up late tonight, but if not, I'll aim for Thursday or Friday.

Also, a random question related to this story. If I were to try to turn this into a novel one day based somewhat on this story, which character's story do you all think translates best to a standalone work that's removed from the setting of France/Aquitaine/England and more generic medieval style kingdom?

Thanks as always for your comments, questions and feedback! It remains greatly appreciated... and in the spirit of the season (at least in the US), I am thankful for each and every one of you! If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Stay safe!
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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But Tributary wars do get you threat level right?
Not that I can remember. Miniscule amounts if it is. And doesn't really matter because, as covered, you can dominate everyone around you with tributary wars and then get them to clean up your messes and wars for you (to the point that as Brittany doing a challenge map, I let the HRE clean up everything I ever got involved with, aggressively and defensively).
 
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Even though I am a big fan of King Geoffrey and a foe of the Tin Duke, I would choose Agnes. She observed and participated from early Tin Duke to early King Geoff. Her battlefield exploits rank with her father and brother. May everyone be happy and healthy.
 

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Duke Foulques, though I would think you could write a Trilogy...
 
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Not that I can remember. Miniscule amounts if it is. And doesn't really matter because, as covered, you can dominate everyone around you with tributary wars and then get them to clean up your messes and wars for you (to the point that as Brittany doing a challenge map, I let the HRE clean up everything I ever got involved with, aggressively and defensively).
Nice. I tried playing around with it briefly yesterday and I made the HRE my tributary. It did not look like it did a whole lot to threat as you say. Just to be clear, it's Tributary and not Tributary state, right, since the game says you can't call in Trib states to your wars?

Still I imagine you could basically run roughshod over your region even if you don't have them with you, since if you get rid of the powerful countries, you can dare the AI to beat you by throwing their small state swarm at you. And if you merc up, you can just DOW small states, crush their army and rapidly siege down before they can respond.

I personally think Foulques(The Iron Duke's) story would make a great standalone..
Foulques makes a lot of sense. If this were straight historical fiction, diverging into a what-if, that would make the most sense to start.

Even though I am a big fan of King Geoffrey and a foe of the Tin Duke, I would choose Agnes. She observed and participated from early Tin Duke to early King Geoff. Her battlefield exploits rank with her father and brother. May everyone be happy and healthy.
Interesting! Agnes perspective might make for an interesting story, especially since, as you say, she covers a whole lot of the characters! And she did do quite a bit.

Thanks a lot for your well wishes!

Duke Foulques, though I would think you could write a Trilogy...
I think you should always lead with your most compelling story. If the best story is the last one, go with that and tell the others a prequels. But if Duke Foulques is the best character, then I'd start with him and see where we ended up. Thanks for your input!

To all, the next chapter follows shortly. Hope you all enjoy. And again to my American readers, hope you had a happy and safe Thanksgiving! And anyone else who has input on what character would make for the most compelling place to be begin if I tried to adapt this, feel free to let me know!
 
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Chapter 272 - June 1139

JabberJock14

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Before Plantagenet - Chapter 272
June 1139 - Lydford, Kingdom of England

I hate it here.

Geoffrey d’Anjou leaned to the side of his throne in the main hall of the keep in Lydford, his head resting on his left fist. Seated by his side was his wife, Queen Ælfflæd. They were both on a very crowded dais, as his councilors present, Berard and Duke Adhemar, stood to his left side, and Ælfflæd’s entire council was positioned to her right. Also on the dais was Prince Guilhem on his father's side.

Before them in the hall was a crowded gallery for the king and queen’s first court since they had retaken Lydford in the month before. Geoffrey’s siege of the burh was easier than his first, as the fleeing heathens left only a token force in Lydford. They had surrendered within a few weeks, with no hope of surviving an assault.

Their delay had likely been to buy time for the Caliph and the combined Fatimid and Acre forces to put distance between themselves and the Aquitaine army. Little did they know Geoffrey didn’t intend much of a pursuit anyway.

Ideally, they might have run into opposition from some English lords - most of whom could muster enough men to battle the fleeing heathens. But none did, confirming Geoffrey’s disdain for a group of lords who expected him to do all the work in a war fought for their benefit.

And coming forth now before the court was the woman who, in the king’s mind, symbolized a group of lords and ladies who received leniency from him and yet thought they were entitled to so much more.

“Presenting Duchess Ecgwyn of Cornwall,” Duke Osmund announced.

Duchess Ecgwyn had grown since he’d last seen her, not surprising since she was not a full woman then. She was now, 18 years of age, a ruling lady in her own right and a mother of a nearly year-old child.

The former queen of the English perhaps should have been cowed by the presence of those who bested her. But she did not show it, instead coming forth with an apparent fire in her eyes and heat in her cheeks. Her bow was slight - only just enough to be noticed. But her eyes never left the royals. Geoffrey met her gaze, to let her know her contempt for him was mutual.

It was probably for the best that Ælfflæd was the one who began the conversation.

“Lady Ecgwyn,” the queen said, “We are pleased to see you have finally joined us in Lydford. You are the last of the dukes and duchesses to do so.”

It was true. Most had come by the Battle of Lydford a month and a half before. Duchess Maud was the most recent arrival, a few weeks before. Most had remained around the burh or within a few days travel.

Ecgwyn’s home of Tintagel was only a long day of travel, or two average ones, away from Lydford so she had no need to remain. But she had not visited with the king and queen at all, making her the only one of England’s prominent lords who had not greeted Geoffrey since his return to battle the heathen threat.

“I had pressing business,” Ecgwyn said. “My son required me close by.”

“A common excuse,” Adelise, who stood closest to Ælfflæd among the English lords and ladies, blurted out. The queen turned to her, narrowing her gaze. The Duchess of Mercia lowered her head in reply.

“I understand the difficulty in leaving children behind,” Ælfflæd said, looking back to Ecgwyn. “As I have had to do so quite often in recent years. But we are not far. Surely a few days away would not have been too much trouble.”

“My son was ill,” Ecgwyn said.

There were a few gasps, but Geoffrey was unmoved, rolling his eyes. If these lords and ladies had as many soldiers as they do excuses for their disrespect, I would have never been able to conquer them!

“Ah,” Ælfflæd said. “That explains it. I pray he is on the mend.”

“He is my lady,” Ecgwyn said. “Thank you for your concern.”

“Your queen,” Ælfflæd added. “I am your queen.”

Ecgwyn gave the slightest of nods. At that, Geoffrey could not hold his frustration any longer.

“Have you some business before the court?” he demanded. “Or just come to pay the basest of respects to your king and queen?”

Ecgwyn turned her glare toward him. “I do have business. It concerns my lands and your men.”

The Aquitaine army was mostly located in and around Devon, but Geoffrey had allowed groups to move into Somerset and Cornwall in order to find and purchase supplies for his army.

“What of them?” Ælfflæd asked.

“They have been terrorizing my lands,” Ecgwyn said. “Demanding food. Raiding stores like thieves. If this continues my people will be left to starve!”

Geoffrey tilted his head slightly, looking toward Berard. “Is there any truth to this?”

Berard leaned in and whispered. “I don’t know. Soldiers can get unruly. But without claims… I can’t speak to it. Or ask the commanders.”

Geoffrey looked to Ecgwyn. “Have you any specific claims of such an action.”

“I’ve heard of such things happening across the county,” Ecgwyn said.

“Do you not hold a court of your own?” Geoffrey snapped. “Like we are doing here? So that those who have reason to petition the court can do so?”

“I do…” Ecgwyn said.

“And did anyone bring such complaints to you?” Geoffrey demanded.

“Some… merchants,” Ecgwyn said.

Adhemar stepped forward. “We have dealt with matters similar when it comes to merchant complaints in Somerset. The duke can speak to our arrangements there. If these merchants petition us, we can arrange a fair compensation with them.”

“Duke Æthelsige,” Ælfflæd added. “Can you vouch for Duke Adhemar’s claim?”

The Duke of Somerset stepped forward and slowly nodded. “We have come to agreements, yes.”

It was not a glowing endorsement. Geoffrey knew the duke thought his merchants had not been fairly compensated, with the amounts the crown agreed to pay being too little in his estimation. But he stomached it, as the merchants did, for the alternative was they got nothing from a crown who had a limited tolerance for negotiation in these circumstances.

“There you have it, Lady Ecgwyn,” Geoffrey said. “Now is that all?”

“No,” Ecgwyn said. “Given that soldiers also cause problems in other ways… I would like them removed from my lands.”

Geoffrey straightened up and fixed his glare upon the duchess. The nerve of this girl…

But Ælfflæd spoke first. “Lady Ecgwyn, those men drove off the heathens just a few miles from where we hold court today. They have defended England, which includes Cornwall.”

“They have, but they are foreign men,” Ecgwyn said. “They are understandably welcome in Lydford. But I am not the wife of the King of Aquitaine. I have no use for them in Cornwall, where there are no heathens.”

“And why do you think that is?” Geoffrey demanded. “Do you think they would not have turned on your lands next? Do you think they fled north, where disease runs rampant, and not west, where it does not, because Cornwall is so well defended?”

Ecgwyn eyed the king. “I do not profess to know what the heathens think. I do wish my people to not have to worry about your men taking their food, beating their men and raping the women.”

Geoffrey grunted. He’d heard enough of all of these lords questioning his choices. And Ecgwyn was the worst - he could have locked her in a tower in Bordeaux when he took England. The fact she only had some 600 men she could call upon made it insulting.

“You wish my men to leave?” Geoffrey demanded. “So be it. They will leave, permanently. And I will announce it far and wide, and state that adventurers, brigands or whoever else arrive to pillage, need not fear Aquitaine’s reprisal.”

“That is a violation of your oaths,” Ecgwyn argued.

“No, I offer my troops for your protection,” Geoffrey said. “You insist on refusing them. You do not get to choose when my men are in your lands. It is all or nothing. I do not settle for anything in between.”

“My father would not…” Ecgwyn started.

“Your father is dead,” Geoffrey snapped. “And I will not be lectured from the grave by a man who usurped the throne from the family who defended God’s will and the Cross in the Holy Lands.”

Ecgwyn’s lips trembled, her face turning beet red. Her gaze suddenly switched to Ælfflæd.

“Lady Ælfflæd,” she said. “Does he speak for you?”

Ælfflæd narrowed her gaze. “Queen Ælfflæd.”
Ecgwyn then lowered her head. “Yes… my queen.”

“We have been lenient,” Ælfflæd began, “out of respect to the friendship your father and I had, even if he showed no such courtesy when it came to dealing with my family. But you test us. Please do not any further. For your sake.”

Geoffrey didn’t care much for this outreach. The only reason Ecgwyn wasn’t imprisoned was because it would have looked tyrannical to do so. But at this point, she was an annoyance at best and potential thorn in his family’s side at worst. He would almost prefer to provoke her into a mistake that would give him the opportunity to be done with her once and for all.

“What is your decision?” Geoffrey demanded. “Am I to remove my men permanently and leave your 600 men to defeat all comers?”

Ecgwyn lowered her head before shaking it. “My business is done.”

She did not thank the king or queen for their time, but that was hardly a surprise. Geoffrey watched her go, still annoyed, and still ready to unleash the might of Aquitaine on her.

“Are there any other petitions before the court?” Ælfflæd asked.

Duke Osmund then stepped forward from the dais. “I have a matter, my queen.”

The Duke of Kent made his way in front of the king and queen and then bowed before them, despite his earlier presence on the dais. Geoffrey eased back on his throne, returning to his relaxed position. Annoyed as he was, he knew this business would be simple.

“My son and heir is to be wed to Hextilda of Somerset,” Osmund said. “We request the king and queen officially sanction the union before it proceeds next year.”
Geoffrey looked at the duke. “We? I see one of you, Duke Osmund.”

“We, meaning my son, Ælfsige, Duke Æthelsige of Somerset, and Lady Hextilda,” Osmund said.

Geoffrey glanced past Ælfflæd. “Lord Somerset. You are here? Why not make the petition as well?”

He was being pedantic. This petition had been agreed upon already, and there would be no objection, since the betrothal had long been agreed upon. It was more to show the prospective power of the crown, which Osmund was in more favor of than Somerset.

It showed, since Geoffrey had expected both lords to petition him, rather than only the Duke of Kent. In the king’s mind, it was another insult from these unruly lords.

“We thought that only one lord was required,” Somerset said. “The groom’s father.”

Ælfflæd touched her hand to Geoffrey. “That is quite fine, Lord Æthelsige.”

Geoffrey didn’t think it was fine at all. But he also did not feel like overruling his wife over the matter, even if he wanted to. So he’d settle for something else.

“Are the bride and groom present?” Geoffrey asked.

Young Ælfsige and Lady Hextilda came forth from the gallery. Both bowed in a more expected manner than Ecgwyn had. Again it was not surprising - Hextilda was Ælfflæd’s first cousin and sister to Duchesses Adelise and Aevis while Ælfsige, also first cousin to Ælfflæd and the duchesses, had been pleased to earn the king’s praise for his conduct in the melee against Prince Guilhem.

“Both of you have agreed to the union?” Geoffrey asked. When they nodded, he turned to Ælfflæd. “Have you any complaints?”

“I do not,” Ælfflæd said. She rose from the throne and descended the dais to embrace both of them. “I look forward to being present when you are wed. It shall be a joyous celebration.”

The pair smiled, as did Duke Osmund, before Ælfflæd returned to the throne.

That business concluded, the remainder of the court was petitions involving more minor things - people asking for aid after the heathen invasion, complaints over price gouging of merchants while the town was besieged along with other more basic matters from the county.

Geoffrey and Ælfflæd were generous in those financial matters, providing restitution and charity to most who asked for it. That was always the plan, since it was a way for them to appear kind and dutiful to the populace, rather than neglectful and foolish leading them into this war.

Not that I led them into this, Geoffrey thought again. But once more I must play the role of savior.

Once all of the petitions were heard, court was ended, and Geoffrey rose from the throne, done with this for the day. He never loved court, even Bordeaux. But Lydford added the extra annoyance knowing these were not his people, symbolized by the need for translations - if the person was not among the upper class, usually a noble or merchant - they usually only spoke Saxon or Cornish.

That meant Duke Osmund was left to translate for the king, and if they spoke Cornish, the queen as well. It meant he was relying on a man he didn’t fully trust, especially since Osmund was a drunkard, to make certain he understood what these people were telling him. And then he was trusting this man to make sure his proclamations were properly understood.

It was another level of stress that Geoffrey did not need.

The king made his way up to the solar with his advisors, which more cramped than the command tent had been. It was about as large and added the king and queen’s younger children to the mix. He missed the space he could have in Bordeaux, especially from his wife.

Granted, he had not wanted Ælfflæd out of his sight, but it had become almost literal while in Lydford.

They were constantly up in one another’s business as Lydford was tiny compared to Bordeaux. They had to share the solar for private affairs or closed meetings with their councilors. It meant Geoffrey rarely missed out on an English council meeting, even if he mostly sat in silence over the minutiae of domestic affairs he did not care much for.

But it also meant Ælfflæd heard any business for him. That included when he’d receive periodic visits from councilors - Duke Adhemar from Normandy most frequently, as well as Bishop Edouard once to update him on the situation in Rome following the death of Pope Urbanus, the former Cardinal Nicola.

But mostly, it would be if he discussed business with Berard. While he could leave the keep to talk with him, it was an inconvenience he never dealt with in Bordeaux. And he could not always escape before he was chased down by someone.

This time, it was Ælfflæd herself, as the king went to the solar to change into his riding clothes.

“Was that really necessary?” Ælfflæd demanded, with Adelise by her side.

Geoffrey brow arched. “What exactly was unnecessary? What are you even upset about?”

“Somerset,” Ælfflæd replied. “He is one of the leading lords of the realm and stepfather to two duchesses. Yet you attempted to humiliate him in front of the whole court.”

Geoffrey rolled his eyes. “Your lords need more respect. And considering he thinks of me and my family as demons, he should be more fearful of me unleashing fire upon him.”

Ælfflæd shook her head. “It’s like you want to drive them to the arms of our enemies.”

“Somerset is among our enemies,” Geoffrey said. “Nothing I say will change that. Or do you not trust our son’s word?”

“I don’t doubt Guilhem,” Ælfflæd said. “But he said Æthelsige feared subjugation and he was hesitant to back Aevis’ machinations. That shows he can still be turned.”

“You remain far too forgiving to disloyal lords,” Geoffrey told her. “You still court Aevis despite what you now know.”

“They may not be loyal but they may not want to fight,” Ælfflæd said. “Our son’s word proves this. They have far more incentive to grumble but accept us. But if you belittle and abuse them, then their pride alone will cause them to strike their banners against us!”

Geoffrey crossed his arms and glanced toward Adhemar and Berard. When they said nothing, he retorted. “They will do so when they have the opportunity. I do not want to babysit England forever.”

“If I might suggest binding them,” Adelise said. “Marriage of young Margo to one of Hlothere’s sons. Perhaps Prince Geoffrey to a daughter of Duchess Maud.”

Geoffrey eyed the duchess. “And Guilhem to your daughter.”

Adelise smiled, her cheeks reddening. “That would be an honor, if you would consider it."

Given his lack of trust of Adelise, he really did not want to consider it. But Adhemar, who had been talking to Adelise far more than Geoffrey had, apparently did not share the same reservations.

“There is some merit in it,” Adhemar said. “Peeling off the English lords. If we have Hlothere, the Duchess, Osmund, and then one more? Who would be left to rebel?”

“I agree,” Berard added. “If it is just a third of England, we would not even need our full forces to put it down.”

“Extra protection then,” Geoffrey said as he stroked his chin. “In case they wait until we are occupied elsewhere.”

Ælfflæd and Adelise nodded. Berard and Adhenar joined them as well, leaving Geoffrey to sigh. Sometimes he really did prefer to just crush England’s lords - confident that they could not beat him.

Yes, they had defeated the heathens in the Crusade, but the Sicilians had provided their knights. Without them, as they had been ever since, England could not hope to stand against a strong enemy. And who was stronger than Aquitaine?

But war in England meant delaying any further ambitions he might have. Or inspire his uncle or cousin back home to get a bit more aggressive.

They had largely been pacified at the moment. Geoffrey’s cousin turned brother-by-law Simon was still dealing with rebels in Toulouse - rebels who held an advantage at the moment. Simon’s father remained out of the conflict, likely at his son’s request, since the fight was to keep Toulouse and Poitou separated in inheritance.

But while the Duke of Poitou remained out of the Toulouse conflict he lacked the strength to make any real challenge to Geoffrey. And since recent matters had no real requirement of council input, and Geoffrey had not been in Bordeaux much over the past few years, they had largely stayed out of each other’s way.





Brittany was strangely, shrouded in the most mystery. Geoffrey didn’t expect that, since he had the most contact with the duchy, as some of his army’s supplies were coming from there.

But he had no contact with his uncle Foulquesson directly. When he’d been in Brittany, he’d seen the duke briefly, but Foulquesson had retired to another manor, with his son Ancel claiming he was not in the best of health. Given Foulquesson’s leprosy, Geoffrey thought the end might be near for him.

And yet, Geoffrey had received mixed messages on that. His spies said Foulquesson did not seem near death. But if he wasn’t, why didn’t he demand to join Geoffrey’s campaign? Not that Geoffrey missed him - it just seemed odd.

But with Ancel controlling messages in and out, Geoffrey could only guess. Or ask his cousin, but the king found his explanations of Foulquesson’s health keeping him out of combat lacking.



Regardless, there was nothing he could do but watch. Thus, Geoffrey had to consider keeping himself out of any prolonged conflicts in England, no matter how annoying these disrespectful lords were.

And besides, agreeing now meant little and got him out of Lydford faster to clear his head.

….

But Geoffrey’s quick escape from Lydford was not total - Ælfflæd and Adhemar both agreed it might be beneficial for Duke Hlothere to accompany Geoffrey on his ride with his commanders.

The king loathed to accept as these were his chances to get away and given court, it promised extra relief today. But Geoffrey agreed, demanding Adhemar essentially baby-sit the duke, and only allowing Hlothere a couple of his personal huscarls for protection.

It proved little respite, however, as the day was cloudy and dreary, while Hlothere seemed to want to get Geoffrey’s attention, like a child trying to impress his father with all he knew. And in doing so, Geoffrey became convinced that amounted to very little.

Hlothere attempted to speak to his knowledge of the area, but it was flimsy - Geoffrey knew as much thanks to his men scouting prior to the battle. And when he tried to discuss military matters, Geoffrey and the commanders were amazed at how little the man knew of tactics.

It was enough that by the end of the ride, Geoffrey decided his respite had been anything but. So he decided to take a longer sojourn, traveling to the manor to the south, using the excuse of escorting Adhemar part of the way back to the coast. The king made sure to leave Hlothere in Lydford, along with Knud to keep an eye on things.

That night, Geoffrey enjoyed supper with Adhemar, Berard, Rogier, Prince Guilhem and Savarics. Able to eat without the queen or any English lords for the first time in quite a while, Geoffrey toasted the small group.

“Perhaps I should set up my own court here,” Geoffrey said as he sipped his drink.

“That would be unwise,” Adhemar warned. “It is better for you to be a presence - so that the English lords grow used to you as their king.”

Geoffrey just eyed his uncle after that, very glad he would be leaving for Normandy at first light.



But despite the king’s wishes, if he would not come to the English, they would come to him.

The next morning he was roused from his sleep by Berard, to inform him of a somewhat surprising visitor - Duchess Aevis of Lancaster. While he normally could care little for what Aevis had to say, Geoffrey’s interest was piqued enough not to send the duchess away. After all, normally the English lords and ladies preferred to meet with Ælfflæd, so this was a change.

Throwing a maid he’d taken for the night from his bed, Geoffrey quickly readied himself to meet his visitor. He also sent the prince and Savarics to the yard with Rogier to practice their swordplay. Once he was ready and the room was prepared, Geoffrey summoned Berard to join him, since Adhemar was already gone, and then allowed Aevis entry.

“My king,” she said as she bowed.

Geoffrey nodded and offered her a seat along with some wine. She took a sip and smiled.

“I do enjoy your wines from Bordeaux,” Aevis said. “The sweetness is delightful.”

Geoffrey’s brow rose, and he glanced back at Berard, suspecting she was being overly complimentary. Geoffrey nonetheless replied: “It’s good to hear someone here has refined tastes. I had begun to worry ale is the only thing drunk on this island.”

“It is popular with the Saxon lords and ladies,” Aevis said. “But some of it is obstinance. They like wine… but it was a symbol of my great-grandfather, so they refuse to partake in public. Privately, I can tell you many enjoy it.”

“But they lack the backbone to admit it in public?” Geoffrey scoffed. “That does not fill me with confidence.”

“They can be worked on, my king,” Aevis said. “They can be won over.”

“So I’ve been told,” Geoffrey said. “Now then, what is it that you wished to discuss with me… that you did not wish to in front of your sister and your cousin, the queen?”

“It is not something for court ears,” Aevis said. “And while… I love my cousin like a sister, I know this is a matter in which you have the ultimate say.”

Geoffrey brought his fist under his chin to prop up his head. “You have my attention.”

“It concerns your son,” Aevis said. “Prince Guilhem. As well as the future of Lancaster, if not the whole of the midlands.”

“Go on,” Geoffrey said.

“As you may know, my husband… is not exactly a young man,” Aevis said. “He is not in the best of health.”

“My condolences,” Geoffrey said. “Pass along my regards.”

“Thank you, your majesty,” Aevis said. “But there is a matter of what happens when… the inevitable comes.”

“It is a little premature to discuss such things, no?” Geoffrey asked.

“When you are a duchess with only two young girls as your heirs, you must always keep one eye on the future,” Aevis said. “If I am not careful, Lancaster will be taken from me - if not by my sister, then by an unscrupulous lord who sees me and my daughters as ripe fruit to be plucked.”

“How does your plan involve me?” Geoffrey asked.

“I look to ensure the future beyond by gaining a good marriage partner,” Aevis said. “The dowry for such an alliance… the Duchy of Lancaster.”

Geoffrey’s eyes widened. Glancing at Berard, he saw his friend shared that reaction.

“So Lancaster…” Geoffrey said. “It is interesting. What say you, Berard? Think Savarics would make a good Duke of Lancaster?”

Berard’s brow rose and Aevis blushed.

“Savarics?” she asked. “Is that your son, Sir Berard?”

“He is,” Berard said. “A boy of nine years.”

“Ah, that makes sense,” Aevis said. “And I would not rule such a union out. But… forgive me my king, I may not have been clear enough in what I propose. I was referring to a more immediate option, as my daughters are many years away from being of age.”

Geoffrey eyed her. “Yourself?”

Aevis nodded. “I would offer myself as a wife for your son. I would be ready to become his wife as soon as he came of age in four and a half years.”

“You speak as if your husband is already in the ground,” Geoffrey said. “But he is not.”

“He will not live another five years,” Aevis said. “And as I said, I cannot wait until he is no longer with us. By then, arranging my future will be far too late. I am a duchess. There is too much at stake.”

“So too is my son’s future,” Geoffrey said. “As well as the realm’s. And you would be… how many years when my son is of age?”

“The important part of this is that I would be young enough to produce more children,” Aevis said. “And--”

How old?” Geoffrey demanded.

“About… 30 years,” Aevis said.

“Nearly twice his age!” Geoffrey exclaimed. “You see the problem here, no?”

“The problem is entirely my husband,” Aevis said. “He is old and not capable of fulfilling his responsibilities. I am not only quite capable of having children, I was able to carry and safely birth twins. It is clear the problem is not me.”

“But will that be the case in five years?” Geoffrey wondered.

“Your family has never shied away from such things,” Aevis said. “Obviously you have a wife who is older. And I know your grandfather’s first wife… your grandmother was much older than I would be. And it proved no hindrance to him. Then there is the fact your son would become Duke of Lancaster… your grandson in his own right!”

Geoffrey stroked his chin as that was not lost on him.

“And there might be more,” Aevis said. “It is no secret my sister covets Lancaster and works to take it from me. But with your help I could not only beat her back, but take Mercia as well. Think on that - your family could have the whole of the midlands in your hands. Given Adelise has four sons, such a thing would not be possible if your son marries my niece Avelina.”

Geoffrey nodded. “You offer quite a lot.”

“It will not be easy to fulfill on my own,” Aevis admitted. “But with your help… we would be successful.”

“You have given me much to consider,” Geoffrey told her. “And consider it I will. As my son is still a few years away from coming of age… we can wait until we find the best possible candidate. What you have spoken of… is quite promising.”

Aevis grinned. “Thank you my king. I know that together, we can forge an England and Aquitaine that will stand as the envy of all of Christendom.”

She stood and bowed. Geoffrey acknowledged her with a nod and watched her leave the chamber, the door closing behind. He eyed where she stood, his fingers rapping in the table before him.

“Well,” he said, turning to Berard, “that was something.”

“Nothing we didn’t already know,” Berard said. “Given what the prince told us.”

“Yes,” Geoffrey said. “But it is still different to hear it spoken from her own mouth.”

“She laid it on thick,” Berard said. “I assume you were just humoring her.”

Geoffrey shook his head. “I have to consider it. My son holding the midlands would all but end English resistance.”

“She doesn’t hold the midlands,” Berard noted. “Adelise is the one who holds most of it. She is already on our side, and it has not lessened our fears of a rebellion. ”

“But Aevis is right,” Geoffrey said. “She could hold the midlands with our help. Adelise may well gain the whole of the midlands as well… but it will eventually go to her sons… not to my son or his children.”

“Adelise has been loyal,” Berard said.

“Adelise is a snake,” Geoffrey said. “She has offered to murder a child. Her loyalties are to herself and no one else. She would betray us in a heartbeat if she saw an opportunity to further herself.”

“And Aevis will not?” Berard asked. “She has only supported the queen when it is beneficial to her. And you know she hopes to turn the prince against you.”

“My son is stubborn and not easily turned, especially since he knows her plans,” Geoffrey said. “And I can exert leverage on her far more than I can Adelise. She cannot stand on her own. Adelise can.”

“And when Aevis gets control of the midlands, as she desires?” Berard asked.

“Then she would be married to my son… and hopefully birthed him a son, if not more,” Geoffrey said.

Berard shifted in place and crossed his arms. “It is optimistic. Especially since your son might well be surrounded by her people from Lancaster. That would not bode well for his safety.”

“I can keep my son out of Lancaster,” Geoffrey said. “And keep Aevis here, if need be.”

“It’s a risk,” Berard said. “With your son no less.”

“It is,” Geoffrey conceded. “But I cannot dismiss it. None of the other prospects in England give us the potential to gain such a large foothold. As I said though, I make no plans to agree to a marriage yet. I keep my options open.”

“And I say there are better ones,” Berard said. “There are more immediate marriages to be made that can do far more politically. There are also other ways to expand your holdings. Most of the lords and ladies have daughters who could make for fine wives for the prince.”

“You are aligning with Adelise,” Geoffrey said. “Why?”

“Because for all her flaws,” Berard began, “and they are legion, she has been your wife’s most clear supporter. Remember they all aligned against her - only Adelise offered tacit support. We might have won without her… but it would have been harder.”

Geoffrey leaned back and sighed. He knew Berard was right. Adelise was not trustworthy, but none of these English were. She had been with them the longest… though he also was suspicious of the influence she seemed to have over his wife.

“I am not agreeing to anything,” Geoffrey said. “I will wait and see. The situation will likely change soon enough. Perhaps our options shall become clearer then.”

“By God’s will,” Berard said as he crossed himself.

….

News of the literal manifestation of God’s will, however, was on its way.

After the rise of Cardinal Nicola a few years ago, Geoffrey had authorized Prince-Bishop Emmanuel to travel to Rome immediately in the event of a future papal death led to an election for the new pontifex. The king figured it would be good to see where he would stand with the new Holy Father - and it might be useful to have Aquitaine’s highest ranking ecclesiastical representative there to give input on the proceedings, even if he was not a cardinal.

Emmanuel was now on his way to England, having wrapped up those proceedings. News had already reached Geoffrey of the rise of the new pope, but the king knew little of him. So the prince-bishop was coming to fill in the gaps in his knowledge.

Again wanting to be away from Ælfflæd and her lords when he met with Emmanuel, he returned to the manor a week later. Geoffrey felt even better about his decision when he learned Emmanuel was not alone - he was joined by the king’s cousin, Bishop Edouard, while Adhemar was also coming back with them. In addition, Rogier and Prince Guilhem rode down to join them.

Emmanuel arrived mid-morning, with the king and Berard standing at the entrance of the manor to greet them - a courtesy not normally given to most guests. But councilors who each carried an impressive title were always going to have an exception made for them.

Geoffrey and Berard welcomed each of the men warmly, with the king meeting his cousin Edouard with a kiss to the cheek as well as an embrace - an action repeated by Edouard and Rogier, who were half-brothers. Then the group made their way to a table in the main hall, which was fully stocked by the servants with bread, wine and fish.

“Thank you for your hospitality, King Geoffrey,” Emmanuel said. “I am glad you all look well. And Prince Guilhem, you look more a man each time I see you.”
The prince blushed. “Thank you.”

Geoffrey ran his hands through his son’s hair. “He saw his first battle in person when we won at Lydford. And won a melee against one of his Saxon cousins. My boy comes along nicely.”

Emmanuel and Edouard smiled, with the prince-bishop replying. “Fine news indeed.”

They began to eat and drink and Geoffrey continued with the pleasantries. “I trust your journeys treated you well. Especially you, Emmanuel. I know it could not have been easy to go from Bordeaux to Rome and then here to England.”

“Traveling through Italy is harder these days, but one of the blessings of your family is the ease at which one can travel through Aquitaine,” Emmanuel said. “As long as one travels during the day, the roads are quite safe. It did take us longer rather than cutting through the lands of the Frankish dukes, but I thought it was the best course.”

“I agree,” Geoffrey said. “And it let you collect Bishop Edouard.”

The king’s cousin nodded and smiled. In general, the demeanor of his guests was far more pleasant than his last impromptu council meeting in Iberia, when Ælfflæd had declared this holy war. It put the king at ease - he almost felt at home.

“Emmanuel,” Adhemar began. “There is a bit to cover. So we should not wait.”

“Good news, I hope,” Geoffrey said.

“Quite good,” Emmanuel replied with a grin.

“Oh? Then the new Holy Father thinks well of us?” Geoffrey asked. “Pope… Victor is it?”

“Correct. And yes, he thinks very well of you,” Emmanuel said. “Victor holds no animosity like the late Martinus did, nor reservations like Nicola did. He was enamored with your tales of bravery, especially your great victory at Pau, when I spoke to him.”



“Then the victory at Lydford will only enhance such opinions,” Berard said.

“Not just with him,” Edouard said. “With all of Christendom. Lasting victories against the heathens are hard to come by these days.”

“Envy will come with it,” Geoffrey added.

“Such matters are for petty lords to worry over,” Emmanuel said. “The church can see the value of Aquitaine’s strength, given its commitment to Christendom.”

“The continental church,” Rogier said. “The clergy here… they are problematic. You should have a talk with them brother.”

“I doubt they’ll care what I have to say,” Edouard replied.

Geoffrey was inclined to agree. The king had met with the Archbishop of Canterbury a few times, but only briefly. However, based on everything he had heard, the man could not be counted among the realm’s supporters. He might even be the one who pushed the queen into this Holy War, but Geoffrey could not confirm those whispers.

He did speak of Ælfflæd receiving a proper coronation pending the successful outcome of this war. On that, Geoffrey still had his doubts and preferred Emmanuel to do it. But no one was willing to go that far yet, and Geoffrey did not wish to openly appear to be stepping into matters of the clergy. It could undo much of the work he and Emmanuel had done to raise Aquitaine’s reputation in Rome.

“Patience is what I must preach,” Emmanuel said. “The tides are in our favor. In addition to Pope Victor’s affinity toward you, I have another piece of excellent news.”
The smiles on Emmanuel, Edouard and Adhemar’s faces all grew even wider, causing the king’s heart to race. What could this be?

“What is it?” he asked.

“While I was in Rome, Victor decided to raise me to join the College of Cardinals,” Emmanuel said.



Geoffrey practically vaulted from his chair. “Excellent! Excellent news!”

“It is, for this is no small thing,” Edouard said. “It is harder for bishops outside of Italy to gain entry into the cardinals. Those in Germany have it easier as well. For Prince-Bishop Emmanuel to be raised… it is a testament to his work. And yours, cousin.”

Geoffrey smiled broadly. “Yes, yes! A true congratulations is in order, my friend! We shall arrange a proper feast. A celebration in Lydford, and in time, in Bordeaux as well. It is deserved for a great man and servant to both Christendom and Aquitaine. And a true friend and mentor to me.”

“Your words flatter and humble me more than you can know,” Emmanuel said. “To see your growth as a man and true servant of Christendom has been rewarding. But it is because of that, that I implore you not to make such a fuss of me, for there is much to be done. The road has not ended. It may have only just begun.”

Geoffrey’s brow rose. “Oh? Do tell.”

Emmanuel looked to Edouard and Adhemar. The king’s cousin then began.

“I am not sure if you know, but there are rules against non-cardinals becoming Holy Father,” Edouard said. “We believe that is the only reason that Emmanuel is not the new Holy Father right now, today.”

“What?” Geoffrey asked. “Do we have that much support?”

“All around Christendom, we see instability,” Adhemar said. “The heathens pick at us in the Holy Lands. In Iberia. Even Italy is subject to raids. And yet, where is safe? Where do heathens not dare remain, even when they are at war?”

Rogier smiled and looked to Geoffrey. “You have created a bastion of Christendom, cousin.”

“Such ironies are not lost on my brothers,” Emmanuel said. “For it was Bordeaux where the heathens pushed four centuries ago. And it was Tours where they were stopped. Now, a family whose roots began in Tours, and rules in Bordeaux, stands above all in Christendom.”

“So if anyone is to push back against the heathens, it would be Aquitaine,” Adhemar said.

“That is what we have said for a few years now,” Geoffrey replied. “I am glad more people now share that opinion. Though is this Holy War really enough to gain you the papacy?”

“It is the promise of more,” Emmanuel said. “Rome wants a renewed Crusade.”

“A return to the Holy Lands?” Berard asked.

“The belief is that the Christian Kingdom suffered because of the many heathens present,” Emmanuel said. “The hope is to break the heathens by reclaiming Egypt for Christendom.”

Geoffrey’s eyes widened. “Attack the Fatimid Caliphate? But we already are at war against them!”

“And now have proven you can beat them,” Edouard said. “It was suspected before, helping Emmanuel’s support. There is no longer any doubt - a crusade led by Aquitaine can establish a powerful Christian Kingdom of Egypt, to aid in the defense of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.”

“And that the heirs to Aquitaine are also the grandchildren of King Thoræd is also not lost on my brothers,” Emmanuel said.

“With a promise to join the Crusade against Egypt,” Edouard said. “To take Cairo… would be all that we would need to ensure Cardinal Emmanuel ascends to the papacy at the next papal election.”

“Which may not happen for years,” Geoffrey noted. “Victor is how old?”

“Approaching 70,” Edouard said. “But we shall see. Our recent Holy Fathers have seen their times cut short by illness.”

That is true, but Emmanuel is around the same age, Geoffrey realized. But he did not wish to speak of the man’s mortality in front of him.

“Regardless of whether I ascend,” Emmanuel began, “it is still good for Christendom and Aquitaine. Our efforts have been noticed. Should you allow me to whisper of your promise to be among the leaders of the Crusade… it will only aid our efforts further.”

It was a lot to think about. It was a major commitment Geoffrey was making, even if it was unofficially. He could not go to Egypt understrength to deal with a Crusade - it would require the whole of his forces. Of course, his vassals could hardly argue under that circumstance - he was merely upholding their obligations to the church.

And the reward… the rewards could be great. Emmanuel as the Holy Father would open a whole new road for Aquitaine. The church had given him leave to intervene in Navarra. Prove himself on the grandest of stages, he could get permission to do even more.

After all, they gave my late father-by-law a kingdom for his efforts. What more might I be provided? And Christendom would benefit. God would surely be pleased. And if God was pleased, then His blessings would surely follow.

“You can whisper, as you say,” Geoffrey replied. “Obviously, I will need to make sure I am at peace here. But it would be an honor to return the cross to Egypt.”

“Then I will whisper it,” Emmanuel said. “As will Duke Adhemar, I’m sure. And we will see how things progress. In the meantime, if I might make a request.”

“You may,” Geoffrey replied.

“I expect to have extra duties with my new position, and I want to make certain my flock have their needs met,” Emmanuel said. “I would like if Bishop Edouard would increase his duties - as steward of the realm, I think he would be well prepared for the responsibility.”

Geoffrey scratched his chin, a little less sure about this. Edouard was a fairly good steward, which was comforting when Geoffrey threw himself into martial matters. Having his cousin split his attention more was not without risk - he might have Edouard unfocused at a time when he needed his lands as efficient as possible to handle both the Crusade and any English problems.

Still, given the circumstances, what could he say?

“Of course,” Geoffrey replied. “Anything for the church.”

And he meant it. Even if circumstances might force him to change just how much he would give in the future.




Geoffrey did return to Lydford with Emmanuel and the others, and was present when the new cardinal greeted the queen.

Ælfflæd congratulated Emmanuel on his ascension, and was buoyed by the news Geoffrey offered about his possible rise to the highest seat in Christendom.

“Perhaps then these priests will finally drop their protests,” Ælfflæd said. “Even with this war they have been cold to me.”

Geoffrey suggested Emmanuel use his authority to do that, but the cardinal was hesitant to interfere, given it was not Aquitaine.

“We must not overstep,” Adhemar warned. “It could harm our interests in Rome if we are too forceful.”

Neither king nor queen liked it, but Geoffrey was convinced enough by Emmanuel’s promises not to press the matter. Ælfflæd was less sated, concerned the English clergy seemed to harp more on potential setbacks in the Holy Lands than the victory at Lydford.

“They might be looking for a way to delay my coronation further,” she grumbled.

The mess there just caused Geoffrey to roll his eyes and plot his next exit from Lydford, which came a few days later, as he fled south back to the manor. His official excuse was again to see off Emmanuel and Edouard back to Aquitaine, and Adhemar back to Normandy, but he just wished to get away from that keep once more.

He longed for his palace. Oddly, he didn’t miss it this much while on campaign. There he was building toward something - pushing toward a goal.

Here he felt aimless. The war continued, but fighting any further would be a pseudo-defeat - he was determined to let his wife win or lose the rest of the war on her own merits. The heathens were raiding in and around the lands of Welsh lords, but their numbers had been drastically reduced. He doubted they would ever mount a serious threat to Lydford without reinforcement.

Yet he could not leave so soon, especially since he planned to take Ælfflæd with him. She would not go after fleeing and returning so soon, and Geoffrey had to concede it would look poor on them both if they did. Perhaps later in the year, but not now.

So Geoffrey was made to settle for the manor. It wasn’t Bordeaux, but he could live in slightly nicer accommodations and he didn’t have to worry about seeing those English lords milling around the burh and near the keep.

Or so he thought.

His escape was foiled by again Duke Hlothere of Northumbria, who had journeyed to the manor to see him. Why his wife’s marshal needed to speak to him was anyone’s guess, since Geoffrey never consulted with any of the English lords over his conduct of the war. At best, Hlothere and Duke Osmund were merely informed of what was to happen.

Not that Hlothere knew what he was doing anyway.

Still, out of the spirit of compromise he had agreed to foster, Geoffrey allowed him entry. The duke met the king in the bedchamber, with Geoffrey seated at a table within. Berard stood behind the king.

“King Geoffrey,” Hlothere said as he bowed. “Sir Berard.”

“Duke Hlothere,” Geoffrey said. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”

“I bring news,” Hlothere said.

“From the queen?” Geoffrey asked.

“Er… no,” Hlothere said. “The queen is not aware of this. I thought I should tell you first.”

Geoffrey eyed the duke. He wished to tell Hlothere that Ælfflæd was his queen, but he also wasn’t sure that was a good idea. If these lords were coming around to him as their true overlord, perhaps he should not brush it off.

“I’m listening,” Geoffrey said.

“There is… a plot against your rule here in England,” Hlothere said.

Geoffrey eyed the Duke of Northumbria. “A plot? To do what? And by whom?”

“They wish to incite a rebellion against you,” Hlothere said. “To restore the Duchess Ecgwyn to the throne.”

Geoffrey took a deep breath. “Who are ‘they’? Who are the ones who plot against me?”

“Duchess Ecgwyn herself,” Hlothere said. “She has support from Duchess Aevis of Lancaster. Duke Æthelsige of Somerset and Duke Sigeric of Essex listens to them, but does not commit yet. Neither does Duchess Maud of East Anglia.”

“Osmund?” Geoffrey asked.

“He remains loyal to the Queen,” Hlothere said. “As does Duchess Adelise.”



Geoffrey glanced at Berard, who arched his brow and crossed his arms. He didn’t forget the debate about Adelise and Aevis, Geoffrey realized.

“They are planning to move quickly?” Geoffrey asked.

“They will not… not so long as your men are here,” Hlothere said. “And with the heathens present, they are hesitant. They plan to wait for you to be occupied elsewhere.”

“Of course they are,” Geoffrey said.

“How did you come to know of this?” Berard asked.

“Duchess Aevis told me,” Hlothere said. “Well… not of that one.”

“There are more than one?” Geoffrey asked.

Hlothere stammered for a bit. Again Geoffrey tossed a look to Berard who shook his head. Then the king pinned the duke with his glare.

“Perhaps you did not hear me,” Geoffrey said. “There was more than one plot?”

Hlothere’s head sunk between his shoulders. “The duchess wished to see if there was support for her to gain claim on England. She claimed it via her descent from William of Normandy. But she did not gain much support for that, for there is not much desire for a Norman queen of England.”

“So she spoke to you of becoming Queen of England,” Geoffrey said. “In her own right.”

“Yes,” Hlothere said.



“Why did you not bring this to us?” Berard demanded.

Hlothere’s head sank further. “It was months ago, when there was much anger over the war and the heathen arrival on our shores. And I did not know if she had told anyone else - she was vague in who supported her. So I feared it would be my word against hers… and the queen does favor her.”

Geoffrey leaned back in his chair. He isn’t wrong about that.

“But you could tell us about the people in this plot,” Berard said. “Even if she did not tell you? Where did you find out?”

“I… I have my sources,” Hlothere said. “Spies.”

“You were not invited?” Geoffrey asked. “That seems unlikely.”

“I… was,” Hlothere said. “Though I never spoke with Aevis directly. Or Ecgwyn. Or Sigeric.”

Who?” Geoffrey demanded.

Berard stepped forward. “My liege…. I think Duke Hlothere has done us a great service. Perhaps we should take what he has given us and look into this more ourselves.”
Geoffrey eyed his friend, but then leaned back in his chair. “Yes. I got a bit… overexcited there. It is never easy to hear of plots against your rule.”

“Of course not,” Hlothere said. “Your patience is as great as your skill in battle, my king.”

“Well, thank you for this information,” Geoffrey said. “It is refreshing to see loyalty from such a prominent English lord.”

Hlothere grinned. “Of course my king. Whatever you need, I shall endeavor to provide.”

“I must discuss this with my advisor,” Geoffrey told him. “Until I return to Lydford then.”

“Ah…” Hlothere said. “Yes. Until you return.”

The duke bowed and then departed, leaving Geoffrey and Berard alone. Immediately, the king turned to his advisor.

“Why did you not want me to press him on that?” Geoffrey demanded.

“Because I already know who he learned it from,” Berard said. “His wife, Duchess Ealflaed.”

Geoffrey’s eyes widened. The duchess was not only the wife of Hlothere, but the daughter of Duke Sigeric of Essex and she served among the queen’s ladies.
“And she learned it from Sigeric,” Geoffrey said.

“Or Aevis,” Berard said. “Lida saw her talk to the duchess quite a few times. But over what, she could not decipher. Now, I know. If Hlothere was not approached directly, then it was indirectly, with Ealflaed filling him in on the details.”

“I could have gotten that confirmed by him,” Geoffrey said.

“Yes, but he would have told his wife, and how they go about their business would have been changed,” Berard said. “As of now, so long as she is among the queen’s ladies, she can be watched.”

Geoffrey sighed but nodded. “I do wonder what Hlothere’s game is. I don’t trust him.”

“I wouldn’t either, given he neglected to mention Aevis’ plot,” Berard said. “Either he’s a fool who stumbled into revealing that to us, or he slipped it out to alert us - neither warrants our trust.”

“Do you think him lying about that?” Geoffrey wondered.

“No, not about the plot itself,” Berard said. “I told you, Aevis is a problem. More so than Adelise. Aevis has friends across England. Despite being a Norman, she is probably the duchess most respected and liked - more than the queen for sure. More than Ecgwyn - it’s why she thought she could be a queen instead of her. Certainly more than Maud. And plenty more than Adelise, who everyone but the queen despises. You think Aevis needs us? Adelise does so far more.”

“Did she come to get my son into her grasp to kill him then?” Geoffrey wondered.

Berard shrugged. “Perhaps. Or perhaps she really does see the benefit. If she did marry him, and become queen, she would be in a much stronger position. And if she birthed him sons… she could easily make herself the strongest lord or lady in England.”

“So she has multiple irons in the fire,” Geoffrey said. “As my son said. Shrewd. But it will not save her.”

“Then you are done with the potential marriage?” Berard asked with grin.

“Most likely,” Geoffrey said. “We can begin to broach talks with Hlothere and Adelise about marriages. But like I said, there are no angels among the English lords and ladies. I will not cut off anyone.”

“I understand that,” Berard said. “It is… tiring.”

Geoffrey nodded and took a long drink from his cup. He stared up at the ceiling of the chamber, letting the warmth of the alcohol wash over him.

“I miss your sister.”

Berard de Perigord looked up at Geoffrey with brow raised. “Ana?”

Geoffrey nodded. “Iberia was… refreshing with her. Not like here. This place is awful. Always dreary. Damp. Chilled. And my wife does not make it any easier. Every conversation I have with her is a battle. She dislikes me. And I her.”

Geoffrey took another drink, then continued.

“Ana… Ana is warm. Ana is welcoming. Ana cares about me. She wishes for me to be happy. And I want her to be happy. Sometimes I think I should bring her here.”



The king grinned. “But then my wife would probably order her executed. And I would be forced to step in. Just think of what my Uncle Adhemar would say. Or either of my parents… God rest their souls.”

Berard replied with a grin of his own. “Yes… that would be… something.”

They fell into silence for a bit, though Geoffrey eventually broke it with another sigh.

“I should have married her,” he said. “I would be a happier king.”

“But you didn’t,” Berard replied.

Geoffrey wasn’t surprised by that response, though it still sent a chill down his spine to hear it. And he guessed Berard realized he might have offended, for there was a momentary grimace on his face.

But undaunted, Berard continued. “Look, far be it from me to… not encourage your feelings for my sister. I know she loves you dearly.”

Geoffrey eyed him. “But?”

“But that is not what has happened,” Berard said. “There will be times when you can be with her, for the queen will be busy here. However… your wife… it is better for us all if you find common ground with the queen.”

“Yes, yes,” Geoffrey said with an eye roll.

“I mean it,” Berard said. “What I told you in Iberia… it was not just in the moment. We are linked now, Aquitaine and England. There is no greater symbol of that union… in its current form, than you and the queen.”

“I would think my son,” Geoffrey said.

“Not yet,” Berard said. “I pray, in time, that is true. That Guilhem, then a king, raised with both Occitan and Saxon ways, makes us truly one kingdom. But right now, we are two separate realms, with two very separate people at their heads.”

I rule England,” Geoffrey said.

Berard rolled his eyes. “Geoff, you don’t need to put up a front with me. We know you are king, but it is Ælfflæd who rules England. She does so by your grace, by your patience, and your aversion to actually administering this much land, but she does rule.”

Geoffrey sighed. “What’s your point?”

“My point is, England, and Aquitaine with it, can only prosper if you come together with her,” Berard said. “Do not just be her king. Be her husband. A wife, a good wife, has a great deal of value to a wise man. A good wife is wasted on a fool. I do not think you a fool Geoff. Foolish, at times, but not a fool.“

“I do not think so either,” Geoffrey said with a grin. He took a sip of his drink. “But I am not so certain my wife is a good one.”

“She gave you England,” Berard said.

“I took England,” Geoffrey noted.

“She opened the gate, and your men poured through,” Berard said. “Without her… you don’t have England. And without her, you would be at your wits end trying to handle it all.”

“I am in this mess here because of her,” Geoffrey said.

“You sit comfortably in a manor, waiting for the heathens to tire of war,” Berard said. “A war which may help now Cardinal Emmanuel become the Holy Father one day. There are many a king throughout the ages that would pray for a mess such as this.”

Geoffrey felt a heat in his face. But it was not anger that caused it.

“When you put it that way…” Geoffrey said.

Berard chuckled. “Look Geoff, you should know better than anyone else what two people who… hate each other can do when wed. Poison and knives… even out and out fights… it’s not the worst. Your parents… they did not do that. But did you benefit? Did your siblings? Your brother?”

Geoffrey’s eyes dropped to the cold floor. He didn’t need to answer.

“You may never love her,” Berard said. “But if you appreciate her, and treat her with the respect you wish these English lords would give the two of you, then you will make a strong England and with it a strong Aquitaine. And one day, in the greatest partnership you two have had, your children, may well make those two kingdoms into something more.”

Berard took a drink from his cup.

“Or don’t. Be miserable. Pine for my sister. And lament what could have been… instead of what is.”

Geoffrey eyed his friend, who felt the gaze enough to bring his cup to his face for a drink so high that only his eyes were visible.

A chuckle escaped the king’s lips. He raised his cup in reply and for a brief moment, England felt almost like home.
 
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Midnite Duke

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Whose voyage to the promised land is Duke Guilhem trying to hasten? For unique perspectives, Queen Marguerite and Duke Foulques of Brittany would make great central characters, if the hypothetical novel wishes to travel new ground. Though Foulquesson's zero diplomacy, high martial, Viking in disguise expose would have to be heavily censored before the televised adaptation could air.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Just to be clear, it's Tributary and not Tributary state, right, since the game says you can't call in Trib states to your wars?
Yes. Trib states are a mugs game. Stick to tribs

Still I imagine you could basically run roughshod over your region even if you don't have them with you, since if you get rid of the powerful countries, you can dare the AI to beat you by throwing their small state swarm at you. And if you merc up, you can just DOW small states, crush their army and rapidly siege down before they can respond.
Indeed. And as trib wars are special, the smaller realms will just surrender as soon as you summon your armies. They have little to lose and they'll gain your protection. Its quite good ai role-playing and they nearly always do it.

...

Berad plays the game so well. As does G2 to be honest. They're quite a pair. And England is about to be torn apart and put right again...though alas you don't have full control over what the bloody queen does or you could resolve this right now!
 
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Why have King Geoff and Ana not plotted to ease Elf of her burdens? What a waste of 24 intrigue! Please find Ana a husband!
 

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I liked it! so... does that final conversation that Geof and Elf are going to behave like something more like a marriage?
 
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codie

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Very interesting, Aveis's ways are exposed, but one wonders if she truly has the guts to put her plans into action..... Hlothere is interesting as well, not exactly loyal, and a bit of an idiot, but I suppose he can be a useful idiot... Berard's words ring true, and perhaps even if he personally does not benefit from a strengthening of Geoffrey's marriage, he will have become someone instrumental in creating a truly powerful Empire behind the scenes. Great chapter!
 
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Dream casting (anybody from 1920s to now, alive or dead) for the Plantagenet History Channel series? I will start with Katherine Hepburn for Agnes.
 
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Sirdramaticus

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For what it’s worth, as you discuss a novel, Agnes definitely strikes me as your most interesting character. She’s a smart woman who saves the day on more than one occasion and has steered the destiny of nations, albeit inderectly. If you make a few more things her idea and doing, the story is more compelling. And that incestuous relationship is twisted and fun... even if it feels a bit Lannister inspired as a novel. What if as an added twist, it was aunt Agnes who had an affair with her nephew rather than a brother/sister thing?
 
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JabberJock14

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Whose voyage to the promised land is Duke Guilhem trying to hasten? For unique perspectives, Queen Marguerite and Duke Foulques of Brittany would make great central characters, if the hypothetical novel wishes to travel new ground. Though Foulquesson's zero diplomacy, high martial, Viking in disguise expose would have to be heavily censored before the televised adaptation could air.
He's still trying to plot to demise of the younger Adhemar de Limoges, heir to Gascony. It is, ironically, a murder that would benefit Geoffrey the most, because he's second in line to inherit Gascony (as the oldest surviving male child of Duke Adhemar's oldest sister, Marguerite). I didn't break up the plot in case I wanted to use it to try to imprison Guilhem in the future and to that point, it had gotten no real traction.

Foulquesson was a character that, had fate gone differently, would have had a larger role. I was trying to keep things somewhat close to the historical Angevins as a challenge, and in the real history, Foulques IV's eldest son, Geoffrey was killed in 1106, three years before his father (possibly by his father). So his heir was Foulques V, who became King of Jerusalem later on via marriage and was grandfather to Henry II.

So had Geoffrey died prematurely, Foulquesson was a candidate to become that Foulques V. (So too was Foulques the Younger - both were of about the right age)

All interesting suggestions on what perspective to follow - or whose to dive into.

Yes. Trib states are a mugs game. Stick to tribs



Indeed. And as trib wars are special, the smaller realms will just surrender as soon as you summon your armies. They have little to lose and they'll gain your protection. Its quite good ai role-playing and they nearly always do it.

...

Berad plays the game so well. As does G2 to be honest. They're quite a pair. And England is about to be torn apart and put right again...though alas you don't have full control over what the bloody queen does or you could resolve this right now!
Makes me wish I had messed around with it during the AAR...

Berard and Geoffrey are following in their respective father's footsteps, though their relationship is slightly different. Berard has learned well enough how to handle his friend, through trial and error. But I always aim to show there's a real friendship between them. I think it's different than their fathers - Alias had a bit of idolation toward Geoffrey I, possibly spurred by unrequited love. Geoffrey I partially exploited that to his own benefit, even if he did care for Alias in the misguided way Geoff I cared about anyone.

Berard and Geoffrey are simply friends. They grew up together. They experienced life together. And over the years, Geoffrey has come to accept Berard as one of the few people who's word - along with his approval and disapproval, means something to him.

I feel a bit for Berard because I probably have made him a little better personality wise, than his traits suggest. But I try to justify that by the fact he clearly thinks well of Geoffrey, both in story and in game (that 100 relationship). I am trying to show a bit of his anger/envy next chapter though, since I think I have a good scenario for it.

Even if England gets torn up again, I won't really be able to make it like I *want to*. It takes a bit of maneuvering in a lot of cases to really strip the lands and avoid tyranny. The AI usually isn't good enough to do that. And while I did interfere with Elf at one specific point for marriages and preventing something absurd from happening, I wouldn't control her to do a remake of England. That feels like it would be going too far.

Why have King Geoff and Ana not plotted to ease Elf of her burdens? What a waste of 24 intrigue! Please find Ana a husband!
Geoffrey's one murder at this point has been to defend his son - or so the rationalization goes. Could he make a rationalization to why Elf's death would be for Guilhem's benefit? Maybe. But it's a lot harder of a sell.

I also think, despite Geoffrey's protests, he knows Elf is valuable to him. He doesn't want to admit it, because she's angered him. But Berard gets at it here - the queen has a great deal of value to them all. Her presence keeps Guilhem out of direct contact with the English lords. It keeps Geoffrey from dealing with all their issues, even if he's still left with some. And for the English lords, she provides some buffer between them and Geoffrey, along with someone who respects and loves their culture.

Ana's not getting a husband. Geoffrey made sure of that. And from a gameplay perspective, I want that 24 intrigue where I can force her to end plots, if they pop up.

I liked it! so... does that final conversation that Geof and Elf are going to behave like something more like a marriage?
Glad you liked it! Berard gives good advice, but it may not be followed to a tee. For example, I would imagine Elf's not going to like it when she learns of Geoffrey's plans to not go to the Holy Lands. And there's another matter that's coming soon which she may not care for.

But there's also other events which could well push her back toward Geoffrey. So there will be waxing and waning in this relationship.

Very interesting, Aveis's ways are exposed, but one wonders if she truly has the guts to put her plans into action..... Hlothere is interesting as well, not exactly loyal, and a bit of an idiot, but I suppose he can be a useful idiot... Berard's words ring true, and perhaps even if he personally does not benefit from a strengthening of Geoffrey's marriage, he will have become someone instrumental in creating a truly powerful Empire behind the scenes. Great chapter!
Thank you! Elf thinks there's a way around her cousin putting those plans into action. The queen might have a point, but circumstances might make that impossible. And those circumstances may not have to do with her husband.

Hlothere's description of "useful idiot" is probably how Adelise would describe him. He really is bad stats-wise, and the AI tossing him on the council as marshal is... something. It makes a bit of sense in that Elf's got pathetically weak levies anyway, so his terrible score is probably difference of a few hundred men. Likewise, the normal dumping ground for someone of Hlothere's "special set of skills" is advisor, but Adelise is far more useful in that role because it keeps her from rebellions.

Berard benefits in that a harmonious England will make his quality of life better, given his close connections to the king, his wife's close connections to the queen, and all that entails. Honestly, at this point all kind of one big extended family given the amount of time they've all spent around one another.

Dream casting (anybody from 1920s to now, alive or dead) for the Plantagenet History Channel series? I will start with Katherine Hepburn for Agnes.
I had ideas back in the day for some characters, though with a modern focus. For some reason, I always imagined Kristen Stewart as Aines de Poitou.

For what it’s worth, as you discuss a novel, Agnes definitely strikes me as your most interesting character. She’s a smart woman who saves the day on more than one occasion and has steered the destiny of nations, albeit inderectly. If you make a few more things her idea and doing, the story is more compelling. And that incestuous relationship is twisted and fun... even if it feels a bit Lannister inspired as a novel. What if as an added twist, it was aunt Agnes who had an affair with her nephew rather than a brother/sister thing?
There's a lot that could be done with Agnes. I only touched on her story, with the most interesting parts coming out. But things like her relationship with the blacksmith, her relationships with the women of Angers and Bordeaux (beyond Marguerite and Ness) were largely left out. Heck, a lot of her interactions with the council members wasn't heavily touched upon, to say nothing of most of her affairs. Given some of the restrictions of CK2 gameplay, expanding her story would be do-able.

Though I know it can be too easy to go salacious. I nearly had Geoffrey II "continue" his father's ways in having inappropriate thoughts toward her, (though he'd never act on it), but my wife suggested against it. Ultimately, she was right - their mentor/apprentice relationship was better for it. And it gave Geoffrey a line he wouldn't cross - he remains unwilling to bed close family members personally. While he's slept with his aunts, all of them were via marriage and none by blood.

To all- great feedback and excellent comments as usual. For this chapter, we continued to build toward things which are coming up in the fairly near future. Big church things are coming, as are big England things. For Aevis, I had to use Elf's character in game to view those plots. Again, I felt that's acceptable because it was A. after the fact, and B. Elf knows of the plots/factions. Again, it's one of those things which makes no sense in story (or gameplay really). While I kind of see a way how Aevis' fabricate a claim plot could escape Geoffrey's notice, if Elf refused to tell him, the factions make no sense since you don't need spies to know who's in them! As King of England, at least nominally, he should be able to see the factions in that realm!

But in any case, onwards and upwards. I am working on the next chapter, but it's not going to be ready this week as I have not done a lot of actual writing for it yet. Lots of conceptual ideas, including whether to use a rare in-chapter perspective shift (in order to keep up with an idea with overall chapter theme). I'm think of doing something centered around the holidays (Christmas) in this case. But we'll see how it plays out when I actually get more than a few brief scene sketches written out.

Thanks as always for your commentary, feedback, readership and patience. It remains much appreciated and a hope everyone had a nice holiday and has an excellent holiday season!
 
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